Perhaps the biggest bragging rights come from a coast-to-coast, nonstop, Cannonball Run–style competition organized among friends a few years ago. With his friend Jeff Johnson as copilot, Bob’s Chevy was one of three rods and customs (out of nine that had originally planned to participate) that left Pier 47 in New York City at 8 p.m. on a Monday. “At 3 p.m. Wednesday, we had our feet in the Pacific Ocean in Carlsbad,” Bob says. “We were the only ones who finished. We weren’t even in it to win, we were just in it to do it.” You just don’t make such memories towing your car around in a box.
While road tripping was always part of Bob’s plan for the Chevy, doing so in open-air style was not. The car actually started out as a Bel Air hardtop, but when a friend found a ’51 convertible in a junkyard—conveniently located in the same town where Doug and Dean Gigstead were getting starting on the car’s metalwork—Bob seized the opportunity.
“The convertible was sunk to the middle of the doors in the mud,” Bob says. He and his friends used a backhoe to pry the ragtop remains from the earth so they could inspect the convertible-specific X-member on the frame. “It was pristine,” Bob says. “It had been underground for so long with no oxygen, there was no rust. We basically just scraped dirt off of it.”
After transplanting the X-member, the Gigsteads cut the top off the Bel Air and transferred the convertible top components. To chop the top, they cut 2 inches off the lower portion of the top assembly where it bolts to the floor, and lengthened the top’s side rails. The windshield posts were then trimmed down to match the new profile, and filled with Olds one-piece glass. It’s a tasteful slice—not too radical, but more than enough to streamline the Chevy’s silhouette.
The rest of the body modifications, performed by Carl Weidenhoeft, Bob Duchan, and Eric Meyer, are equally subtle and tasteful. They include frenched headlights, a peaked hood with rounded corners, extra grille teeth, ’52 Ford front wheel flares, extended and flared skirts, a molded rear pan, and flush-fit ’50 Dodge taillights. One-piece front and rear bumpers with ’49 Chevy license guards provide bookends with Pontiac beltline trim and shortened stock side spears in between.
Bob says he and Maggie spent a lot of time considering colors that would work in harmony with the car’s smooth and subtle modifications. “We were looking for something stylish and classy,” Bob says. “‘Elegant is the word Maggie likes to use.” They found it when they bought a new Polo Green GMC Yukon in 2001. “The minute I pulled in the driveway,” Bob says, “Maggie said, ‘That’s the color the Chevy needs to be.’” Bob Duchan gets credit for shooting the fine finish—twice. He first painted the car in 2003, and then freshened it up last year after 110,000 miles of rock chips and road scars. Josh and Dan Shaw laid down the latest set of pinstripes.
Considering the extended excursions this Chevy takes, you’d better believe the cabin was built with comfort in mind. There’s a Vintage Air climate control system, power windows (including vent windows), cruise control, Alpine stereo, and a Chevy van tilt column topped with a 15-inch Impala-style wheel. Red’s Upholstery, in Bonduel, Wisconsin, stitched the six-way power seat in green and tan vinyl, incorporating shoulder belts during the process. The back seat and side panels are trimmed to match—and even the Lokar shifter has a coordinating green pool ball knob.
Even after seeing so much of the country, Bob and Maggie are still seeking out new adventures on the road. By the time you read this they will have sent the Chevy to sea—and ventured on to points north. “We’re gonna drive to Seattle and put it on the ferry,” Bob says. “From there on, it’s drive Alaska, and drive back on the Alaska highway.”
Sounds like another remarkable voyage for a couple who understand that the custom experience is not just about the destination, it’s about the journey.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Bob & Maggie Klessig
1952 Chevy convertible