1949 Chevy Custom
There are two things about customs I am absolutely sure of: you can't go wrong with a 1949-52 Chevy Sport Coupe and, more importantly, NorCal's Lucky 7 has mastered the art of advanced vehicle beautification. Now, put the two together and what do you have? Brett Cowan's jaw-dropping 1949, which he's dubbed "Devil's Lettuce" (we'll let you come up with your own reasoning as to why).
I've known Lucky 7 Customs proprietor/visionary Marcos Garcia for the majority of my career. Over that length of time, I cannot recall a custom he and the shop have pumped out that I didn't admire, and I'm very picky when it comes to custom car particulars. Whether it's the specific choice of color or the amount of modifications, of which are often more understated than anything else, Lucky 7 always seems to hit the mark precisely. It's these qualities that led Brett Cowan to Garcia's doorsteps to begin with, and as you can see from the following images shot prior to the Lettuce's first major outing in Santa Maria earlier this year, both owner and builder are beyond pleased with the Chevy's results.
In his own words, Brett tells us of the entire experience, from initial eBay acquisition to Pacific Islands transplant to Antioch, California, where all the magic occurred.
"This is the story on how I acquired my 1949 Chevy and how it became 'Devil's Lettuce'. It may be a bit long-winded, but it's the only way I know how to tell the story, so bear with me!
"I went on a family trip to Hawaii in the fall of 2001. I was actually in Maui when September 11 happened and everyone was freaking out. I was thinking, 'If this is the end of the world, what better place could you be?' It was the first time I've ever been there and I fell in love. It was an easy decision to move there, but was it possible to find a job? I'd been working as a Mercedes-Benz mechanic for eight years already, so I got a job at Mercedes of Honolulu.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves yet. Before I could move, I had a fleet of old classic cars in different stages of progress. Mostly projects. I sold four of them and decided to park my 1964 Galaxie in my mom's garage. I couldn't sell it, as that was my first car, which I've had since 1994.
"So I arrived back in Hawaii in early 2002 and just worked and surfed every day, which is what I wanted. I would fly back to the mainland and drive the 1964 to various car shows throughout the year to get my 'fix' since the islands offered very little.
"Almost five years into living in Hawaii, I really started missing having an old car as a daily driver. I started looking around locally, but all the cars were either rust buckets or already street-rodded out. I began checking eBay and eventually found this bone-stock, running 1949 Chevy. For some reason, I was out to dinner when the auction was ending, so I had a friend handle the final bidding for me. He kept upping the bid until I finally won after paying a little more than I wanted, but oh well. I had the car shipped from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to my friend's house in Sacramento, where it sat for a couple months till I was able to come get it. I flew out and had it trailered to Oakland and loaded on a ship bound for its new home in Hawaii.
"When I got it to the island, I jumped through all the hoops to get it registered and legal to drive. The place I was living only had a carport, so I decided to try and find a place with a garage. That proved to be impossible and I was getting frustrated. Hawaii was starting to wear on me, and I was really missing the car shows and swap meets of days past. My girlfriend and I ultimately made the decision to move back to Sacramento.
"Once we bought a house, fixing it up took priority. The 1949 and 1964 were parked in the garage and the Chevy got neglected because it was just stock and I wanted to do so much to it but had no time. So I decided to sell it. I listed it and got a call from my buddy Scott Mugford, who owns Blue Collar Customs. He came over and looked at it for one of his Beatnik brothers down in SoCal. Since it had been sitting for a while, we got it running. He had driven his 1950 Chevy coupe that he'd recently chopped, and it looked badass. That got me thinking, and after he left, I drove the 1949 over to a friend's house where I sat in the car for a couple hours parked out front, just thinking of the possibilities. Afterward, I made up my mind not to sell it. Some time had passed and my girlfriend and I got settled into the new house, which no longer took priority over everything else.
"The GNRS' 'Then & Now' show was happening in a few months (2011), so a friend and I drove down to check it out. After the show driving back, we got to talking about all the different cars we've had and why none of them have actually been finished. We discussed money; how much we've spent and how much we thought a done-up car would cost. I've always loved Lucky 7 Customs' work and the cars they've had a hand in have always been so nicely done. I decided to call up Marcos one day and talk to him about what I wanted to do. He was very friendly and said to come by the shop so we could talk more about it if I were serious. After a couple of months I finally paid him a visit. I was armed with pictures of cars I liked and a list of things I wanted to do. I told him my budget and asked what he thought. Marcos said he'd think about it and get back to me.
"I got a call from Marcos about a week later saying, 'Let's do it!' He and his crew were excited about doing this project because they actually got to have a lot of input on what was going to be done. I trailered the 1949 in February 2011 and we discussed the plan. I wanted a 1954 DeSoto grille in a Merc-style surround with stock frenched headlights, but had no idea about what the rear should look like. Marcos and the guys came up with the 1951 Merc taillights with handmade bezels. We both agreed on a mild chop, but I wanted slanted B-pillars. Marcos didn't, and you can see who won that argument. I'm glad he did because it looks so much better the way it is now. It took two years to complete and the Lucky 7 crew was so great to work with because they are just as excited as you are about your car. It was such a pleasure working with them.
"The name Devil's Lettuce just came from seeing the car painted for the first time—it was just glowing and that was the first thing that popped in my mind. This car almost never happened because I forgot why I bought it in the first place. So, whenever I start to lose interest in one of my cars, I just go out and sit in it or take it for a drive...that's when you realize why you originally got it.
"I just want to thank all the guys at Lucky 7, Marcos Garcia, Vince Byrne, Logan Stipe, and Eduardo 'Junior' Gutierrez. But more importantly, I need to thank my girlfriend, Vivian, for putting up with my one-track mind, and my best friend, Brian Bozzo, for helping to make it all happen."