When Jim Hoffman of Canfield, Ohio, ran across a '37 Chevy sedan with only 54,000 miles showing on the odometer, he couldn't resist trading his restored '57 Chevy pickup for it. After he spiffed up the sedan with some tires and wheels for a trip to the Street Rod Nationals in Columbus the following year, his wife Nan decided to put her foot down.
"Nan didn't want to ride in a stocker any longer," Jim explained. The two of them tore the sedan apart. Jim got busy on chassis and engine modifications, while Nan stripped the sedan body down to bare metal. Jim repainted everything and began reassembly of the car. Then, he just sort of lost interest...for nine years.
In 1997, the Hoffmans' son Chuck drew up a concept rendering for the neglected Chevy that re-lit a spark in Jim and Nan. The artwork called for something a little more extensive than some freshening up, so they delivered the car to Alan Johnson at Johnson's Hot Rod Shop in Gadsden, Alabama, who began making the initial changes toward converting the almost-stock sedan into an unusual custom convertible. The car yo-yo'd between Ohio and Alabama for six years while Johnson transformed the '37 body and the Hoffmans built up the chassis and did a lot of finishing work on the car.
By the time it was done, the entire Hoffman family had contributed to the project. In addition to the chassis, Jim handled wiring and plumbing chores and additional bodywork with help from his son Rob. Nan, who stripped this car to bare metal twice, also did a lot of block-sanding and other prep work. Chuck, who created the original concept art, did much of the design work, including the selection of the colors, finishes, and materials.
Jim and Nan's '37 was finished just in time for the '03 show season. They won a Top 10 prize at the Goodguys show in Indy, Pro's Pick honors at the NSRA Nats in Louisville, and had their car shot for R&C. Now that they've collected some big-time trophies, they can spend this season with the top down, getting their hair blown in their incredible phantom cabriolet.
Lift the hood and you're face-to-face with a .030-over Chevy 350, out of a '74 Nova, built by Jim's good friend, Sonny Hunt. He added an RV-grind Crane camshaft, Edelbrock intake manifold, and single 600-cfm carburetor, also from Edelbrock. The block and manifold were painted cream to contrast with the body-colored sheetmetal and polished Billet Specialties valve covers and K&N air cleaner. Headers are from Sanderson. Jim shifts the TH350 automatic with a Gennie shifter decorated with a coin picked up on a recent trip to Australia.
The original framerails were rebuilt by Jim and reinforced with a K-member from Butch's Rod Shop and crossmembers from Chassis Engineering. The independent frontend is from Heidt's with 2-inch drop spindles, Granada 11-inch brakes with a Chevy bolt pattern, and C.E. front shocks and springs. Steering is a Mustang II rack with a Flaming River variable power steering setup. Antisway bars at both ends improve the ride. The rearend and brakes are stock '74 Chevy Nova, with an air-shock suspension.
Wheels & Tires:
The wheels from Billet Specialties' Legacy line measure 16x7 in the rear and 15x6 in front and are accented with tri-bar knock-off center caps. Jim wrapped the rims with P235/60R16 and P195/60R15 Michelin radials.
Body & Paint: Converting a Master Deluxe sedan into a convertible was no easy trick. The windshield was leaned back 4 inches, which, combined with a 1 5/8-inch slice, yields a 2-inch overall chop. Add the custom Mercedes Hartz top and you're just getting started. Other customizing includes the custom grille built by Jim Rench in Jerseyville, Illinois, a one-piece hood top with smooth aluminum side panels, shaved sheetmetal, modified front fenders and rear pan, shaved bumpers, and filled seams. The '37 Chevy headlight housings were lowered 2 inches and filled with Halogen lamps, plus parking lights and turn signals. Taillights are '37 Ford lights and mounts. A '49 Chevy front license plate guard was modified for the rear plate light. When it was finally time to paint, the '37 went back to Johnson's Hot Rod Shop, where it was shot with Emerald Green Metallic, a mid-'90s Chevy truck color.
It's a modern version of classic style, courtesy of primo interior guy Paul Atkins of Paul Atkins Custom Auto Interiors in Cullman, Alabama, who covered '89 Pontiac Sunfire front seats and custom rear seats in ivory leather. Glenn Mayers in Morristown, Tennessee, built the beautiful custom woodgrain dash. Jim's son, Charles, designed the faces of the Classic Instruments gauges. The banjo steering wheel is from Grant, also with an Australian coin. Air-Tique air conditioning and a Panasonic sound system with an eight-CD changer improve the ride from the inside.