Having a job like ours means you're always on the lookout for potential feature cars—and feature locations—and not just at shows, but every second you're out of the house. It's much the same for car painters who can't help noticing mismatched paint everywhere, even on daily drivers in the grocery store parking lot! But sometimes feature cars just seem to fall in our lap.
Such was the case with Donald Ball's 1937 Chevy Sport Coupe. We circled the show field on arriving at the Goodguys Southwest Nationals in Scottsdale, Arizona, last November, finally found a parking spot, and as soon as we got out of the pickup, the 1937 immediately grabbed us, parked not 20 feet away. On closer inspection, and speaking with Donald, we knew not only was it a contender for one of our R&C/Coker Tire Fab 5 awards, but that we wanted to shoot it for the magazine later that day. The deal was sealed when Donald told us he'd just returned from a 6,200-mile cross-country road trip, taking in five shows and 12 states.
We're suckers for rods and customs that are driven, especially when they're as nice as this one. Then we learned the history and knew we had to share it. See, this is the Chevy's second incarnation under Donald's ownership, and they couldn't be more different!
In Donald's words, "I purchased the car in November 1990 as a basket case, 100 percent disassembled, with no engine or trans, though it did have a Ford 9-inch rearend. The first build took place between 1990 and 1993, done as a 1990s smoothie street rod. (It was featured on a PPG calendar, "Cool Colors For Hot Rods," pictured on page 56. –Kev) I put 48,000 miles on it, drove it through 27 states, and won 25 awards with it, then decided to turn it into a custom in December 2012. My goal was to drive it to Shades of the Past nine months later.
"I started with a pair of 1938 Studebaker headlights taken off a car in a Los Angeles junkyard in 1958 by Don Gordon, a friend of mine. Jonathon Williams, a talented young metal fabricator in Phoenix, fit the buckets and bezels to the 1937 Chevy fenders, which required new metal to remove the stock reveal next to the grille shell. The headlights have 1955 Chevy internal mounts with halogen lights and built-in amber running/turn signals behind the Studebaker lenses." Donald also told us that the virtually irreplaceable Stude lenses are removable for road trips; a wise move we'd say! "During my most recent trip I had close to 500 questions regarding the headlights, with only nine people knowing what they were from. Two of those people worked at the Studebaker museum in Indiana!"
Whilst many of the body modifications had been performed back in the early 1990s, Donald still had plenty to do to make his deadline, not the least being a total repaint and interior redo. His occupation as an architect probably helped, keeping all design-related decisions within his self-imposed concept of what the car should look like, as well as planning and meeting deadlines. He made it to Shades of the Past, then kept right on going, pausing for photographs in front of Gasoline Alley in Indianapolis before turning around and heading back to Arizona. Surely trips like this are why we build these cars? We think so, and so it would appear does Donald!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1937 Chevrolet Sport Coupe
Modified back in the early 1990s by Dennis Glover, the original frame was modified with the addition of a K-member, and the original rear leaf springs moved inboard of the chassis 'rails. Bilstein shocks were used front and rear. A Mustang II IFS was removed from an actual Mustang and installed by Dan Hay, using Speedway springs and a Chassis Engineering antiroll bar.
The 350 TPI engine was a brand-new GM crate motor back in 1992 for the first build, and remains completely stock, with the exhaust system built by the owner. The 700-R4 trans was similarly new back in 1992, and is also stock, with a Lokar shifter. CRS in Phoenix added a new core to the stock top and bottom radiator tanks. The 1960 Ford 9-inch rearend came with the car when purchased by Donald, now housing Moser axles and with new drums from Speedway Motors.
Wheels & Tires
The Wheelsmith provided the artillery-style wheels, 15x6 at the sharp end and 15x7 following behind, all wrapped in Diamondback Fury wide whitewalls. Chevrolet script hubcaps finish things off, the wheels painted light blue to contrast with the darker body.
Body & Paint
Part of the Master Deluxe range, the 1937 Sport Coupe equipped with a rumble seat is a rare car indeed, and this example retains that rumble seat, useful as no Sport Coupes came with rear seats. Back in 1992 Richard Glover removed and sculpted the driprails, installed new floors and firewall, and built the rolled rear pan, which is now home to a 1949 Chevy license surround. During the second rebuild Donald converted the four-piece hood to a three-piece, welding the top and separating the side panels so the top opens on 1937 Ford hinges, as well as lowering the taillights and fabricating new bumper brackets to move the DeLuxe front bumper closer to the body. The grille had lost its "chin" back in 1990. Jonathon Williams installed the Stude headlights, which you'll notice follow the same curve as the grille, the stainless trim mimicking that of the grille, as if they were meant to be there.
Josh and Dom at CAM Auto Creations in Phoenix tackled the bodywork and paint, which is PPG Roadhouse Blue, while the bumper and grille were straightened and chromed by Royal Plating in Tucson.
One of the key elements to the success of the coupe's transition from street rod to custom is the interior. Stan's Upholstery in Scottsdale tackled the white headliner with blue piping, the same piping used on the re-contoured 1988 Camaro seats. Those seats, and the rumble seat, make use of Lumpuf material, and original 1960 cloth the upholsterer had in stock, perfect for this car. There's owner-installed Vintage Air with the control panel in the glovebox, EZ Wiring by Ron Hagele, a Ford banjo steering wheel on a Joe Harris–built column, and the stock instrument cluster, with the speedo rebuilt by Dick's Speedo & Tach, in Tempe, augmented by Stewart-Warner gauges under the dash.