It all started innocently enough—don’t they all? Chris Williams wanted a ’49 Chevy like his grandfather once had. But the grandfather parallel ends at the ’49 Chevy. Chris wanted nothing fancy, just a typical, nice daily driver: Corvette motor, six-speed manual, independent suspension all around—you know, the usual stuff. So he approached Randy Clark at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff in Escondido, California, and asked him to work a little of his magic on the project.

As it turns out, Randy isn’t one of those fancy-wheels-and-a-coat-of-paint builders. After he located a slightly rusted coupe, the boys got to brainstorming about how cool it would be if they did this ’n’ that to the car (you know how it is). Randy collaborated with Rohan Day, who rendered the concept drawing, and the next thing you know, the project blew up into a full-on rehash.

Eventually dubbed M-80 (for a firecracker), Chris’ coupe spent 16 months under construction and made its debut at the 2001 Detroit Autorama where, to Chris and Randy’s surprise, it won the coveted Ridler Award, the Sam Radoff Sculptural Excellence Award, Best Custom, Best in Class, and Outstanding Display. Not bad for its first show. The M-80 also garnered a Pro’s Pick at the inaugural Goodguys Del Mar show. Even though the project went far beyond what Chris had originally envisioned, he hasn’t lost sight of the most important requirement for his award-winning bomb: He blasts off with it every chance he gets.