And now for something completely different. Words to live by, especially when you decide to take a path that really hasn't seen much travel. In a world of Pro Touring, gassers, Pro Street, lowriders, and restos, when you look into restyling a 1957 Chevy there isn't much left that hasn't already been done before. Fusing a combination of styles has always been an enigma of sorts and it's pretty treacherous waters to cruise through if you don't hit the mark on all cylinders. We're here to tell you firsthand that this wicked Tri-Five not only nailed a fresh look, it did it with equal amounts of performance and elegance.
For Andy McDonald of Edgewater, Maryland, growing up in an automotive family certainly had its merits, starting as soon as he could turn a wrench. His earliest memories revolve around working in the family garage alongside his dad, Pee-Wee. With their yard always being full of cars it was easy to get enthused every day when coming home from school to take on a new project assignment. Seeing his young son's interest in the hobby, it wasn't long till he surprised him with his very first car, which just so happened to be a 1957 Chevy Bel Air. Although it wasn't a runner at the time it represented an entire world of possibilities, especially to a 14-year-old who didn't even have his license yet. The $300 special gave the pair a chance to work on it together, replacing a blown rearend and getting it into shape.
With the car finally in running condition it was parked outside the garage while another 1957 Chevy project rolled into the driveway, now capturing the young hot rodder's attention. Combined with spending nearly every weekend at B&B Auto Parts with his dad and the business owners, he was surrounded by a virtual candy store of hopped-up cars and what seemed like miles of parts just waiting to get bolted into a project. Add in regular visits to Capitol Raceway watching gassers and Funny Cars leave the line in a haze of nitromethane induced tire smoke and a fascination with a particular yellow '57 Chevy known as Project X it's easy to see that a path was set defining a high-performance future. Later, meeting and marrying his lovely wife, Mickey, the pair shared the passion for performance with Mickey regularly fielding her own 496ci-urged '70 Chevy Nova down the quarter-mile. Countless hot rods and muscle cars followed; each one with a unique story to tell.
Remember Andy's first car? Well, it sat outside at his property for 36 years. Time raced by through starting a family and running a business. However, it was never forgotten, as it was very special since it was his first. Three years ago, Andy made the decision to haul it into the garage, give it a full teardown, and have it blasted clean to see what was salvageable. Although the time spent in the elements had not been kind, there was still enough left to make taking on its build worthwhile. It was at this time he met with Billy Lerner of Edgewater to discuss ideas for the car's rebirth. Lerner, an exceptionally talented builder looked deep into the remains and proposed injecting a twist into the restoration, bypassing what the norm would expect. He felt that by fusing classic visual elements with that of a slammed stance in laying the rockers on the ground, the car would be a standout in any crowd. For Andy, having owned Pro Street cars and gassers it was a fresh approach to a very special car and without wasting any time the project was moved to Lerner's shop.
Seeing that it would need a ground-grazing stance, Lerner got started by fabricating a custom boxed frame from 2x4-inch steel complete with custom crossmembers. Out back, a Moser Engineering 9-inch Ford rear was packed with 3.50 gears spinning 31-spline axles. It was suspended in place by a custom four-link combined with Evolution series 'bags from Slam Specialties managed by their e-Level ride height control along with Jegs double-adjustable coilover shocks and Panhard bar. For razor-sharp handling, Speedway Motors tubular control arms were deftly matched to Wilwood Engineering 2-inch dropped spindles combined with more Evolution series 'bags and Jegs double-adjustable coilover shocks linked to power rack-and-pinion steering and sway bar. The entire frame and related components were then sent off to Steve Wisooker at Custom Performance Coating in Beltsville, Maryland, to powdercoat everything in satin black. When it's time to drop anchor, a Wilwood Engineering dual master pushes fluid through stainless lines to matching 14-inch cross-drilled and slotted rotors wearing four-piston calipers at each corner. Linking it all to the street are a set of custom-painted 20-inch Center Line California Series Smoothie wheels with custom caps wearing Bridgestone rubber.
To make sure there was plenty of power to match the car's newfound handling, Andy contacted Chevrolet Performance for one of their potent ZZ502 Deluxe big-block V-8 crate engines. Straight from the factory it's packed with the best go-fast goods in their parts bin, starting with a cast-iron block with four-bolt main caps. Inside, a forged steel crank links to matching rods wearing forged aluminum pistons getting a bump from a hydraulic roller cam. Plenty of power comes from a pair of aluminum oval port heads while an aluminum intake wears a FAST EZ-EFI 2.0 fuel-injection system delivering the final punch. An MSD Pro-Billet ignition lights the fire while spent gasses dump through a custom 3-inch steel ceramic-coated exhaust with a crossover pipe to Flowmaster Super 40 mufflers. Edelbrock finned-aluminum valve covers with matching air cleaner and a March Performance serpentine belt system add plenty of allure under the hood. To move the goods, a TCI Automotive 700-R4 trans meets a custom driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline to complete the final link.
Taking on the assignment of bringing the deteriorated body back to life was a job for a truly dedicated craftsman. When Lerner reviewed what was left after the shell had been blasted clean there really wasn't much left. The memories, however, ran deep for Andy, this being his first car and the fact that his dad gave it to him. Starting with just the cowl and dash, Lerner fabricated a custom one-piece, fully welded floor and trunk floor as a base to mount the cowl to. He followed by contacting Real Deal Steel for all the panels to begin the reconstruction. There's nothing better than working with freshly struck steel, including quarters, doors, rockers, and front end sheetmetal. Wanting the car to reflect a perfectly restored exterior, all factory trim, bumpers, and adornments were ordered from Danchuk and test-fitted into place. Once the body was final prepped and gapped it was time to lay down the color. To add just the right amount of allure, Andy selected a custom-blended burgundy and black urethane combination from Restoration Shop. Lerner filled his spray gun with just the right amount of gloss and laid down a mile-deep vibe, bringing the car to life.
To bring just the right amount of glamour to the interior, Danny Haley of DHL Interiors in Riva, Maryland, laid out a classic design with a modern twist. Starting with the factory dash, he wrapped it in Indian River-toned leather and filled it with a custom pod, accented by factory trim, featuring dials from Classic Instruments to monitor the vitals. A steering wheel from American Retro mounts to an ididit tilt column to navigate the miles while shifts move through a Lokar unit, cool breezes are from Vintage Air, and tunes flow from RetroSound. He then fabricated a flowing custom console, side panels, and rear seating accented by Procar Pro-90 Lowback front seats, which he artfully wrapped in matching leather accented by custom trim and wheat-tone square-weave carpet. Seeing the car in person lets you truly appreciate the three-year build. It's a testament to the vision of both the owner and builder in creating something that is truly unique with a stance and attitude separating it from the rest.
Step By Step
Photography by Chuck Vranas