Every once in a while, our loyal readers take our inspiration to heart and actually go through with building a rendering or drawing we feature in this ol' rag. Unbelievable, I know, but the modified coupe you see before you is just such a specimen. Harry Bentley Bradley did a whole story on different treatments of the old modified roadster look back in the September 2001 issue, which included a version with a roof similar to a '32 Ford three-window. The story must have struck a chord with Darrell Zipp at Zipper Motors, for it wasn't but a few months later (SRM June '02) that we ran a story where Darrell showed a couple of new treatments for his Zipper-modified roadsters, one of which was a full fiberglass coupe. The Bradley drawings also had an effect on Dan Shea, since they set the wheels in motion and Dan had Zipper on the phone, asking if the concept could be turned into a reality. Darrell agreed that he too was interested, but that Dan would have to wait a year or so while the R&D of the new coupe took place. The outcome of this meeting of the minds resulted in the modified Zipper coupe-body number one-that you see here. But there's more to that story.
While the coupe body was being prepared, Darrell was also hard at work setting up a chassis for the modified. Similar to his other chassis designs, the coupe's frame would consist of a traditional dropped tube axle and hairpins up front, but with parallel quarter-elliptic springs instead of the Ford transverse-style buggy spring. Wilwood disc brakes were mounted off the Super Bell axle and spindles, with Zipper friction shocks soaking up the bumps in the road. Out back, Darrell continued with his trademark suspension designs, with a Winters quick-change centersection-derived IRS. Wilwood brakes mount inboard of the hubs and hairpins, which also hang off quarter-elliptic springs and friction shocks like the front. The rolling chassis was set up with American Racing Salt Flat wheels at all four corners, wrapped in Firestone vintage-style dirt-track tires, completing that lakes-modifies look.
When the chassis and body were ready to roll, Dan drove up to Grand Junction, Colorado, home of Zipper Motors, to pick up the package. From there, the car took a trip down south to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where Russ Bracco, Dan's father-in-law, was to tool on the car in his garage in the coming months. As Russ would work, Dan would constantly inundate him with new parts as the project progressed. A 3x2-equipped GM crate ZZ4 350ci engine and TH350 trans were installed between the Zipper 'rails, completing the drivetrain.
Before the modified coupe was to go to the paint shop, it was sent to Dan's good friend, Larry Storck at Larry Storck Enterprises in El Cajon, California. Larry Storck is a name synonymous with off-road racing and aluminum fabrication, so it was a no-brainer when the time came to fabricate all the aluminum bits on the car. Larry and fellow fabricator Jim Hassad carved out the grille for the front of the Zipper track nose, also massaging the roll pan and building the sliding trunk lid. From El Cajon, the car went back to Russ in Lake Havasu City for disassembly and paint prep. While the parts came off the car, one pile was to go to the painter while another pile was sent off to Escondido Plating for a coat of the shiny stuff.
Dan owns a trucking company that just happens to have a fleet of yellow trucks, so the colors were no surprise when Dan chose Jay Jorgensen at Speedway Customs in Lake Havasu City to complete the body and paintwork. Lamborghini Yellow under a Torch Red scallop design emulates the old-time lakes racers, while also giving a nod to Dan's fleet of trucks. Even his wife said everything he owns ends up yellow! With the fabrication, paint, and bodywork complete, the coupe was sent back to Russ' for final assembly.
Upon completion, the car was again sent away for one last trip. Bob Butler finalized Dan's difficult decision as to how to handle the exhaust by building an outside header and exhaust system. From his San Diego shop, the car was taken up to Lakeside, California, to Howard McKey, who stitched up the interior in red Naugahyde.
What began as three men's dreams, culminated by a number of talented individuals' hard work, ultimately became a reality in the shape of Dan Shea's Zipper-modified coupe. A tribute to lakes and track roadsters of a bygone era, Dan's coupe could not have been possible without the help of father-in-law Russ, Darrell "Zipper" Zipp, and good friend Gary Bland, who helped to fine-tune the chassis setup and the 3x2 induction system. Dan's modified is the ultimate example of what can happen when imagination, ingenuity, and talent collide in the street rodding world.