You can separate the wheat from the chaff-at least as it pertains to cars-with just one question. Just ask how a person got involved with cars. It's a trick question, really, for there is no real right answer. You see, to ask a real car buff a question like that is tantamount to asking anyone else how they took an interest in breathing. Sure, a particular event such as a drag race or a ride in a friend's or an older brother's hot rod may precipitate a life squandered on cars, but that doesn't happen without some latent interest in cars in the first place. So when Mike Frisk answered, "It just happened," we knew this cat was on the level. Just how on the level, though, we found out later. This gold '54 Chevy here? It's his. The car before, though, was a 5.0 Mustang.

To the layman, that little tidbit means nothing; to a true enthusiast, though, it speaks volumes. First off, someone who truly has the sickness doesn't make a distinction between a Ford or a Chevy-or a Ferrari or a Cord or a Bugatti, for that matter. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but only those who bring home the bacon by working for a particular manufacturer should be legitimately entitled to pledge allegiance to a brand. Pretty much anyone else who does is, for the most part, a poseur. There's more to it than a marque too. The Mustang is, by comparison to the Chevy, a new car. One's a hot rod; the other, a custom. The list goes on and on, but you get the point.

Mike built it with fellow Vancouverite Laurie Peterson, who, like Mike, doesn't squander his time on Heartbeat versus Blue Oval pissing contests. He, for example, has a really groovy '53 Studebaker with an LT-1 and shiny green paint that shares space with a flat-brown Ford pickup with a Terraplane grille and a Stude mill. It's in the family too; his brother, for example, has a Volkswagen with a Ford beam axle.

Together, the duo disposed of the stock king-and-link suspension and grafted a Camaro clip to the chassis. The height is a product of careful placement and 2-inch dropped spindles. They achieved a similar stance at the rear with de-arched leaf springs and lowering blocks, a combination that required the removal of a substantial notch from the frame and a reshaped driveshaft tunnel. Rather than air springs, the rear sports a set of air shocks.

Topside, Laurie clipped a restrained 3 3/8 inches and replaced the rear glass with that from a shoebox Ford. He also grafted '56 Olds headlight rings to the front fenders, which transition to '55 Chevy character lines; at the rear, he reshaped the quarters to take '56 Packard taillights. Both ends sport '56 Chevy bumpers, an install that required Laurie to reshape the valences. They're visually more subtle modifications, but the rounded door edges and hood opening are more responsible than you think for the car's presence. The paint-the color of golden fleece and applied by Rob Johnson, the guy who shot Laurie's Stude years ago-is even more striking in person.

Following tradition, the interior is a sea of white pleated vinyl. Interspersing that early '50s theme, however, are a few decidedly Space Age cues-at least the way Space Age looked when Sputnik first flew. The piping and door panel inserts, for example, are made of Zodiac-flaked vinyl; the steering wheel, looking more like the helm of a spaceship, came from a '62 Impala.

While the engine follows tradition, it does it by application more than by make. In true custom-car fashion, Laurie and Mike cleaned up a stock engine-in this case a '79 Chevy 350-and dropped it into the car. Other than a chrome air filter and a set of vintage Edelbrock valve covers, the only thing it has going for it is reliability, and that isn't exactly a bad thing either. Due to the overdrive gearbox behind it, the car is particularly well behaved on the road, Mike observed.

And the road is, following true enthusiast practice, exactly where the car spends most of its time. In fact, Mike didn't even waste time to let the paint cure before taking it on its maiden voyage to Puyallup, proving that he is, in fact, nuts. And to us, that makes him even more likeable. Likeable, too, is the car, and that has everything to do with its builders' philosophy. They're not hot rodders, nor are they customizers, or Ford or Chevy guys, for that matter-they're just car guys. Instead of trying to impress us with gimmicks, they just built a simple car, proving that a car doesn't need modern contrivances like air springs or tilt-wheel steering to be cool. For lack of a better term, they just built a bitchin' car.

They don't know why or how; they just did.