Gene Weaver is a true hot rodder and has honed his craftsman-like skills over a lifetime of building cars. About 15 years ago, Gene took a trip with his buddy Mike Cozad to check out some old Kansas junkyards. While going through Hannigans Salvage outside of Great Bend, Kansas, a '53 Chevy two-door hardtop caught Gene's eye. The main body was very nice, but it was missing the decklid, entire front clip, engine, and transmission. Gene hadn't planned on buying anything at that time but just couldn't leave it there. A week later, and a little cash gone, it was sitting in his backyard. His wife, Karen, asked him if the previous owners had to pay him to take it home. He slowly gathered parts over the next 10 years, just waiting for retirement. During those 10 years, Gene subframed it using a '69 Camaro unit, chopped the top 2 inches, and installed patch panels. But it wasn't until his 2003 retirement that he got serious about the project.
Gene is one who does almost everything himself, but Karen always pitches in. The first thing was to remove the body from the frame. With the '69 Camaro subframe already installed, Gene started replacing the worn parts with new ones. Just Suspension supplied the 3-inch lowered front coils, and Monroe Sensa-Trac shocks were added front and back. The stock Camaro A arms were narrowed to make sure the tires cleared the fenders, and a '75 Nova rear was used. Gene had the original springs de-arched and eyes reversed. Gene added 2-inch blocks to get the back down to where he wanted it. The 205/75/15 Diamond Back Classics wide whites with Caddie caps finish the rolling chassis.
Reliability was the focus when it came to under the hood. O'Reilly Auto Parts supplied the 350 long-block with Gene adding the typical dress-up parts. The one thing Gene had to change was the cam. Remembering back to his younger days, one of his first impressions of cool cars was a '62 Vette with the famous Duntov cam; COMP Cams' model 12-242-2 gives the same distinct idle. And of course that sound had to pass through a pair of Smithy's glasspacks installed by Bill's American Mufflers in Wichita. The motor was ready for its new home after the installation of the Edelbrock intake, carb, air cleaner, and a pair of SSI finned aluminum valve covers. Before putting the new motor in its place, Gene smoothed the firewall and finished the inner fender panels in the body color. A turbo 350 completes the powertrain.
With the motor and chassis all ready, Gene's attention turned to the body. Now the '53-54 Chevy two-door hardtop body has always begged to be chopped, and Duane Steck's original Moonglow '54 Chevy set the standard for the custom look years ago. Gene wanted the look, but didn't want to just copy the Moonglow. Two inches were taken out of the top just to start; a '54 front clip was found; the hood was molded into one piece and peaked; and the '54 grille was also used with extra teeth added. Fifty-two Ford rings were frenched for the headlights, and stock '54 Chevy bezels, with the lens tunneled, finished the taillights. Of course, a shaved hood and trunk and door handles were a must, and the gas filler was also moved to the trunk. After the body was smoothed and ready for paint, Gene called on Chris Lawless to spray the Valspar Light Almond Pearl.
The front is the stock '54 bumper, but it was moved in closer to the body. The front bumper bullets are the tops of the front guards, and Gene reworked, shortened, crimped, and radiused them to fit. The rear bumper consists of a '53 Chevy center and '56 Chevy front guards. Pieces from a '52 Ford run from the guards and around the corners with stock '53 Chevy ends finishing the sides. The modified bumper was then sent to Robbies Hobbies to be plated.