When you grow up in a town like San Bernardino, California, where cruising 'E' Street every weekend was the thing to do, what better way to go out cruising in style on a warm summer night than behind the wheel of a classic convertible? This is exactly the atmosphere that Mike Swanson grew up in, so it's no surprise to find Mike still cruising a number of years later. But while it may have been a car full of teenage boys in their parents' car back then, nowadays Mike cruises with his wife Carrie around their hometown of Yorba Linda, California, in their freshly finished 1954 Chevy Bel Air convertible.
But make no mistake, the '54 isn't the Swansons' first street rod, having owned a '46 Ford drop top as well, but it was probably the one that Mike received the most flak over initially. A father of two grown boys, when the car arrived from Idaho where Mike found it via the internet and had it inspected by a local car builder, the two teamed up with Carrie agreeing that the butt-ugly car was not going to transform from a family hauler to a cool street rod. But Mike persisted that his vision would surprise the threesome and had the 'vert delivered straight away to Kenny's Hot Rods, where only a few months into the build, tragedy struck. Laid up in a hospital bed due to a motorcycle accident, the owner of the shop recommended that Mike find another shop to complete the project. Mike decided that Extreme Automotive stood heads above the rest and soon, piece by piece, the Chevy was delivered to their Corona, California shop and the sparks were flying.
Not satisfied with some of the '54's original components, Mike decided to do away with them in hopes of achieving what he calls "sophisticated elegance." This called for replacing the stock, rather unimpressive dash with something a bit more aesthetically pleasing. What they came up with was the same thing GM had some 52 years prior when they redesigned the Bel Air line and introduced the '55 year model. The twin clamshell dash of the later Bel Air needed a slight trim to fit the '54's slimmer confines, but once in place the dash became the centerpiece of a cockpit that was rather utilitarian in nature from the onset. A custom center console and sub-dash was fabricated, as well as the dash ends, which were continued into the door panels. Other items borrowed from the Bel Air's younger sibling are the headlights and the sheetmetal eyebrows that were grafted to the stock '54 front fenders. Additional sheetmetal work included shaving the door handles, trunk, and hood, as well as the vertical bars in the grille. Once all the body mods were completed, PPG Corvette Monterey Red, or as the Swansons like to call it, Trojan Red in honor of the USC football team, was applied in liberal coats of base and clear by Larry Stanley at Extreme Automotive in Corona, California. From there, it was off to Ron Magnus' shop in Rialto, California, where Buckskin leather and German square weave carpet was stretched over every square inch of interior.
With the convertible completed, Mike's happy to report that not only did he get final approval of his custom "family car" from his wife, but his two sons have also fallen victim to its charm. A man with a vision and a plan who stood his ground despite the adversity he faced sounds like a description of some made for TV movie, but we can't think of a better way to describe Mike Swanson and his '54 Chevy mild custom that personifies the term "Sophisticated Elegance."
The centerpiece of the interior...
The centerpiece of the interior is the sectioned '55 Chevy Bel Air dash that was grafted into the '54 and wrapped into the doors. Atop a Flaming River polished stainless tilt steering column sits a Budnik wheel wrapped in leather matching the rest of the interior.
The frontend received a number...
The frontend received a number of custom treatments including the addition of '55 Chevy headlights and their surrounding sheet metal and the subtraction of the vertical bars on the grille.
The Corvette LS1 engine was...
The Corvette LS1 engine was dressed in Street & Performance goodies before it was shoehorned into the engine compartment.