There's no question that this year's AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour '52 Chevy breaks new ground in a variety of areas--it's the first post-'48 car we've done, it shows just how great a "late model" car can look and drive when built with a street rodder's attention to detail, and it signals a broadening of our hobby's scope without taking anything away.

The basic concept of the Road Tour began in 1996. Each year a well-known street rod builder would put together a state-of-the-art street rod, a process that would be documented in this magazine. After completion, we turn Jerry Dixey loose on a summer-long, 25,000-mile tour of some of the major street rod events in the country and we invite our readers to come along. For those who can't join in the fun first-hand, Jerry provides regular updates that can be found on www.streetrodderweb.com and in STREET RODDER.

When we found our Bel Air it was a solid original example with updated running gear, but it had a long way to go to meet the standards of a Road Tour car, so we turned to Christopher Sondles, Ryan Fahringer, and the rest of the crew at Woody's Hot Rodz in Bright, Indiana.

As the name Road Tour implies, the cars are not only built to look great but to drive that way as well so, while Woody's turned their attention to the cosmetics, Art Morrison Enterprises developed an entirely new '49 to '54 Chevrolet chassis. The rectangular tube frame uses an in-house-designed front suspension vastly superior to the often-copied Mustang II. The Morrison front end offers enhanced camber control throughout its range of travel, that keeps more rubber in contact with the road for better handling and an improved ride. Caster has been increased to promote straight-line stability and more anti-dive has been incorporated for better braking. In the rear is a triangulated four-bar system that helps maintain the chassis roll center, providing consistent and predictable handling. All of this is tied together with a rectangular tube frame that is considerably stiffer than the original.

To get our Chevy down the road we were looking for an engine that was suitable for interstate highways or inner-city traffic jams and we found it in one of Smeding Performance's popular stroker small-block Chevys. With 410 horsepower on tap there's plenty of grunt, there's enough cam to provide an interesting idle, yet it's supremely drivable on 89-octane, and it comes with a two-year unlimited mileage warranty. Behind the 383 is one of Gearstar's bulletproof 4L60 overdrive automatics. Equipped with a lock-up converter with 2,000rpm stall speed, this transmission is as flexible as they come. A deep first gear with slightly higher-than-stock stall speed is capable of providing slam-you-in-the-seat launches when desired, along with low rpm highway cruising when racking up the miles. The last, but not the least, link in the drivetrain is the rearend. Strange supplied the housing, centersection, axles, and limited-slip differential, while U.S. Gear provided the 3.73:1 ring and pinion.

While the chassis and other components were being attended to, the gang at Woody's focused on the body. A few subtle changes were made: It was nosed and decked, the seam in the hood was welded and leaded, exterior handles and some the stock trim was removed. Then, after countless hours of metalwork, which not only included making the body perfect but the dash and under the hood as well, the striking combination of colors from PPG's Vibrance Collection was applied--Sour Apple (PN 908339) on the body and Custard (PN 90989) on the top.