Woody's Hot Rods did a masterful...
Woody's Hot Rods did a masterful job of applying street rod building techniques to our AMSOIL/Street Rodder '09 Road Tour '52 Chevrolet. Subtle body modifications include the nosed and filled hood and removal of the side trim and handles.
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.
Nestled between the custom...
Nestled between the custom inner fender panels is a Smeding stroker motor. Headers from Hedman route the exhaust to a pair of Flowmaster mufflers. Those Flaming River U-joints and shafts lead to a rack-and-pinion steering gear.
In the rear guardless bumpers...
In the rear guardless bumpers and a smooth deck lid clean up the hardtop's appearance; the stock taillights and accessory backup lights remain. Woody's used PPG's latest waterborne materials to produce the fabulous two-tone finish.
The unique Corvette-like side...
The unique Corvette-like side trim was fabricated by Clayton Machine Works from aluminum material available from Yogi's. Wheels are painted billet smoothies from Wheel Vintiques wrapped with BFGoodrich tires (245/40ZR18 front, 275/40ZR18 rear). Repop hub caps (and many of the restoration parts) are from Chevs of the 40's.
To keep Jerry comfy for long road tour stretches a Wise Guys bench seat was slipped in place. Wise Guys also covered the stock rear seat in matching material, Time Machines Unlimited did the door and kick panels, while Chevs Of The 40's provided the carpet and headliner.
While all the Road Tour cars have been viewed as being state of the art, and driving them around the country has certainly proved the point, the contemporary components provide a safe, reliable street rod that's tons of fun and within almost anyone's grasp. The '09 version says that and more. It tells us the definition of a street rod is expanding--not that the A/V-8, Deuce highboy, or '40 Ford coupe is going to be replaced, but there's room for more cars in the ranks--this is certainly one of them.
Sherm's Custom Plating did...
Sherm's Custom Plating did a masterful job of chrome plating, straightening and polishing all the stainless--and there's a bunch of it on '50s cars.
One of the biggest challenges...
One of the biggest challenges on cars of this era is plating pot metal parts, such as the taillights--fortunately that's a specialty at Sherm's.
Hidden behind the smoothed...
Hidden behind the smoothed dash is a Vintage Air heat and cool system. The steering wheel, column, and drop are from Flaming River; the step-on parking brake, pedal pads and all control cables are from Lokar.
Access to the plush interior...
Access to the plush interior is gained via Electric-Life remote door openers, as well as the power window mechanisms. New weather stripping throughout was obtained from SoffSeal.
Autometer gauges supply the...
Autometer gauges supply the vital signs and a Ron Francis harness connects all the electrical components.
Topping the small-block is...
Topping the small-block is a Barry Grant Six-Shooter Triple D induction system. Fuel is delivered from an Aeromotive in-tank pump and filter system.
A Vintage Air Front Runner...
A Vintage Air Front Runner drive system holds the Powermaster alternator, power steering pump, and A/C compressor. A U.S. Radiator fan and shroud with a Trans-Dapt overflow tank keeps the small-block cool.
This pre-upholstery shot shows...
This pre-upholstery shot shows the location of the XS Power battery and Custom Autosound hidden stereo system. Insulation from Dynamat was used throughout the car to keep it cool and quiet.
A Wilwood master cylinder...
A Wilwood master cylinder mounts to the smoothed firewall. By selecting the proper bore size, a power booster isn't necessary, even with four-wheel disc brakes.
To bring the Chevy down from...
To bring the Chevy down from speed Wilwood disc brakes are used at all four corners. To make dialing in the ride and handling easy, double-adjustable Strange coilovers are used on both ends of the car.
Our Chevrolet has an entirely...
Our Chevrolet has an entirely new attitude in more ways than one. It corners flat, stays stuck to the ground, and just begs to be pushed through corners. This is now truly a driver's car that is comfortable to drive hard--and it has a back seat and trunk.
Amsoil/Street Rodder Road Tour
Testing automobiles by pushing them to their limits while taking objective measurements with a stopwatch and tape measure has long been a part of the evaluative process. Arguably the man who pioneered the practice of wringing out cars and then reporting on their capabilities was Tom McCahill of Mechanix Illustrated magazine. Uncle Tom, as he referred to himself, invented the 0-60 mph as a standard of evaluation but, while he collected objective data to substantiate his opinions of a car's capabilities, he also had a unique ability to sum things up on a subjective level--McCahill once described the handling of a Buick as being "Like a fat matron trying to get out of a slippery bathtub."
McCahill began publishing drive test evaluations in the February '46 issue of M.I. and throughout the '50s reported on imports as well as domestic cars. He regularly criticized American manufacturers for their cars' poor handling characteristics and, as he called them, "Jell-O suspensions." The '49 to '54 Chevys certainly fit in that category--they were cars that McCahill described as "mundane."
When we acquired our '52 Chevy Bel Air some modifications had been made--it had been equipped with a small-block Chevy V-8, an automatic transmission and a later, open-drive rearend. However, other than contemporary shocks and wider wheels and tires, the suspension was stock. To find out what the car was capable of in stock form we took it to the California Speedway in Fontana for braking, skid pad and slalom testing. The results were eye-opening. On the first brake test of three attempts it took 185 feet to bring the Chevy to a halt from 60 mph, by the third test the stopping distance was up to a smoky 196 feet--and the smoke was coming from the brakes, not the tires.
Next it was off to the 200-foot skid pad. With the tires screaming in pain the Chevy made its best clockwise revolution in 13.98 seconds, counter-clockwise it did it in 13.91 seconds. It should be noted that our G-force conversion chart only goes up to 13.4 seconds--we're not used to testing something this slow--nonetheless those times translated into .62 and .63 Gs respectively.
Our final test was the 420-foot slalom course--with the rocker trim in jeopardy of being dragged on the ground the best pass through the cones netted 36.7 mph.
As the car was built at Woody's Street Rodz in Bright, Indiana, bringing it back to California for a retest at the same venue was deemed impractical. So, we sent our resident hot shoe, Nick Licata, to Columbus, Ohio, to run the Chevy in what turned out to be a less than ideal conditions. Generally speaking such tests are done on a carefully prepared surface. Unfortunately the skid pad we were forced to use was full of lumps and bumps, making it better suited for off-road testing than pulling maximum G's. An additional handicap was the tires our Chevy was wearing. More often than not cars being tested are equipped with tires having a wear index of 100, indicating a short service life as a result of soft, but stickier, tread compound. Our road tour car was equipped with all-season tires that are harder where the rubber meets the road and therefore carry a more practical, longer life wear index of 400. Of course in the real world the roads we drive on are seldom perfect and who wants to be replacing tires more often than necessary? So, while the car could have done better, we're not making any excuses because even in less than ideal conditions, like those it will be driven in regularly, the Road Tour car still posted some impressive numbers. Three 60-0 braking tests resulted in distances of 124.86, 131.02 and 128.98 feet, the skid pad was done in a best 12.1 seconds, which translates to .84 g's and the slalom was accomplished in 5.91 seconds at 48.2 mph.
To put things in perspective, an LT1 C4 Corvette tested previously at Fontana did 60 to 0 in 126 feet, pulled .86 g's on the skid pad and ran 45.03 mph through the slalom. Can you imagine a winding road and the look on a 'Vette driver's face with his rearview mirrors full of a '52 Chevrolet he can't shake?
While the test results show the Morrison chassis offers dramatically improved performance compared to a stocker from an objective standpoint, that's only part of the story. What the numbers don't show are the qualities that can't be measured: how solid and connected to the road the car now feels and the confidence it inspires in the driver and passengers. This is a car that can be driven fast safely and confidently--thanks to Smeding horsepower it has acceleration that will pin you in the seats, the brakes will press you against the seat belts as they bring the car to a straight and true halt and a flick of the steering wheel results in an instant response. This is now a car that begs to be driven. With apologies to Mr. McCahill, the Morrison chassis has transformed the AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour Chevy from a pig on roller skates to a greyhound in running shoes. We're sure Uncle Tom would agree.
In stock form the Chevy exhibited...
In stock form the Chevy exhibited lots of body roll. Not only is that disconcerting for the driver but having all that mass shift the other way when trying to change directions destroys what little balance the car has in a corner.
While it loves going around...
While it loves going around corners, the Morrison chassis makes our Chev go straight as a string when the Smeding small-block is opened up or when the four-wheel Wilwood brakes are bringing the hardtop to a halt.
You can almost hear the tires...
You can almost hear the tires squeal when looking at this photo. Pushing a stock '49 to '54 Chevy through corners isn't something you do for fun.
The Amsoil/Street Rodder '09 Road TourSponsor Directory
Lubricants and Filtration
Chassis and Front & Rear Suspension
Art Morrison Enterprises
Auto Meter Products
Chevs Of The 40's
Custom Autosound MFG., Inc.
Insulation and Noise Control
Power Windows, Remote Entry Systems
132 N. Howard St.
Akron, OH 44308
Shifter and Cables
Charging System and Starter
RON FRANCIS WIRING
Sherm's Custom Plating
Shocks and Complete Rearend
Radiator and Fan
Air Conditioning and Accessory Drive System
Vintage Air, Inc.
Woody's Hot Rodz
Seating and Interior
Wise Guys Seating & Interior
Yogi's Street Rod Accessories