Let's go right to that green paint. It's a basecoat of Planet Green from House of Kolor topped by Lime Gold Candy, and it makes Jake Moomey's custom '54 Bel Air hardtop visible from space. Magazine readers can see for themselves by opening the December '09 issue of STREET RODDER to page 132. There, in that wide-angle long-shot of the winners' circle at the Goodguys Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, is the Chevy. Only the back half of the car can be seen, but even three rows in the distance that screamin' green finish makes it the center of attention.
This isn't the first Jake Moomey car to get some attention. You might remember a chopped and channeled, open-wheeled '34 Ford pickup with red oxide paint and white scallops, and wire rims that made the April '08 cover of our sister mag Rod & Custom. Same guy. That flat red, early Ford pickup seems like the exact opposite of this glowing green, postwar Chevy coupe, except for the humongous level of coolness in both vehicles that makes them the most unidentical twins we've ever seen.
"I guess I've been evolving," Jake told us, reflecting on his last few projects-a slammed '94 Suburban with some wild flames and 20-inch rims, that hot rod pickup, and now this traditional custom. "It keeps 'em guessing," he says.
Jake started working on the Chevy before it even belonged to him. He and his friend, Jody Smith, found it in pieces in a barn. The smaller pieces were stored in boxes all over the place. The bigger pieces were hanging from the ceiling by the straps of a come-along winch.
"It didn't take long to decide that this was no place for a car like this," Jake said. Smith bought it, they hauled it off, and the two of them built it in Jake's shop. When they were done, it had been chopped, painted in black primer, and treated to a 350 crate motor and airbag suspension.
It wasn't a beauty queen, but it was mechanically sound and lots of fun to drive. Unfortunately, a collision with an SUV took out the front clip and ended the fun. With the dollars he intended to spend on further modifications now going for repairs, Smith lost interest in the car. After some trading, Smith ended up with Jake's flamed Suburban and Jake got the Bel Air hardtop he had helped build.
There was a lot Jake liked about the car, but a few things he decided to change-and Smith was eager to help. The 3 1/2-inch chop hadn't been as successful as Jake wanted and was redone, using the inner support pieces from another hardtop. The new rear window is uncut, and recessed into the body. The body gaps were redone, and 176 hood louvers were punched, and a '55 DeSoto grille were added.
Other exterior modifications include the '55 Chevy headlights, shaved door handles and trim, Chevy 210 side trim, dual spots, just-for-looks side pipes, a sectioned decklid, '56 Packard taillights, a '55 DeSoto rear bumper with '52 Chevy bumper guards, and '54 Pontiac beltline molding just below the C-pillar. Much of the body prep work, and the famous paintjob was performed by Ted Aguilar, who also worked on Jake's '34. Jerry Czerwinski added the pinstriping on the nose, decklid, air cleaner, dash, and front and rear armrests.
In the true tradition of custom...
In the true tradition of custom cars, there isn't a lot of eye candy in the engine compartment with the notable exception of the rearward-facing Caddy air cleaner cover, painted in the body color and set off with some more elaborate pinstriping.
The body was channeled 3 inches over the stock 'rails, which were C-notched an additional 3 inches and beefed up a bit with a custom K-member. Jake installs airbags and body drops on mini-trucks as a sideline and used some of the same techniques on the Chevy. In the rear, Dominator Series bags from Air Lift were mounted on a custom two-link with a Panhard bar. The 10-bolt rearend from a '79 Camaro has 3.42:1 gears. A Mustang II tubular IFS from Speedway was mounted in front, along with another pair of Air Lift bags, and rack-and-pinion steering from an S-10. Jake used Monroe shocks all around. Brakes are stock drums in back with 11-inch GM metric brakes from an S-10 (including the master cylinder, booster, and pedal assembly). Wheels and tires are 15-inch GM steelies and P195/75R15 Coker whitewalls.
The Chevy small-block is the same engine dropped into the car when it was still owned by Smith. The 350 is out-of-the-box stock, lit by a Mallory ignition and aspirated by a single Edelbrock 600-cfm four-barrel on an Edelbrock manifold. Since the car is a driver and sees a lot of highway time, the Chevy 700-R4 transmission was a good choice.
It's hard to take in all the interior modifications at first glance, but just like on the outside, the inside has been well customized. The HOK Green and Silver and pinstriping has been carried over onto the stock dash and custom 'glass armrests. The bench seat from an early '70s Impala and the modified stock rear bench have been upholstered in cream-colored vinyl, just like the door panels, with enough material left over for the shifter boot on the Lokar shifter.
The final accessory for the finished car was a trailer-but not the kind you're thinking of. When the Moomey family-Jake, his wife Tami, and their little girls Kylie and Emma-hit the road in the '54, it's towing a vintage Scotty camper. That's how they made the trip from Grand Rapids to Columbus this summer, following the back roads and staying off the Interstate. After the Goodguys show (where the Chevy won the Chopped & Dropped award and where Josh Mishler shot these photos) the Moomeys were back on the road, taking the long route home, siteseeing and hitting one more car show along the way.
Jake's attention-getting Chevy is in hibernation at the moment, waiting for the snow to melt. Jake is planning to take advantage of this downtime to install a Vintage Air A/C, which will make those rides even nicer when '10 road trip season begins.
The rear seat back is original...
The rear seat back is original but the bottom portion had to be rebuilt after the body was dropped over the frame and bags were installed. There is only a couple of inches of foam on the bottom, but Kylie doesn't mind and Emma is still in a car seat.
A 3-inch channel, C-notched...
A 3-inch channel, C-notched 'rails, and airbags put the Chevy right to the pavement. Bill Dewey provided the glass, and Ted Aguilar shot the two-tone paint, a combination of Candy Green and metalflake silver. The plating on the rear bumpers, taillights, and grille upper surround is Cosmichrome, a spray-on chrome system. It was applied at Essex Customz in Grand Rapids.
On the inside, whatever wasn't...
On the inside, whatever wasn't painted or carpeted was upholstered in vinyl by Rex, last name unknown (and everybody calls him Moon Dog anyway) at his home shop in Grand Rapids. The armrests are fabricated from fiberglass. The Pioneer stereo with MTX amp and speakers was installed by Jake. The shifter is from Lokar.
The tri-spoke aftermarket...
The tri-spoke aftermarket wheel wrapped in metalflake vinyl is mounted on a modified S-10 column. Jake filled the holes in the stock dash and installed VDO gauges. Jody Smith used a Painless Wiring system to wire the car.
The '56 Packard taillights...
The '56 Packard taillights are another modification that gets everybody's attention. The fins add several inches to the rear quarters and, according to Jake, make people wonder if the panels have been sectioned.
Everybody asks about the wheels....
Everybody asks about the wheels. The same Cosmichrome process that was used on the rear bumper and elsewhere was also applied to the GM steel rims. The system includes the use of color, and the results are impressive.
Adding this piece of belting...
Adding this piece of belting molding from a '54 Pontiac hardtop is another small mod that sets off the car.