It seems that it takes some owners just a few months to build their ride while others take multiple years to get one done. Most of the time it’s minor stuff that delays a build, but it might be hard for Jim Wise to explain why his coupe took 27 years to finish.
There’s a lot of motor in...
There’s a lot of motor in there! A ’68 496 Chevy big-block is the core to which a pair of Edelbrock 600-cfm carbs and an Edelbrock manifold feed the beast. Jim made his own headers and exhaust, and the big Bow Tie bolts to a Richmond five-speed trans. MSD supplies the spark and a Howard Stewart aluminum water pump and a polished aluminum radiator from Auto Rad helps keep things running cool.
If his name is familiar, it might be because you’re probably sitting in one of his seats when you climb into your hot rod as Jim owns Wise Guys Seats and Accessories, based in Elkhart, Indiana. The company makes and sells just about anything related to your comfort while driving your rod around, which not only includes finished, upholstered seats, but frame and foam bases from which you can cover them yourself, seat risers, seatbelts, armrests, lumbar and power pedestal assemblies, and well as a myriad of carpet styles and colors. Jim has been around the hot rodding scene for decades, and for the same amount of time he has also run Wise’s Hot Rods, a company that builds three to four hot rods a year for customers. And those with a good memory might remember Jim’s black ’n’ flamed deuce coupe from the Apr. ’97 issue of STREET RODDER, a car that in 1996 won one of the first STREET RODDER Top 10 awards the magazine ever gave out.
Jim started Wise Guys in 1996, but his connection to this coupe goes back a lot farther. He found it in 1984 up on jackstands in the garage of a good friend in Oklahoma, and it had already been there for 15 years! After Jim purchased the car for $5,500, he had it for a while before selling it to a buddy, where it went through a few different build changes and themes before buying it back in 2006. Jim got back on the project in 2009, but what hasn’t changed with Jim through all those years was the type of car he liked: a chopped American hot rod with a high-horsepower engine and a cool stance.
One of Wise Guys new Low Profile...
One of Wise Guys new Low Profile bench seat (with center armrest and cup holders) was stitched up in Havana-colored Finesse leather by Bohde’s Custom Auto Interiors, who also used contrasting German square-weave carpet below. Up on the ’33 Ford cabriolet dash Jim fabbed the aluminum piece that surrounds the Classic Instrument gauges. A Lecarra steering wheel helps point the way and a Hurst Competition Plus shifter selects the gears.
The project started with Jim building a unique frame, which looks stock at first glance, but isn’t. He used Just A Hobby ’32 framerails, but built his own tubular X-members as well a structure that kicks up and over the Franklin quick-change rear fitted with 31-spline axles. Wilwood disc brakes and Aldan adjustable coilover shocks were used front and rear, and Jim made his own 5-inch dropped tube axle. To make it a roller, Jim had Eric Vaughn widen a set of Halibrand 15x3.5 spindle mounts to 5 inches and then for the rear used a set of two-piece ET III 16x10 wheels he’d bought from Barry Lobeck in 1988. The fronts were wrapped in BFGoodrich P155/80-15 rubber while the rears required BFG LT315/55-16 hides.
With the stance out of the way, Jim turned to the performance side of things when he focused his attention on a ’68 496-inch big-block that was machined 0.060 over by Performance Technologies in Wakarusa, Indiana. Jim assembled the engine with J&E pistons (10.8:1), a 4340 steel stroker crank, H-beam rods, and a COMP Cams camshaft. Fully ported and polished Brodix aluminum heads were next (fitted with a full complement of COMP Cams and Crane parts) and are fed by twin Edelbrock 600-cfm carbs bolted to an Edelbrock RPM intake. An MSD distributor and 7AL box supplies the spark along 8mm Taylor wires, and Wise-built step headers extract gases through spiral-core mufflers. Jim selects his gears via a Hurst Competition Plus shifter connected to a Richmond five-speed transmission, which is equipped with a Center Force plate, disc, and billet steel flywheel.
The original steel three-window was chopped 2 inches by Gary Roberts and the cowl was raised for a better profile. The grille shell was then lowered 1 inch and the aluminum hood and sides (made by Steve Hardin) were filled with rows and rows of louvers (the decklid has a bunch, too). Body mods and fabrication complete, Jim Weaver Custom Painting in Goshen, Indiana, got the call to cover the coupe in DuPont Black Diamond paint. Dauber Custom Pinstriping in Cincinnati, Ohio, soon followed with a three-color fine-line pinstripe.