Some cars look funny with...
Some cars look funny with their top down, but not this one. The paint (applied by Spotlight Custom Cars) is PPG Inferno Red, and the ‘vert rolls on Toyo-wrapped (245/35 and 255/45) 18-inch Eagle wheels (polished by Best Metal Polishing).
Bill Daniels can remember the details like it was yesterday. He and his buddy were racing another car at 1 a.m., hitting speeds of 95 mph when the car left the road, sailed through the air for 45 feet, skidded the length of a football field, then flipped end-over-end only to end upside down with the gearshift knob stuck in his chest.
That was in 1956 when Bill was 18 years old, and he’s happy to say he lived to tell about it. Living in Southern California and immersed in the hot rodding scene, he’d already owned a chopped Deuce three-window by that point. But he wanted and eventually bought a ’50 Olds, which was then painted bright yellow and covered with louvers on the hood and the trunklid (the pinstriping on each of the louvers was done by Von Dutch, who demanded a bottle of wine be left for him when Bill dropped off the car for his appointment).
Nowadays Bill lives in Ellijay, Georgia, with his wife, Sally, but his interest in hot rods hasn’t diminished. His most recent accomplishment is this ’54 Chevrolet convertible, a car he wanted not only because he got his driver’s license in 1954, but also because he’d never seen another one at any of the car shows he’s attended.
The heartbeat of this big...
The heartbeat of this big Bow-Tie is a 502 crate engine from GM Performance. Up front is an Auto Rad radiator and a Concept One pulley system. This photo shows a fair amount of polished billet aluminum, but Bill has since changed everything over to chrome.
Back in 2007, while having his ’65 GTO painted, Bill noticed the ’54 at the back of a shop where it had sat disassembled for five years. The engine was out and on display in the office, so Bill bought the parts and hauled everything over to Spotlight Custom Cars in Dahlonega, Georgia, which is run by Mike Bowen.
Bowen, along with Bill Wettingfeld, worked on the car from the ground up, starting with the suspension. Out back a Currie 9-inch (with a polished housing) was installed with a Strange Trac-Lok differential and Currie axles along with custom ladder bars by North Georgia Fabrication. Up front a Corvette C4 IFS is coupled with a RideTech Ride Pro bag system to help take care of the road bumps, and 13-inch, drilled and slotted Baer disc brakes bring the 3,400-pound behemoth to a quick stop. Eagle 18-inch wheels are located at each corner and are wrapped with 245/35-18 and 255/45-18 Toyo rubber.
Under the hood a GM Performance Ram Jet 502 was installed and dressed with a fair amount of polished billet and chromed parts plated by Advanced Plating in Nashville, Tennessee. Up front an Auto Rad custom radiator was put in place, and a Concept One pulley system keeps everything turning. North Georgia Fabrication also constructed custom stainless steel headers, which were then polished. The whole shebang mates to a 700-R4 transmission that was prepped by Transmission Techniques in Lula, Georgia.
Interiors by Shannon crafted...
Interiors by Shannon crafted the seats and stitched up the tan and brown leather for Daniel’s interior. Dakota Digital gauges and a Pioneer stereo system are found up on the dash and controls for the Vintage Air system are found in the custom center console. The steering wheel is from Billet Specialties.
Daniels says many of the exterior parts for a ’54 Chevy convertible are hard to find (one source puts original factory production at just over 19,000 units), but you would probably want all the extra trim pieces, as that’s one of the ways to identify it as a Bel Air. The car had all the pieces except the one needed for the top, which was handmade. Once Spotlight finished up the bodywork, they painted the car with PPG Inferno Red paint.
With the color done, it was time to move onto the interior. A&D Tops and Trim in Buford, Georgia, used tan Mercedes cloth in the construction of the convertible top and boot. Interiors by Shannon in Alexander City, Alabama, got the call to create an interior for the car, which included covering the custom front buckets and rear bucket/bench in tan and brown leather (they needed six complete hides to do the job).
Dash trim was re-chromed by Advanced, and Dakota Digital gauges were installed along with a Pioneer-based stereo gear. Controls for the Vintage Air A/C and heat system are found in the custom center console, and wiring from Haywire is hidden behind the big dash.
The ’54 Chevy seems to suit Bill, who is happy he has had the opportunities life has afforded him since that fateful day in 1956. Even though he’s on the other side of the country, he still sees his car club buddies from SoCal (they were called the Agitators) on a regular basis. His latest find is a ’61 bubbletop with only 58,000 miles on the odometer and three-on-the-tree. It’s his daily driver, and Bill says he now sees why they are so popular! But either way, in his ’61 or his ’54, Bill Daniels is one grateful hot rodder.
That’s a teenage Bill Daniels...
That’s a teenage Bill Daniels next to his family’s former daily driver, a ’50 Olds, after dozens of louvers were punched (in the hood and trunk!) and Von Dutch had pinstriped the top of each one. Dutch told him, “Anyone crazy enough to have louvers on the trunk deserves flames” and added the licks to the sail panel. This is also the car that nearly killed him in 1956, when it flipped during some late-night street racing and impaled the gearshift knob in his chest.