A little over a year ago, before the car was “blown apart” for paint, I had the opportunity to experience what turned out to be a definitive ride. A “tipping point”—here was the makings of a roadster that was to compete for the highest stage honors, a beauty contest, but possessed a pedigree buried deep in the roots of a true performance legacy. With Chapouris at the controls we left the confines of the multibuilding SO-CAL digs. I was about to experience acceleration that would literally take the breath from my lungs. The acceleration of the 450hp Art Chrisman–built 353-inch aluminum small-block Ford fed by the triple play of Holley carbs, fed from the twin 5-gallon aluminum tanks, literally made it difficult to breathe, giving new meaning to “breathtaking acceleration.” In today’s mega-horsepower (dial in the amount you wish) era 450 isn’t the end-all but couple this with a 1,925-pound roadster supported by a weight distribution of 45 percent (front) to 55 percent (rear) spread over a 110-inch wheelbase, along with a low center of gravity, and you have the makings of a retina-detaching hot rod that’s both quick and fast. It handles like a race car and rides like a limo.
The exhaust note resonating from the Howerton-built and titanium ceramic-coated, by Kelli Inman, headers is a canon of sound, a repeating firing order of exhaust notes, that every hot rodder knows, understands, and thoroughly enjoys. It’s truly music to a hot rodder’s ears; listen to the V-8 accelerate through the gears; First leaping toward 40 mph then into Second passing 70 mph and into Third now the speed approaches triple digits and into Fourth and then Fifth. All the while the BorgWarner World Class five-speed never misses a launch through the B&M shifter in companion with the Center Force clutch package supported by an aluminum flywheel. All the while my ample backside was pressed deeper and deeper into the custom-made aluminum bucket seats covered in Ultraleather by Gabe Lopez of Gabe’s Street Rod Custom Interiors. The interior was purposefully stitched in a minimalist design to emulate the race cars of the ’50s and ’60s. A full set of Smith gauges resides within the custom insert that’s placed within the custom dash, again the classic example of less yielding more.
The fun really begins as you approach one of California’s “high-speed” off-ramps; down from Fifth into Fourth a jump in rpm followed by a full-body snap and then grab at your waist from the D&J Safety lapbelts and a quick visit into Third on your way into Second all the time straining against the lapbelt. Nothing short of a race car will allow you to experience the shear excitement of a blast up and down through the gears. With great acceleration comes great braking (it better!) and this hot rod stops on command through the use of a custom-made pedal assembly that operates the Wilwood 7/8-inch master cylinder modulated by the proportioning valve upstream from the Wilwood twin-piston calipers and 12-inch drilled and vented rotors.