For some street rodders, the goal of the hobby is to drive a one-of-a-kind car. For others, that isn’t enough. For them, the goal is to drive a car that reflects their one-of-a-kind personality. How else do you explain the fact that when you buy somebody else’s finished rod, you still have to add your signature to it in some way? Whether it’s a frame-off overhaul or just some new wheels and tires, until you make your own mods, it’s still going to be the other guy’s car. But sometimes, as you’re about to learn, that can take a while.
The classified ad for this ’37 Chevy sedan that appeared in Hemmings Motor News announced a “complete frame-off restoration”, “everything new”, and “show car quality”. According to Bob Smith, who bought it, the Chevy had recently been redone and was in excellent condition.
Bob wasn’t specifically looking for a ’37 Chevy when he started his search for a street rod. “I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for,” he says. “I figured I’d know it when I saw it.” When he didn’t see it at the Carlisle Collector Car Swap Meet he continued his search in Hemmings. A friend spotted the ad for the Chevy and Bob moved fast, calling immediately and sealing the deal over the phone. After picking up the car in southwestern Pennsylvania, he stopped to register it as soon as he crossed the state line into Maryland.
Bob wasted no time in driving and enjoying the Chevy, but making his own modifications was a longer process. Bob always planned on customizing the sedan, but it wasn’t until 2009, almost 13 years after buying the car, that he began turning his plan into a project.
Those plans were extensive, but the engine seemed like a great place to start. Ralph Hardesty at Superior Automotive assembled the ZZ4 350 small-block that would soon replace the 305. Several Edelbrock components were used, including a Rollin’ Thunder cam, polished aluminum heads, Performer RPM dual-quad manifold, and a pair of Thunder Series 500-cfm carburetors. The Billet Specialties plain top air cleaner and valve covers came from Speed Unlimited in Suitland, Maryland. Ceramic-coated headers from Flowtech and Flowmaster mufflers are connected by 2-1/4-inch custom pipes. A custom 3-inch driveshaft connects the column-shifted TH700-R4, built by Deltrans, to a Ford 9-inch with 3.50 gears and a posi.
When the engine was complete, Bob turned his attention to the sedan body. He knew that, at this point, he’d have to bring in some hired guns to handle the sheetmetal modifications he had in mind. While at a car show in Delaware, he struck up a friendship with Emerson Blue (whose ’56 Bel Air was featured in the Feb. ’11 issue of STREET RODDER). The Bel Air was built at One Off Rod & Custom, located in Middletown, Delaware. Before the end of the show, Bob had been introduced to Larry Stewart from One Off and ideas for customizing the ’37 were being discussed.
The sedan went into the shop in 2010. Every change made is low-key and enhances the look of the ’37 two-door body. In front, the shape of the grille surround was softened and the jutting bumper was split, reshaped, and in toward the fenders. The rear bumper was narrowed and pulled into the body as well. The license plate was relocated from the left taillight stand to the decklid, where it was frenched in. The rectangular Chevy taillights were replaced with round ’37 Ford lights on short custom stands; the power antenna has been frenched into the right stand. Door handles, drip rails, and hinges were shaved, and right and left California Custom mirrors installed. Power was added to the side glass and vent windows. Early Chevy fans may notice that the hood side louvers have been flipped to point forward at the top.