You’d probably have to live there to discover it but there’s another strip of gleaming palaces in Las Vegas. And as a local would tell you, the houses there boast the best odds in town—in fact just about every player drives off in a brand-new car. Unofficially, it’s Dealer Row and among insiders East Sahara Avenue has been the valley’s Glitter Gulch of Go for decades. Just ask Greg Heinrich; his family staked its claim with Fairway Chevrolet 42 years ago.
But unlike most dealers, Greg’s dad, the late Bill Heinrich, didn’t sell every car that crossed his threshold. At one point Fairway boasted an impromptu museum of nearly 100 cars. Some were gold—like Bloomington Gold–quality Corvettes—but others, like an un-restored ’41 coupe, more resembled a tarnished penny in color and condition.
Using as many GM parts as possible meant keeping the LS7’s more complex dry-sump system (r
“That car had been in the family since the late ’70s,” Greg begins. “In the back of my mind I always thought that I’d like to build a few street rods (and) that was always earmarked to do with it.” A consultation with fellow Chevy dealer and 2002 Ridler award winner Wes Rydell yielded four names, among them an Alabama shop named Rods & Restos. “He and I got to talking,” Neil Lea recalls. “We just kind of hit it off and became friends.” The relationship evolved into a shipment of a ’41 coupe, an LS7 engine, and a general idea of how they should go together.
“It was important with him that we use as much off-the-shelf GM stuff as we could,” Lea observes. He obliged by retaining the original frame, an exception in an age of highly available aftermarket frames and a heavy-duty commitment in light of the original design’s top-hat construction. He proved his merit by preserving the distinctive cross-section on the ’rails where he narrowed the frame to clear 20x10 wheels. He modified a production stainless triangulated four-link system to hang a Ford 9-inch axle housing.
Rather than rely on the hood to direct air through the radiator, Lea fabricated this alumi
He raised the front of the frame in similar fashion to accommodate a contemporary front suspension. You won’t find this assembly in any catalog, though. With the car mocked at ride height Lea rolled a pair of 18x8 wheels forward until the car achieved a leaner profile. After centering them laterally to offer the most turning potential he bolted C5 Corvette knuckles, hubs, and brakes to them and spanned the gap to the frame with control arms of his own design. He then commissioned Dave Batke at Maval Manufacturing to create a steering rack to fit the dimensions.
A lattice of tubular crossmembers spans the framerails, lending the thin-wall chassis the integrity it needs to cope with the proposed drivetrain. The structure made the obsolete pedal assembly untenable so Lea responded with a firewall-mounted Kugel Komponents swing pedal kit.
The Schott Velocity wheels measure 18x8 and 20x10 and mount Yokohama Advan Sport tires. Th
Lea and his fabricators, Phillip Boykin and Brian Williams, set the LS7 engine, a task made complex by the narrow-set control-arm pickup points and the engine’s dry-sump reservoir. Though they retained the GM clutch, it now drives a TREMEC TK0600 five-speed transmission. It, in turn, drives a 3.90:1 gear on a Detroit TrueTrac limited-slip carrier.
“I wanted what I’d call a straightforward performance car,” Greg observes. Adding, “I wasn’t interested in lots of body modifications.” Lea and his crew responded by doing the bare necessities, like widening the rear-wheel tubs to match the narrowed framerails. “The driprail was damaged so I just cut it off,” Lea observes. “I’m not a fan of that but it worked on that car.” Beyond that they shaved some trim from the hood, relocated the fuel filler to the trunk, tightened the panel gaps and eliminated the welting, opened the wheel arches to better match the car’s lower stance and front wheels new position, and brought the bumpers closer to the body. Shane Young prepped and painted the car GM Indigo Blue and John Wright at Custom Chrome in Grafton, Ohio, refinished the plating.
Desert living favors air conditioning, a feature that doesn’t exactly dovetail with pre-war cars. The Rods & Restos crew extended the dash to accommodate a Vintage Air climate-control system and a waterfall-like center console to host the switches. The Lexus SC 400 seats break from the GM mandate but redeem themselves by sculpted backs for greater knee room. “Plus they look cool,” Lea observes. He also crafted the center console between those seats. “If it doesn’t weld to steel I make it out of aluminum,” he adds.
Paul Atkins introduced stylistic elements without resorting to popular patterns. The silve
Though Rods & Restos started the interior, the majority of the credit goes to Paul Atkins. He sculpted the door panels, including their spears and speaker grilles. He crafted a rear bench in the image of the Lexus unit and trimmed the entire interior in glove-like leather. Woven-silver piping and oval aluminum medallions adorn the inserts.
A 1941 anything isn’t usually the first choice for most enthusiasts to modify; it was a transitional year for just about every manufacturer and though designers knew buyers wanted bigger cars they were at a bit of a loss as to how to make it happen. As Lea put it, “A ’41 is not the sexiest car.”
Of course you might think otherwise if Greg’s ’41 was your point of reference. Its transitional status makes it unique and its treatment makes it exceptional, two things that are exceedingly difficult to achieve with more popular models.
Of course it also could’ve gone terribly awry but those are the stakes when navigating uncharted waters. But what else would you expect from a dealer in the gambling capital of the world?
The steering wheel began as a Juliano’s piece that underwent modifications and water-trans
Lea crafted this waterfall console piece to break up the large sub-dash and to house the s
Rather than convert original gauges Lea replaced them with Classic Instruments’ All Americ
Paul Atkins didn’t merely trim an interior for this car; he pretty much sculpted it from s
Lea and the Rods & Restos crew fabricated an aluminum sub-dash to accommodate the tall Vin
Most consoles are merely decorative but this one is functional. It serves as a cup holder,