For those hot rodders who grew up in Southern California in the '50s and '60s, the cruising scene in Norwalk, Downey, and neighboring cities was where it was at. Thousands of kids would fill the parking lots of The Wich Stand, Harvey's Broiler (later renamed Johnie's), Holly's, Grisingers, The Clock, and many other locations to profile in their rides or to check out others who would be doing the same.
One street that would see some of the heaviest action was famed Bellflower Boulevard, and that's where you could have found a young Steve DePue on a Friday or Saturday night. Living in Norwalk in 1965 and just out of high school, cars—specifically hot rods—left a major impression on Steve.
In the years since, Steve has never lost his admiration for the cars he used to see on Bellflower, and he's built five cars that all had that same old-school, mild custom flavor you would have seen back then. But a few years ago Steve decided to lean more toward building a real hot rod—something with some performance—but still true to the era he remembered.
Steve's car has many of the styling cues that would place it on Bellflower Boulevard in th
To complete the early '60s street cruiser look, no stereo or air conditioning controls can
The black leather tuck 'n' roll interior was stitched together at Ernie's One Stop Shop in
He already had the motor he wanted to use (a 409 Chevy), so all he needed was to locate an acceptable car to put it in. In July 2009, he found a '55 210 Chevy on the Internet and called the owner, who lived in Wisconsin and ran a body shop. Steve told him he was looking for a car with little or no rust or Bondo, and one with a good frame. The body shop owner thought he had the car Steve was looking for and sent him some pictures. Steve thought it was great, bought it, and had it shipped to his workshop in Orange, California.
As it turned out, the body shop owner was honest about the car; it was in great shape, and already in primer and ready for paint. Steve wanted to get it painted right away and visited the shop that had done the work on his previous cars: All Quality Collision and Restoration, also located in Orange. The shop happened to be working on a motorcycle that had a great color on it, and Steve thought it would be a great choice for his ride, too. Made by Debeers, it's called Verkehrsrot 3620—a kind of reddish orange. Carlos Zavala from All Quality painted the car, and Dave Zatezalo soon followed with his pinstriping brush.
After it was painted, Steve brought it back to his shop where he and Gabe Jimenez started to figure out how to get it to look the way they wanted it to. The car had come with a 350 engine, but that was of course tossed in favor of the 409 pretty quickly. They wanted to add 10-inch slicks, too, which necessitated removing the stock leaf springs in favor of a GM Posi-Traction unit (3.73:1) located with an Art Morrison four-link, an Art Morrison adjustable antiroll bar, and a set of Aldan Eagle coilover shocks.
The front suspension was redone, too, with the addition of tubular A-arms and a set of drilled and slotted disc brakes and another pair of Aldan shocks. T&J Performance (Orange, California) modified the ABS Power Brake rack-and-pinion so it would clear the 409's oil pan, and a master cylinder and booster from Classic Performance Products works with the Billet Specialties brake pedal and alongside the Lokar throttle assembly. Rollers come in the form of 15x5 U.S Wheel Indy mags and 15x8 steelies, wrapped in Mickey Thompson Sportsman 26x7.5 rubber up front and Towel City Retreading Company 28.5x9 pie-crust cheater slicks out back.
And though the 409 was in good shape, the powertrain's concept changed after Steve located a rare Mickey Thompson power ram manifold for his motor. He changed the heads (to aluminum Edelbrock units), and he turned to Mike Hoskins to do the rebuild under the technical guidance of Jack Gibbs (owner of 409 Chevy Performance in Willows, California). A new roller cam and lifters went in, and the 409 was outfitted with forged rods, forged Ross pistons (9.5:1), dual springs, 1.7 ratio rockers, and topped with dual 500-cfm Edelbrock carbs.
MSD provides the spark for the engine, and exhaust runs through a set of Al's Headers and a pair of glasspack mufflers (or out custom slide plate cutouts fabbed by Mike Leach at General Mufflers). Though there is a Billet Specialties Tru-Trac serpentine belt system in place, it isn't really noticeable (especially because everyone is usually looking at the MT intake!). A friend to Steve since childhood, Dale Anderson, dialed in the TH400 trans used in the vehicle, and The Torque Converter Shop supplied the 1800-stall converter.
The car had come with a 350 engine, but that was tossed in favor of the 409 pretty quickly
Carlos Zavala from All Quality Collision and Restoration, located in Orange, CA, painted t
Dave Zatezalo followed Zavala's work with his pinstriping brush, adding the 409 lettering
Repop'd headlights and taillights were obtained from Danchuk Manufacturing, and they also supplied the "smoothie" rear bumper. But many of the original trim pieces were saved by the efforts of Gabe Jimenez, who repolished them in-house. The car's simplified "stereo delete" look really meant no stereo, no air conditioning, and no thumping amplifiers or speakers. A bench seat from Glide Engineering was installed, as was a Billet Specialties steering wheel bolted to an ididit column. The leather tuck 'n' roll was stitched together by Ernie's One Stop Shop (Orange, California), and black loop carpet completes the correct look for the car.
So, three years after purchasing his ride, Steve DePue can now jump in his '55 and, though most of the hot spots he remembers as a teen have fallen victim to the bulldozer over the decades, the cool factor of just cruising around his hometown in his 409-equipped Chevy is everything he dreamt it would be!
Just the Facts
Owner: Steve DePue