Since you're reading STREET RODDER, whether you want to admit it or not, you're guilty of falling into car lust. Come on now, admit it. You've come across a car that you just had to have. You had visions of what you'd do to it, what it would look like with your favorite wheels, and the parts you'd bolt on. Maybe it's a car you still have or perhaps it's a car you didn't even need ... but you still ended up with it.
The challenge is to make this '51 Chevy Sport coupe into a reliable driver after 30 years
We're guilty on numerous counts, but this 1951 Chevy coupe is our latest offense. The roots of our desire for an early '50s coupe stems back almost 25 years to our high school days at the local cruise on Dixie Highway in Waterford, Michigan. Back then it was all about muscle cars, street racing, and cubic inches, but every week a bone-stock '51 or '52 would glide by and pull our attention from open header rumbles to its whisper-smooth tone. From Rock Crushers to "three on the tree" or cast-iron 'glides, for some reason that early, light blue coupe reminded me of quiet, easier times. It seemed comfortable, something my big-block '67 Chevelle was not. For whatever reason, that car made a lasting impression as I still find myself fawning over the '49-54 Chevrolet cars.
Fast forward 20 years when I first set eyes on this '51 parked in the back of a friend's body shop. The car was all original and intact. The two-tone green and white paint was worn and aged and the interior matched. The factory steering wheel accented with its horn ring and the dash was complete. Most of the chrome and lights were in place with only a couple small trim pieces missing, along with the DeLuxe-issued skirts. I immediately questioned the availability of the car, which was met with the all too familiar, "Not for sale. He's going to fix it up someday." A couple years later and the car was still out back but the answer remained the same. Another year later it was just gone, but not forgotten. Soon, while cruising eBay, it appeared. There it was with a "buy it now" price listed. Mind you, I'd never really inspected the car thoroughly. I looked in the windows, saw it had an engine, but since it wasn't for sale there was no reason to crawl under the car and dig in. But here it was up for auction and without much hesitation I shot over an offer that bordered on embarrassing, but what could it hurt? I already had three cars apart in the garage, but the rationale was if I could get it for a cheap, good deal. Obviously, I was meant to own this car since it came up on my screen. Shortly after, an email confirmation came in. It was mine. "Now what am I going to do?" was the first thought. But I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
The DeLuxe models came with stainless trim that ran from the front fenders to the end of t
One thing that made us fall for this particular '51 is the paint. The faded, dusting green paint is perfect to us. It appears that it was painted at some point in its 59 years, which just seems to add to its worn, scratched look. Ditto for the chrome and stainless. Sure there are a few dents, but the trim matches its age perfectly. We want to replace the couple of missing pieces, but overall the look will be staying as is.
We want the car to be a driver, so suspension and a drivetrain swap are the first order of business. Not to mention that stance is going to be imperative to the overall appearance of the coupe. However, budget and time are the rulers of this project so we've decided to build this '51 into a reliable driver for under $15,000; including the purchase price of the car. Our original goal was under $10,000 but when we put pen to paper and really started adding things like a transmission, radiator, brakes, and engine, it added up quickly. (We're really shooting for about $12,000 total.)