One of the iconic American classic is the 1957 Chevy. Known as one of the ‘shoebox’ or ‘Tri-Five’ Chevies (along with the 1955 and 1956 models), it is among the most recognized and popular cars ever. General Motors introduced the new longer, lower and wider models in 1955, and when Chevrolet offered the new 265 cubic inch V8 (in addition to the old stovebolt 6 cylinder engine) in its handsome cars, it scored an instant hit. Chevrolet sold 1,775,952 of their full-size line (models 150, 210 and Bel Air) in the first year, followed by 1,623,376 for 1956. For 1957, Chevy sold a total 1,555,316 cars that year for well over 4,000,000 cars over 3 years (numbers taken from here). The old 6 engine was still the base offering, but the small block V8 was now 283 cubes, and the hottest ticket was the optional fuel injection which made 283 horsepower – 1 for each cubic inch!
This particular coupe was found in the hotel parking lot when I attended the 2014 Syracuse Nationals car show. Clad in primer and showing a number of scars from age, it fit in with a number of other rat rods and ‘unfinished’ cars that showed up. The crest has been shaved from the front of the hood, and much of the chrome on the grille and headlight bezels is rough, but the hood windsplit ornaments looked pretty fresh, and the 3 trim ‘D’s on the fender show this to be a top of the line Bel Air.
I shot this car with my Fuji FinePix S1500, which has a fixed lens. The settings were ƒ/5.0, 1/300 second shutter speed using ISO 64. It was an overcast evening, so there wasn’t much in the way of the normal June evening sunset. The original image capture is below, and you can see how using adjustments in Topaz Adjust really helped to bring out the details in the paint and chrome that the camera seemed not to show at first. The cracks and runs in the paint, the amount of pitting in the chrome, even the uneven quality of the primer is revealed in post processing.
The ‘rat rod’ has risen to prominence in recent years, gaining its own devoted following. For some, it allows that seemingly never finished project to be proudly displayed. For others, the rat rod is a rejection of the high-dollar, professionally built hot rods that always run away with the top prizes at shows. And for others, rat rods represent a more grass roots movement, a return to the early days of hot rodding.
Early hot rodding often consisted of finding a decent but inexpensive car – often one of the many old cars that by the 1950s had been retired from regular duty. While any car could be a hot rod, Fords were especially popular. Model Ts were built from 1908 through 1927, and Model As from 1927 through 1931 and in huge numbers. Many parts, even updated equipment, could be fit to virtually any year car. Furthermore, parts that could be scrounged or acquired cheaply could be made to fit, especially engines. The old Ford 4-banger was often tossed in favour of a later Ford flathead, Cadillac V8 or Chevrolet small block. Rat rods return to that aesthetic – battered or rusty parts, sourced from wherever they can be found, employed to turn a withering hulk of a car in to something resembling ‘useful (but fun) transportation’.
This rat rod would appear to be a 1931 Ford, though I’m 100% sure. The license plate gives us the year, but the radiator shell would be from the 1932 Ford Model B, and the headlight buckets are more likely to come from a car built after 1936. The engine is definitely a transplant from a much later car.
I do not have a lot of information on the car itself, I did not note anything down. But I can say that I managed to grab the picture in July 2015 at the Tottenham (Ontario) Classic Car and Truck Show. It was shot using my Nikon D3200 at ƒ6.3, shutter speed 1/160s, ISO 100. I did some minor cropping and adjustments in Photoshop. I used the finished file as the cover of a calendar I designed and produced in 2018. The original photo appears below.