I know, I know...some of you are probably all saying, what does 5 'til 5 have to do with a really neat custom car, nonetheless the Goodguys Custom Rod of the Year. Well, 5 'til 5 is not just a reference to time, it's the energy that captures that time of the day. It's the end of the day when the world around you comes alive with a flourish of hyper activity. The day's accomplishments are done and plans for tomorrow are in the making. It's that last possible heartbeat in time that today's accomplishments can be improved before moving on to tomorrow.
This all seems to be the way it was for Doug Hoppe (owner of 5 'til 5) and builder Roger Burman when the proposal to locate and build a custom '55 Chevy convertible was brought up. Doug had owned several nice '55s over the years but never a completed convertible, so in his mind, it was time. Seemed easy; Roger knew where a perfect one for the project was. All he needed to do was make the deal and get started. Well that turned into more of a deal than one might have suspected and dragged on for some time before the purchase was finally made--you guessed it, one Friday afternoon at 5 'til 5, so the story goes. The late start (this was in May of 2002) cut into the time allotted to construct the car, and, in fact, would push the completion into the 2004 season if they got started right away. Naturally, as they collaborated on the details, the magnitude of it grew and grew until the goal was to build a Custom Rod of the Year contender (and eventual winner) that you see here. So let's get on with building the car.You always have to have a base to build on, and, in this case, they started with an Art Morrison 2x4 chassis complete with independent front suspension,
rack-and-pinion steering, a Currie aluminum-housed 9-inch, Wilwood four-wheel disc brakes, and Air Ride Technologies airbags all around. The finishing touch to the roller is a full set of one-off, 18- and 20-inch Colorado Customs shod in BFGoodrich 40-series radials. All of this introduces an element into a serious custom that is normally left out of the equation--and that's drivability. This car handles, stops short, and accelerates all like a performance vehicle. Speaking of acceleration, they selected an injected 502 GM crate motor backed up by a 4L60E overdrive transmission. Everything is liberally slathered with shinny paint, polished aluminum, and a bit of chrome. The Sanderson headers are HPC coated; the induction is from Street & Performance; and the HEI ignition factory equipment is from GM. Or to put it another way, we have 500 hp accompanied by 500 lb-ft of torque on tap to complement the modern chassis that carries this Chevy into its 50th year!
The next thing on the agenda was some serious collaboration concerning the direction the body modifications would take. After bit of debate, Doug and Roger came to a very simple, very basic design agreement. The body would be modified enough to noticeably alter its appearance yet not lose any of the original '55 Chevy design features that marked it as a '55 Chevy for over four decades. The custom-made taillights would be raked forward and filled with LED lights; the parking light lenses are frenched and missing their chrome trim rings; the headlight lenses came from a Jeep Liberty; the headlight bezels are missing; the bumpers are smoothed and tucked in tight; and the grille is NOS. And, as with all other self-respecting customs, it's been nosed and decked, and the door handles were shaved. There's even a hand-made hard steel cover for the top when in the down position. Other things that aren't seen from the outside involve the extensive amounts of sheetmetal work that were performed under the hood to complement the engine and in the trunk to conceal the Air Ride Technologies equipment and showcase the extensive amount of Sony stereo components.
Everything in both areas is fitted and rounded, eliminating any unnecessary protrusions that might interrupt the symmetry of the area. Thankfully, much of the original stainless and chrome has been left in place to punctuate the slick body. And rather than diminish the importance of the peak down the center of the hood, it's been slightly enhanced. The overall look is pure '55 Chevy--there are alterations everywhere, but there is never a question about the original origin. Another twist came when the color was selected. The original colors in this spectrum would have been soft '50s shades of coral and charcoal. The colors we see on this car are pearl tangerine and black...same basic theme, but with the intensity knob twisted way to the right!
While the welder, plasma cutter, and sheetmetal tools were out, Roger took the time to completely reconstruct the dash, scratch-build a center console, and fabricate door pulls along with a bit of cosmetic metal trim (stingray gills) for the restyled door panels. When it was complete, the look was spectacular; about the only unaltered piece of the dash was the eyebrow on the instrument panel side. The instruments are Auto Meter; the area they occupy is hand-built; and the lower center of the dash flows right into the console. On the right side there is a grab bar built into the large '60s-Corvette-style eyebrow so that the passenger can get a good grip on something solid when the big 502 is unleashed. Naturally, the full-length console necessitated the use of four bucket seats to fill the spaces, and as it turns out, the perfect fit came in the form of Dodge Intrepid seats. Of course they had to have the backs cut down some 2 inches so they looked right in the car, but other than that little detail, they were perfect. After all the instrument placement, wiring, and accessory placement was taken care, of the car was sent off to the Recovery Room in Omaha, Nebraska, where every one of the remaining soft surfaces was treated to a liberal application of fine leather, and then expanses of black wool carpet were applied on the floor. As a treat for the eye, there is a triangle of stingray hide that has a striking white accent in the middle of it stitched into each seat back.
The finished product is a striking piece of work that was deservedly voted Custom Rod of the Year this past July. More than that, though, this car amplifies all that energy and frenzied activity that we spoke of in the beginning of this piece. It was a 5 'til 5 all the way through from beginning to end. Fact is, Roger was several hours late getting into Des Moines for the car's first outing due to a couple of little issues that came up at (you know what's coming don't you) 5 'til 5.