The car's underpinnings are as sophisticated as its style. An Art Morrison Max-G chassis serves as the foundation and supports a C5 Corvette front suspension sprung with Alston Vari-Shock coilovers. The 9-inch rearend is equipped with 4.10:1 gears and Trac Loc, suspended by another pair of Vari-Shocks, and located using a triangulated four-bar arrangement. Both front and rear suspensions are outfitted with antiroll bars and C5 Corvette calipers clamping down on Baer 13.4- and 13-inch rotors. Foose Design's Dave Willey built a 24-gallon aluminum fuel tank to ensure sufficient cruising range in the vast prairie surrounding Wes's North Dakota home.
Speaking of wide-open spaces, Wes can cover them in short order thanks in part to a potent LS1 assembled by Chaska, Minnesota's Cottrell Racing Engines. The 2004-vintage small-block has essentially been updated to 2006 LS7 specs by increasing its displacement to 427 ci and topping it with LS6 heads. Cottrell modified the intake to accept a 90mm throttle body, while Wes built the custom stainless Tri-Y headers that direct fumes to Magnaflow mufflers. The crew at Foose Design gets credit for detailing the 530hp mill to near perfection using paint and polish paired with Katech valve covers and a custom-built engine cover.
To further ensure high-speed driving pleasure, the Chevy is equipped with a 4L80E overdrive transmission modified by Bowler Performance. As if four gears aren't enough, a Gear Vendors under/overdrive unit effectively creates eight forward gears, and Wes can power through 'em all using the Bowler tap-shift controller on the Pontiac G6 shifter. Bringing the classic body styling and contemporary underpinnings together is a driver-friendly cabin tastefully combining past and present GM elements. The focal point is a narrowed '55 Chevy dash that wraps around into the doors and conceals a Kugel pedal assembly, C5 Corvette brake booster and master cylinder, Vintage Air Gen II climate controls, Camaro engine computer, and American Autowire harness. Flowing back from the dash is an upholstered aluminum console crafted by Foose Design's Scott Parker to cleanly contain the shifter, Pioneer stereo head unit, power window controls, and, of course, cup holders.
Bill Dunn gets credit for stitching the cream- and chocolate-colored leather upholstery over the 2000 Eldorado power front seats, custom rear bench, and aluminum-backed side panels. Rich chocolate-colored wool carpeting covers Dynamat insulation on the floor, and Foose's Pete Morrell has cleverly stashed Foose signature Arc Audio amps and speakers throughout the cabin. When Wes settles into his seat, he guides the Chevy with a cut-down '55 Chevy wheel atop an ididit tilt column.
High style means little without commensurate craftsmanship, and the Chevy's construction quality is every bit as refined as its design. Initiated by Chip, Wes, and Doug Peterson at Wes' private toyshop in Grand Forks, and completed by the Foose Design team in Southern California, the car's fit, finish, and finesse are nothing short of impeccable.
While the car's individual elements are impressive, what's really inspiring is the way they all come together as a cohesive whole. "We wanted a car that would look like a real [production] car," Wes says, a fitting desire for someone who's been involved in the dealership business ever since his father opened the first Rydell Chevrolet in 1946. Wes says he thinks Chip captured a real concept car feel by incorporating design elements from Chevrolet models that were either in production or on the drawing board when the Bel Air was new. "It's all Chevrolet and GM stuff that conceivably could have been on a '54 Motorama car," he says. Ah, yes, we can just hear the marketing slogan now: "The Bel Air of tomorrow ... today!"