When Chip Foose and Wes Rydell get together on a custom project, step back and watch out. The results are bound to be spectacular.

You're probably familiar with a couple previous collaborative efforts between designer/builder Chip and owner/driver Wes. One dates back to the mid-1990s, when Chip was designing cars at Hot Rods by Boyd. The project at hand was a '50 Chevy Fleetline-a four-door, no less-that, when finished, epitomized the concept of a clean, classy, contemporary custom and was named Goodguys Custom Rod of the Year in 1997. A few years later, after Chip opened Foose Design, Wes commissioned the Grand Master, a radically redesigned '35 Chevy sedan that raised street rodding standards and earned the coveted Ridler Award at the Detroit Autorama.

The duo's latest project, a '54 Chevy hardtop, came about partially because Wes wanted to give the Fleetline a break after racking up more than 60,000 miles on it in a decade's time. There was more to it than that, though. We spoke to Doug Peterson, an employee at Wes's personal "toy shop," where much of the work on this '54 has been done. According to Doug, Wes has long appreciated the '53-54 Chevy design, particularly classic custom examples like the Moonglow. "We wanted to build a real, traditional mild custom," Doug says. "But it's going to be a neat hot rod, too."

Underscore that last part. With an Art Morrison Max-G chassis supporting a C5 Corvette front suspension and triangulated four-bar rear, this old Chevy is destined to have excellent road manners and incredible handling. It's certain to get up and move, too, thanks to an injected, 427-inch, LS-series small-block mill. The 4L80E overdrive transmission, prepped by Mark Bowler Performance Transmissions, is tied to a Gear Vendors under/overdrive unit that will allow Wes to split gears and really open the Chevy up in the wide-open spaces around his North Dakota home. "It's really meant to be a car that Wes will just drive the wheels off of," Doug says. Um, yeah.

The car's radical underpinnings will be matched only by the extreme subtlety of its body modifications. The top is not chopped, but has been de-crowned above the driprails, lowering its profile by about 5/8-inch. Both the hood and decklid are lightly wedge-cut, while the front wheel openings are raised slightly and the rears reshaped to better match the fronts. Headlight eyebrows from a '55 Chevy grace the front fenders, while the taillights have been given a traditional french. A modified '56 Chevy front bumper and '55 rear will eventually bookend the Chevy, and Doug tells us it will get custom brass side trim that mimics the original stainless. They're still deciding on a final paint color.

The car's interior is being set up with a mix of later-model GM components, starting with a '55 Chevy dash. Bucket seats from a 2000 Cadillac Eldorado should keep Wes comfortable, while a Pontiac G6 shifter with tap-shift capability is sure to make the driving experience a spirited one.

Unlike the one-week wonders Chip helps create on the "Overhaulin'" TV show, Wes's Chevy has no set deadline, although Doug says he'd like to see it completed for this summer's event season. "One of my goals for the '54 was to see Wes go down the track at Indy [at the Goodguys Hot Rod Nationals] this summer," Doug says. Stay tuned to Custom Rodder and we'll let you know if they make it.

SOURCE
Foose Design
17811 Sampson Ln.
Huntington Beach
CA  92647
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