USED CARS & OLD GUITARS
© 2014 Bill 'BADCO' Ott
Images by Betty Herridge-Ott
** I get off on '57 Chevys
I get off on screamin' guitars**
Crazy Al and Charlotte Schmidt found themselves cruising the tawdry main drag near El Paso, TX's Ft. Bliss Army Base early one evening thirty plus years ago. Dyer Street has cleaned up some since those wilder days when it was a wide avenue that extended from the Base all the way out past the city limits, dotted with pawn shops, porno shops, cheap motels, strip joints, sleazy bars, head shops, and of course... used car lots.
They spotted a '57 Chevy Sedan Delivery sitting in one of those used car lots and made a u-turn and went back and took a closer look. It's paint and interior were faded... the consequence of both time and the relentless desert sun. It didn't look abused... just tired. Obviously, it's glory days had long since passed by. But still, there was just something about it that said “Drive me home.”. The salesman at the lot promised them the 'ol Chevy was hardly driven at all. “Why, mostly on Sundays. And then just for short drives. “Oh... and that Blue Flame six cylinder engine? Gonna' be real easy on gas.”, he said from under his ten gallon used car salesman's hat. But, with regular (leaded) gas hovering right around $1.20 a gallon... he had a good point.
So... hands were shook, papers were signed and the almost equally tired Datsun they drove in with was parlayed as a down payment. Charlotte and Al had themselves a new used car. And it made that first ride to it's new home without a glitch. Charlotte fell in love with the old wagon on that ride home and claimed it as her new daily driver. A position it would occupy for a few years.
Now both Crazy Al (as his friends call him) and Charlotte had been bit by the drag racing bug years before. They even spent some time out in Southern California back in the day and related a story about having to choose between going to see Led Zeppelin or a big Fuel Meet at Fremont. A tough choice for sure, but Fremont eventually won out. Hell, I know a guy that traded a warm quiet Honeymoon for a cold damp afternoon at a drag strip. This sort of thing just happens, 'ya know. http://www.nostalgiadragworld.com/v1i7badcostillcrazy.php
At the same time the sedan delivery was performing it's daily duties the duo were also running a Chuck McBride built '67 Camaro that slowly progressed from injected small block to an injected big block. When the big block was built, the small block found it's way between the frame rails of the sedan delivery and it's daily driver days were just about through. The hardware to mount the new improved engine as well as front halving the frame was done by El Paso's Don Davis Racecars. The '67 Camaro was sold and replaced with later model Camaro with blown big block power. Unfortunately, this Camaro was wrecked in an incident at the old Roswell, NM track. Luckily, Al walked away unhurt. The engine came through the crash unscathed (except for damage to the injector hat) so it was decided to drop the blown big block in the wagon. Now that tired old '57 was really storming back to life!
A trip to Esperaza Race Cars saw the body removed and the top chopped four inches. Ronnie Barqueza then applied the black lacquer and flames. The front fenders, hood, and doors were replaced with fiberglass reproductions. Except for those pieces the body is all steel and the Chevy weighs in a little on the high side of three thousand pounds. Not particularly a lightweight.
Esperanza's Replaced the front halved frame with new chromoly tubing front to back. A Wilwood rack and pinion steering augments the Strange Engineering struts. Then they put together a 4 link mounted 9” Ford rear with a Mark Williams 4:11 spool. Strange supplied the full floater axles, shocks, and disc brakes. Hoosier tires, front and back, ride on Strange wheels. And it all looks great on the powder coated frame rails. The late Lawren Jones at Law-Ru Motorsports installed the on-board computer, timers, and fire suppression system.
Continued on next page...
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