Elite Streets Magazine - The All Encompassing Custom Auto Enthusiast Magazine

Flawless '57 By J.R. Janicek

In the fall of 1956, a Dekalb, Mississippi, farmer walked into his local Chevy dealer and paid a little under $1,800 cash for a big window 1957 Chevy 3100 pickup. The farmer racked up 69,000 miles on the truck's odometer before succumbing to bad health in 1963. Shortly after the funeral, the farmer's widow pulled the truck into the barn and closed the doors on the memory of her late husband. 40 years later, Joe Cowart of Gulfport, Mississippi, spotted an ad in his local newspaper's classified section that simply said "1957 Chevy truck 4 sale" and included a phone number. One phone call later and Joe Cowart was on his way to meet with the farmer's widow. After listening to the widow tell about how much her husband had loved his 1957 Chevy truck, a deal was struck for $3,500 and Joe became the truck's second owner. Joe rolled the '57 out of the barn and before he knew it, he had the Chevy up on the trailer and was towing it 120 miles back to his house.

Joe was pretty excited about his new toy and couldn't wait to have a fully restored classic sitting in his garage. First things first, Joe decided to tear the truck down and have the parts media blasted in order to find out what was underneath the 46-year-old collection of paint, dirt and grease. There weren't any huge surprises, but there was some patch work performed to the lower halves of the doors and the eyebrows on the front fenders had to be patched up as well. Joe was fortunate to find this diamond in the rough since most of the original sheet metal was still good-to-go. Various parts were sent to the chrome shop, emblems, and rubber seals were also ordered. Joe's truck was on the fast track to becoming a nicely restored pickup, then suddenly the progress ceased-for two years. After moving it from shop to shop, Joe decided to bring his bowtie home so he could rethink things and hopefully find another shop that would get serious about his truck.

Four shops later, Joe decided to take the build in a radical new direction one that would move it beyond the realm of a simple restoration to a near flawless hot rod pickup truck! After talking with the shop's owner, a plan was formed, a price was agreed upon, and a hefty deposit made its way to the shop's coffers. Once again, there was a sudden rush to work on the truck and then work slowed to a snail's pace. This time Joe became very proactive in the build by making regular visits to the shop, determined to keep his project on track. Soon, Joe became a familiar face around the shop and was befriended by one of the fabricators, Rob Brown, who would undertake the completion of Joe's barn find.

Starting with the frame, Rob smoothed, boxed, notched, bagged, painted Galaxy Grey, and massaged the chassis into a near work of art. A Mustang II front suspension was worked in between the rails along with 2-inch dropped spindles and an air suspension fitted with Conti-Tech air bags. A 4-link A.R.T. custom watts link system was added to the rear along with a set of Conti-Tech air bags. Air is pumped by four ViAir 380 compressors and supplied through two 3-gallon air tanks all plumbed with stainless steel lines and fittings.

With the chassis complete, Rob and expert body man, Joe Gates, finessed the sheet metal, cleaned all of the clutter off the truck's exterior, such as the drip rails, door handles, emblems, taillights, and tailgate chains. The inner and outer cab corners were replaced, as were the cab steps and the front fenders with a set from LMC Truck. After ensuring that the gaps were up to show-quality standards, the body was blocked out in primer and made ready for paint. Then suddenly bad news struck-again. This time the key man on the build, Rob, suddenly quit working at the shop. This made Joe quite despondent and in order to stop any further delay in the project, Joe gave Rob a call and offered to pay him to work on the project independently. Long story short, Rob agreed. game on!

The truck and all of Rob's tools were moved to the shop at Cowart Plumbing. Kyle Lifer from Kyle's Customs in Gulfport, Mississippi, was summoned to handle the paint gun, however since Joe's shop did not have a paint booth, the body was moved back to the original shop to be painted. Kyle coated the body with House of Kolor Kandy Mandarin. Once the body was clear coated, wet sanded, and detailed to perfection, Rob Brown would perform the final assembly at Cowart's Plumbing shop.

Stainless steel nuts and bolts were used in place of the factory hardware during reassembly. The chassis was reassembled with a transplanted 2004 5.3L Chevy Vortech power plant, 21-gallon fuel cell, 4L60E transmission and a Silverado disc brakes. A mass airflow sensor was installed and the computer was remapped. Under the body hangs a one-of-a-kind custom exhaust formed out of Hush Power, Flow Master, and MagnaFlow parts.

With the truck assembled, for the most part, Billy Brown of Benchmark SoundWorks, in Atlanta, Georgia, installed all of the electrical goodies such as the 7-inch Pioneer DHL9000 flip-face head unit, Vintage Air A/C, alarm, keyless entry, remote start, digital Dakota gauges, and air ride connections. 2006 Honda Civic bucket seats were mounted in place, the dash was shaved, 1999 Chevy Tahoe center console was added to hold the air ride controls, and a leather wrapped billet steering wheel caps off the Ididit tilt steering column. Next, the truck was taken to Brian Hagwood at Headliners Plus to have the interior stitched up in show-quality tan leather. Brian did a stellar job on the seats, carpet, interior panels, and miscellaneous trim which finishes the interior aesthetics.

Adding to the truck's overall curb appeal, a set of Foose Torque II wheels, 18-inches up front and 20-inch versions in the back all wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber were bolted into place.

After five years of hard work, a lot of money, four automotive shops, one plumbing shop, and a few learning experiences along the way Joe finally has one Flawless '57 hot rod pickup truck. Instead of spending his time trying to keep a fledgling project on track, now Joe can be found spending his time attending various car shows and cruise-ins.


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