Pick of the Week: 1954 Chevrolet 210 custom coupe

The ’54 Chevy 210 coupe is a unique example of an old-school custom cruiser
The ’54 Chevy 210 coupe is a unique example of an old-school custom cruiser

“It’s alive! It’s alive!”

Halloween always gets us thinking about famous horror-movie creepsters, from Count Dracula to Freddy Krueger, but the king of all creature features has to be the woebegone being who lumbered through the classic film Frankenstein.

Pieced together from fragments of dead people, Frankenstein’s monster was an experiment gone awry in the most terrible way. But in the world of custom cars, automotive creations that merge parts of different car brands often have happier endings.

The Packard tailfins are nicely integrated
The Packard tailfins are nicely integrated

Sometimes such “Franken-cars” are novelty acts, such as the custom shown at Goodguys in Scottsdale a few years back that was built with the front half of a ’50 Chevy and rear half of a ’50 Studebaker coupe. Now that was whacky.

Not so today’s Pick of the Week, which is a charmingly old-school street custom by some imaginative builder who brought together the distinctive features of two brands to create a unique cruiser that’s certain to turn heads.

The 1954 Chevrolet 210 custom coupe advertised on ClassicCars.com looks like a classic lead sled from back in the day, complete with a chopped top, flames and lake pipes. But its most distinctive feature is the addition of custom rear fenders and the taillight fins from a mid-50s Packard.

The chopped Chevy has a cool lead-sled profile
The chopped Chevy has a cool lead-sled profile

So from the rear, the car kind of looks like an extensively customized Packard, which turns into a Chevy as you get around to the sides and front. Between the pointed tailfins is a continental kit tire cover emblazoned with the car’s campy nickname, “White Lightning.”

Fun stuff, and the Purcellville, Virginia, dealer who is selling the Chevy seems to appreciate the throwback nature of this intriguing Franken-car.

“This is an old school custom that has had extensive custom features added,” the seller says in the description. “Extended quarter panels with Packard tail lights, chopped top, custom fender skirts, frenched headlights, custom grille, dual spot lights, lake pipes, continental kit, complete custom interior with bucket seats and console.

The Chevy shows off its fun nickname.
The Chevy shows off its fun nickname.

“Truly a one of a kind old-school custom. All topped off with a custom paint job with flames.”

The ’54 Chevy custom is designed more as a carnival ride for the eyes than as a performance street rod, since it’s powered by a vintage 235 cid inline-6 engine with automatic transmission, though with the added incentive of triple one-barrel carburetors. No matter because this is a car for cruising low and slow, not for patching out from stoplights.

The seller does not list a price for the car but asks that prospective buyers call for a quote. From the photos, it looks to be in great condition, and it’s doubtful that such an unusual expression of vintage custom work will go cheap.

But it’s a lot more likely that the villagers who arrive to see this Franken-car will be carrying cameras instead of pitchforks.

Pick of the Week: 1960 Chevrolet Impala ‘Bubble Top’

The 1960 Chevy Impala coupe boasts the desirable ‘bubble top’ roofline
The 1960 Chevy Impala coupe boasts the desirable ‘bubble top’ roofline

Chrome was king when Chevrolet rolled out its 1960 Impala, which was the slightly toned-down descendent of the flamboyant 1959 model. Still with its wide rear deck sporting the unique horizontal tailfin treatment, the ’60 models marked the end of General Motors’ most extravagant designs, and for many vintage-Chevy fans, it remains an enduring favorite.

For this Pick of the Week, we have a fully decked-out 1960 Impala Sports Coupe “Bubble Top,loaded up with gleaming trim and that elegantly sweeping roofline, with its enormous expanse of windshield and rear glass.

The fender skirts add nicely to the low, long styling cues
The fender skirts add nicely to the low, long styling cues

Advertised on ClassicCars.com by a seller in North Andover, Massachusetts, the gleaming red-over-white two-door has just 2,500 miles on its odometer since “an extensive, frame-off restoration,” the seller states.

“Overall, this is a stunning show car,” the seller says in the extensive description. “This 1960 Impala Sports Coupe is a southern car having come from Atlanta and is believed to have been owned by the same family from original purchase through September 2012.

“At that time, it was sold by the children of the original owner, after which the restoration began. The body, paint and interior were completed to exacting professional standards as was the fully rebuilt original engine.”

The engine is the correct 283-cid Power Pack Super Turbo Fire V8, which was used in the Corvettes of that era, linked with automatic transmission.

A chrome rocket roars across the Chevy's flanks
A chrome rocket roars across the Chevy’s flanks

Although restored to original, the Impala does have a few updates for improved drivability, according to the description, with more-modern power steering and front-end components for better handling and control. Under the hood, electronic ignition has been added inside the original housing, which the seller says could be converted easily back to the original ignition points if desired.

The Impala looks fabulous in its photos, with its extensive body accents and interior in fresh condition. All those acres of chrome and stainless are in excellent shape, according to the seller. And the fender skirts really set off the long horizontal form, adding to the sporting look of this head-turning cruiser.

It’s also nice to see one of these beauties in original configuration, sans custom wheels or other aftermarket embellishments.

The asking price is not cheap, at $48,500, but seems quite reasonable for this rare and apparently impeccable classic that’s certain to be a huge hit at your favorite car show.

Pick of the Week: 1976 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega

 The 1976 Cosworth Vegas received styling enhancements compared with the regular Vegas
The 1976 Cosworth Vegas received styling enhancements compared with the regular Vegas

The Chevrolet Vega is a much maligned little car (with good reason), but there was one bright spot: the remarkable Cosworth Vega, a limited-edition model that boasted a British-made performance engine.

I never expected to have a Vega for Pick of the Week, but the 1976 Cosworth Vega advertised in ClassicCars.com for sale in Deltona, Florida, sounds like a tasty survivor offered for the affordable price of $15,500. The car is in restored condition, the seller states, with a Creamsicle orange paint job.

The twin-cam 2-liter engine was hand built in England
The twin-cam 2-liter engine was hand built in England

The car is equipped with the desirable five-speed manual transmission and has apparently been a Florida car its entire life, sparing it the rigors of northern winters that notoriously caused Vegas to rust out.

Cosworth Engineering of England produced the hand-built 2.0-liter engines, which benefited from the company’s experience with racing engines. The twin-cam four banger produced 111 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque, which might not sound all that impressive these days, but with a curb weight of just 2,760 pounds, the Cosworth Vega could sprint from zero to 60 in 7.7 seconds, according to tests at the time.

The Cosworth Vega also received aggressive suspension tweaks, improved brakes and a special performance wheel-and-tire package. Contemporary road testers were impressed, several of them suggesting that this is what every Vega should have been like in the first place.

Attractive alloy wheels set off the Cosworth Vega
Attractive alloy wheels set off the Cosworth Vega

Notably, the Cosworth was the first Chevrolet passenger car with fuel injection, although the photos of this car’s engine show a pair of Weber side-draft carburetors. That aftermarket modification could help boost performance. The seller doesn’t reveal any other upgrades, but the Webers are a good sign of an engaged owner.

Cosworth Vegas are very rare. The cars were built for just two years, 1975-76, and only 3,508 of them were produced, compared with the run of ordinary Vegas during that time of more than 190,000. In 1976, just 1,447 Cosworth Vegas were made.

The sticking point was the price tag. In 1976, the list price topped $6,000, which was just several hundred dollars less than a new Corvette. With the Cosworth engine built overseas, they were expensive to produce. Only those performance enthusiasts who understood the exotic nature of these cars stepped up to buy.

’55 Chevy wins best of show at Charlotte AutoFest

Jerry Horine celebrates with his '55 Chevy Bel Air that won best of show at AutoFest | AutoFest
Jerry Horine celebrates with his ’55 Chevy Bel Air after winning best of show at AutoFest | AutoFest

A blazing-orange customized 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air was proclaimed best of show at the annual AutoFair, a sweeping celebration of classic cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.

Owned by Jerry Horine of Louisville, Ky., the two-door sedan bested competitors from 48 car clubs that vied for awards during the four-day show, which was hosted by OldRide.com.

Horine, 72, said this was the first car-show appearance for his resto-mod Chevy, which he bought about a year ago. His family in North Carolina convinced him to enter the car in AutoFest, he added.

“We’re one for one,” said Horine of the victory, which earned him a silver cup trophy. “And we plan to continue to do more.”

First runner-up went to Eddie Sells, of Apex, N.C., for his 1968 Chevrolet Camaro. Second runner-up went to John Jancic, from Cleveland, N.C., for his 1970 Plymouth Road Runner.

The fall edition of AutoFair takes place Sept. 18-21 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NCRS offers data to document Chevy muscle cars

A rare and valuable 1970 Chevelle SS LS6 convertible | Barrett-Jackson
A rare and valuable 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS LS6 convertible | Barrett-Jackson

Proving authenticity has been a longtime problem for owners, sellers and potential buyers of rare ’60s and early ’70s Chevrolet muscle cars because of the lack of credible documentation records. Production data from General Motors for those special factory performance cars no longer are available, making it difficult to research or provide proof that a rare car is indeed the real deal.

However, the National Corvette Restorers Society has come to the rescue with a new service for owners of 1965-72 Camaros, Chevelles and Novas that will provide shipping records for those cars and will give access to the name and address of the original dealer, dealer code and build date for each car.

As well as presenting information about a car’s original sale, the records can point the way to more-extensive documentation to prove the car’s provenance, including locating its original owner.

     It’s going to boost the value of real cars and it’s going to expose some of the cars that aren’t real.” 

The NCRS is well-known for its efforts to authenticate Corvettes. This marks the first time the organization provides documentation service for other Chevrolet performance cars.

“I think it’s great news,” said Steve Davis, president of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company. “It’s going to boost the value of real cars and it’s going to expose some of the cars that aren’t real. It will no longer be a situation where you are constantly guessing about something that’s extremely rare or desirable.

“It’s good for the hobby and especially for the types of cars we’re talking about,” Davis added. “It gives people who own a legitimate and desirable car the ability to solidify that provenance.”

The availability of shipping records will help weed out fraudulent misrepresentations of faked GM muscle cars, he said. Because of the lack of GM records, it’s all too easy to pass off what was originally a run-of-the-mill Camaro, Chevelle or Nova as a rare factory performance car.

“Unfortunately, especially with GM, because there’s no way to decode that stuff in the VIN like with Fords – as far as engine options particularly – it’s left the door open for people who have less than desirable motives, let’s say, to phony the stuff up,” Davis said. “So now you have one more piece of the puzzle that eliminates that from happening.”

NCRS is working on the time-consuming task of converting data from microfiche to digital, which will allow easy access to the records. There were about 7 million Camaros, Chevelles and Novas built from 1965-72, compared with around 350,000 Corvettes.

When the service becomes available later this year, NCRS will charge $50 for access to each shipping record, with a money-back guarantee that the record will be readable (some of the material is faded or damaged). The NCRS already has set up a special website, www.chevymuscledocs.com, for when the service becomes available.

Davis said he is impressed that NCRS has undertaken the mission of compiling the shipping data, which only recently has come to light.

“There have been rumors and rumblings of that stuff existing, but it was almost an urban legend for a long time,” Davis said.

“We’ve seen that before with information coming out of the archives that people thought was lost. Even in the Shelby world, for instance, years back when there were records found.

“It’s almost like an archeological dig sometimes,” he added. “You find a box of records or something that everybody thought was gone, and all of a sudden, there it is.”