The ’57 Chevy Is Bad, Red, And One Very Unique Hot Rod

Rarely does a hot rod project come out finished exactly as it was imagined to be from the beginning. Rudy Hitt of McAlester, Oklahoma, had hoped his ideas would work well when he first bought a rough ’57 Chevy body, but only time would tell. Roughly 5 years later, imagination met reality.

He’d built several other cars in the past, and most of them came out the way he’d envisioned, but Rudy wanted this one to be special. It came very close to what he planned.

This ’57 210 model was rough when purchased, so there was no guilt about cutting it up to give it a new look. A total of 2 1/2 inches was removed from the pillars, and about that much was also removed from the ground-to-floor height to compensate for lowering the roof. That alone was an involved project!

Chopped 2 1/2 inches, suicide doors, vent windows removed, and that Bel Air side trim airbrushed on, Rudy’s ’57 stands apart from others.

We’re certain you noticed the suicide doors. Rudy liked that look when seen on ’32 Fords, so he felt it a cool addition to his Bel Air. That was another hands-on project that was not easy to accomplish.

The Plan

In building this car, Rudy and his friend, Eric Manlove, were trying to topple a local car-show stranglehold – the Triple-T Empire. Tandy Thomas has a history of winning car shows in a 100-mile radius around McAlester, that went back 10 years. Originally, Rudy had a black 1957 Chevy hardtop and Eric, a Camaro. They were nice cars, but Tandy would win every time. Tandy actually called the pair “little grasshoppers,” who had a lot to learn!

Rudy and Eric decided to each build a new car to topple Tandy’s empire. During the builds, as they completed something on their cars, they’d ask each other if it was good enough to topple Tandy. If the answer was yes, it stayed. If the answer was maybe or no, it got a redo! The ’57 Chevy you see here is the end result of that effort, and we think he accomplished that goal.

A 6.0 LS puts out 448 horsepower to the rear wheels. A Borg Warner six-speed manual transmission makes this ’57 sedan fun to drive.

Starting up front, the suspension features RideTech tubular A-arms, and the rear is supported with a four-link. The combination of Shockwave shocks to handle the up and down motion and sway bars to control lean, yield a great and tuneable ride. BFG rear tires are 295/45/R20, and the fronts are 225/45/R17, all rolling on Coy’s five spoke wheels.

A Powerful Plan

Under the hood is a 6.0-liter LS crate engine delivering 448 horsepower to the rear wheels. A Borg Warner, manually shifted six-speed makes this car exceptionally fun to drive. Wilwood brakes with a hydroboost assist keep all those ponies corralled.

There have been many ’57 Chevys built that stay true to the OE look, and there’s nothing wrong with that, if you’re content to park next to a car at the next rod run that looks like yours. If you want a ’57 to stand out from the crowd, it needs to have some outside-the-box thinking put into it.

The interior features late-model Cadillac bucket seats and a hand-built center console. Red and black leather covers all surfaces, and was sewn by Rudy's close friend, Eric Manlove.

Although the grille in Rudy’s ’57 looks nearly stock, it’s not. The grille bar is actually from the rear of a 2008 Chevy SUV, but it fits perfectly. Did you notice the LED parking lights in the Dagmars where the rubber tips used to be? Now check out the side exhaust. Those are billet aluminum exhaust tips that are molded into the original rocker trim. A ’57 station wagon rear bumper with the uprights removed finishes up the back of the car.

The grille bar looks right at home in the stock grille surround, and the unique exhaust outlets fit well into the stainless rocker trim.

Rudy didn’t much care for the original design of the stainless trim on the side of the ’57. It looks great, but he thought it moved around and wouldn’t stay aligned as it was intended. For that reason, he decided to airbrush the trim and use a bit of artistic license to move the lines a little. From 10-feet away, it looks original. A closer look reveals that instead of Bel Air, he added the car’s name in gold. In fact, all of the trim is airbrushed, including the fuel injection logos. Rudy had a little help from Eric and Tandy to lay it out and keep the lines fluid down both sides of the car.

The Bel Air side trim is airbrushed, as are the emblems.

Creature Comforts

Moving on to the interior, the bucket seats were “borrowed” from a late-model Cadillac. Rudy hand-fabricated the console and the under-dash panel, and the fit is almost natural. The shifter is perfectly positioned in the console, and by adding the panel below the existing dash, Rudy seamlessly incorporated the dash and console. He even added a GPS unit. The original radio has been removed, and A/C keeps everyone cool on those long distance trips. A tilt column out of a ’72 Monte Carlo has also been added for more comfort. The steering wheel is a Grant unit.

Did you notice the vent windows have been removed and the door panels have arm rests incorporated into them? An overhead console from a Chevy SUV holds interior lights as well as a compass and outside air temperature. It took 2 1/2 months just to complete the interior.

“This is a rewarding car to drive, because I did all of the bodywork, paint, airbrushing, and fabrication in my home shop with help from friends Eric and Tandy,” Rudy said. “Since I finished it in Spring of 2017, I’ve put 13,500 miles on it, and get 19.6 mpg at 80 mph with a 4.56-geared rearend.”

About the author

Roger Jetter

Roger’s interests in cars started at 14 with a ’40 Ford pick-up until he bought his first ’57 Chevy at age 16. That car is featured in the first two books he’s written about the 1960’s and growing up in the Midwest. He’s authored several more books as well and has built several cars over the years that have received major coverage in magazines and won plenty of awards. His current build is a 1948 Cadillac Sedanet, although his current 'driver' is a '55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
Read My Articles

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