Frame Off Built Steel 5 Window Coupe 502/525 HP 700R4
- $140k build
- Original steel body
- Ram Jet 502ci V8
- 700R4 4-speed automatic
- Ford 9-inch / 3.50 gears
- Power steering / disc brakes
- Air conditioning
- Dakota Digital cruise control
Do a quick Google image search for “hot rod” or “street rod” and you'll see two predominant patterns: a whole lot of flames and a whole lot of Fords. While it's hard not to love a good set of flames, brand loyalty can definitely stand between some enthusiasts and a Ford. Heck, even if you're a blue oval diehard, it's nice to just see something different every now and then. That's why this 1938 Chevrolet coupe is such a refreshing change of pace. Over $140k was invested into making this the baddest business coupe on the block and the quality work shows throughout. From the custom chassis and Ram Jet 502 to the plush leather interior, this car has the best of everything without drifting into the dreaded “too nice to drive” territory. If you're ready for a different kind of rod at a fraction of the build cost, take a minute to learn about this killer '38.
Efforts started on the outside where a genuine Chevrolet steel body was transformed into a sleek canvas for show-quality paint. Modifications started with a progressive chop that lowered the roofline roughly three inches. The decklid was also shortened six inches with a custom roll pan rounding out the smooth back end. While the profile looks clean and simple, it involved a surprising amount of work. First the door handles were shaved, then widened fiberglass fenders were installed. Finally, custom steel running boards were fabricated to fill in the space between. Every body panel has been worked to near-perfection with consistent gaps all around and the end result was certainly worth the effort. A rich black base coat was applied first, underscoring how straight the metal below really is. A complex set of traditional flames were then applied over the base before the whole thing was buried in clear for a long-lasting shine. The paint work shows well from all angles and practically glows under our studio lights.
Of course, it takes more than slick paint and a few body modifications to impress the hot rod crowd. Take a closer look to find some impressive details buried underneath that coat of black. The show gets started with a custom stainless grille that, according to the current owner, cost over $4k by itself. The grille is flanked by Bosch headlights in black housings. The goal was a clean aggressive look so the heavy front bumper is gone for good but the split hood remains in place, aided visually by louvers and flames. The greenhouse offers a custom V-butt windshield alongside custom tinted glass (not film). The vent windows were deleted for a more modern look while all new trim fills out the spaces in between. Electric wipers are in place, but there are no arms currently installed on the car. Follow the sloped decklid down to neatly finished rear capped off by the aforementioned roll pan which hosts flush mounted Hagan tail lights and a frenched license plate recess. A pair of Megs exhaust tips jut out below.
Under the louvered split hood, this coupe stays true to its GM heritage with a Ram Jet 502 that's fully dressed for show. Topped by an 11-inch fuel-injected manifold, the modern rat makes gobs of power and looks awesome in the process. The foundation is a cast iron GM block stuff with pieces like a forged crankshaft, forged aluminum pistons, forged rods, and a roller camshaft. Aluminum oval-port heads allow for deep breathes while the fuel injection system keeps everything smooth and reliable. Straight from the crate, these engines are good for 502hp and 565 lb-ft of torque so you won't have to worry about getting outrun by anything short of a Funny Car. Presentation is equally impressive thanks to pieces like the polished intake, chrome alternator, and custom flamed valve covers. A quick look at the accessory drive verifies the car has both power steering and air conditioning while a custom-built Hays radiator works in conjunction with an engine-drive fan to keep the big block cool. Exhaust is disposed of by a pair of ceramic coated headers that bolt up to a 3” stainless exhaust system. Idle is surprisingly quiet but a quick tap of the accelerator unleashes a memorable big block bark.
Take a look underneath to find a clean undercarriage dressed in black. The foundation is a custom chassis which utilizes a Mustang II style front with chrome tubular arms, coilovers, and power rack-and-pinion for easy turns. The rear is supported by a polished parallel 4-link with a second set of coilovers. In the center, a tried and true GM 700R4 4-speed automatic takes care of shifting duties, finished by a chrome pan and dust cover. Power hits the pavement through a Ford 9-inch rear with a limited slip and versatile 3.50 gears. It's a sturdy setup and, thanks to plenty of black paint and a little bit of undercoating, strikes the perfect balance between show and go. When it comes time to stop, four-wheel power disc brakes do a great job of reining in the 502. The brake booster is tucked underneath the car with all lines run neatly along the frame rails. At the corners, a set of five-spoke Boyd Coddington wheels wrapped in Toyo rubber complete the look with vintage hot rod flair.
Despite the flames, big block, and overall machismo, the interior of this '38 is surprisingly plush. The work starts with a pair of bowtie-branded door sill plates that cover the edges of clean dark gray carpet. Above, a set of dark gray leather seats borrowed from high-end Chrysler product of the early 2000s offer seating for two. A custom center console lives between the seats, extending to the bottom of the dash. The console is body-matched and makes room for a B&M ratchet shifter as well as controls for the power windows. Towards the front, a Sony AM/FM/CD head unit brings some modern sound to the vintage cabin. At either side, custom door panels match the interior perfectly, integrating door pulls into the arm rests for an ultra clean look. Hop in the driver seat to get a better view of the beautifully finished dash in front. Painted the same deep black as the exterior, the piece is rounded off by a leather dash pad and stainless accents. Instrumentation is provided by a set of plainspoken VDO gauges with black faces and white lettering. They monitor all the standard items including voltage, oil pressure, speed, revs, temperature, and fuel. The cabin is rounded out by a tilt column topped by a modern three-spoke wheel and controls for the Dakota Digital cruise control.
A lot of cars claim to be the total package, but this '38 Chevrolet actually lives up to that claim. The smooth running 502 has surprisingly good manners and, paired with the automatic and accessory-heavy interior, serves as the basis for one of the most comfortable hot rods we've seen in awhile. Buy it for the bowtie, buy it for the build quality – just make sure to buy it quickly because quality customs never stick around for long.