Hot Rodding a '57 Ford Custom

Hot Rodding a '57 Ford Custom
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Hot Rodding a 57 Ford Custom

By Dave Brackett

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Dave

In late 2004, I was looking to buy a restored 57 T-bird for Eiko. I was visiting a retorer with friend Al Steward, and enjoyed seeing the 57 Birds, but kept being distracted by a 57 Ford 2 door post. It had a great two tone paint job, dark purple, but with white flames the length of the car, on a silver background. The car needed some attention and new upholstery.

I could not decide about a 57 T-bird, so we left. On the way home, I told Al that I liked the car with the flames, but that I did not have much knowledge about Ford running gear. Al told me the car had a small block Chevy, not a Ford motor. I returned two days later and bought the 57 Ford with Chevy motor.

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The car had been built some years back and needed lots of sprucing up. When originally done, a 1981 Camaro clip had been installed, this was great since it now had disc brakes, better steering with tilt wheel, better suspension and of course a 350 Chevy small block motor with 350 turbo hydro. I started to change the car to fit my tastes.

   The vehicle already had the problems of 50's cars fixed. The new front brakes, steering, suspension and electric wipers were great, but the stance of the car bothered me. It sat high in the front and low in the rear. I prefered cars lowered in front. I could change some with different tires, but first I removed the front coil springs and cut 2 1/2" off. After realignment, the tires were next. I loved the original five spoke Cragar wheels, so I put very low profile tires on the front and as tall as I could find in the rear. Result was a modest dump in the front, but still rode great. Since the car was for cruising, the taller gear ratio was not objectionable.

The roof had some cracking in the paint, so I had it redone. To my suprise, the painter took the roof down to bare metal, it was straight and had no body putty. He resealed the gutters and repainted the roof.

Now time to address the engine compartment. I have always loved blowers, but I did not want to cut the cherry hood. I found a low profile blower from Weiand, the polished 142 c.i.d., with polished manafold. I installed that and put the quadrajet four barrel carb back on top. I added a 4 inch tall air cleaner and still had everything under the stock hood. I think the motor placement for the Chevy motor was slightly lower than the original Ford motor. The 350 motor ran well, but the stock headers had to go. I built some custom headers, installed them and attached them to the 2 1/2" Flowmaster exhaust system. The performance was greatly increased, as well as the looks.

The car is great for cruising, handles like a sports car, stops well and gets decent mileage with the tall tires. I enjoyed cruising and car shows for several years, then decided to replace the aged upholstery. The original upholstery was black, it was badly faded and needed some color to liven the cab. All the interior trim was chrome, Eiko and I decided to redo the interior in black and silver, with some orange piping to catch the color of the exterior flames. The redo was a success, the interior came alive, and would match almost any color repaint. The upholsterer also reported that he found no evidence of rust anywhere, that is always good to know.

 I finished with some cleaning and redo under the hood, including rerouting wiring, adding looms, changing hoses and adding some chrome accessories. Replacing the old cracked windshield finished the job, and I really enjoy driving this car. It is a nice compromise of 50's and more modern technology, and the performance of the blown Chevy motor is a fabulous bonus. I will enjoy this ride for some time.

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