May 2016

The Replacement

Sometimes good comes from bad, as evidenced by this stunning ’55 Two-Ten.


As a teenager growing up, I was always around cars. My daddy was a car salesman and one of my uncles ran a junkyard. Through the years, I had a ’56, ’57, and ’58 Chevy. I always wanted a ’55, but never had one.

When I retired in 2010, I sort of got serious in my desire to have a ’55 Chevy. I was at a car show with my ’36 Chevy street rod one day where I met a man who was driving a nice ’55. He told me that he had another one at home that he might be willing to part with. I had already been doing some talking with my friend Victor Pille and his son, Austin about building a ’55. Victor worked for a Chevy dealership, plus he had a shop at his home where he had restored several other cars for himself and other people. I had gone down and taken photos of the ’55 that was for sale – it was rough, but not beyond a restoration. Well, even though my wife said “no way”, I bought the car anyways and it went to Victor’s shop for the work to begin.


It took 2-1/2 years, but it came out nice – you might say it came out too nice. My wife and I were with some friends at a show in Newport, TN on June 21st, 2014 when the car was stolen from the motel parking lot in the middle of the night. It was painted orange and white, which are the Tennessee colors. Talk about sick? It tore us up! But we decided that we would use the insurance claim money and get ourselves another ’55.

55-interiorThe shop in South Carolina that had done the interior of the stolen car also built complete cars. The owner, Dan Wickett, called me after he heard about ours being stolen. He told me he had a ’55 Two-Ten (same as the stolen car) that he was building for someone, but the customer was having second thoughts and was thinking about selling it. The car already had about 50% of the bodywork done, and a lot of the mechanical work had been completed. The firewall and frame had been painted, but we didn’t like the color. The man who owned the car had already purchased a bunch of parts – tires, wheels, glass, and the list goes on and on. A lot of his choices did not match my likings. After plenty of haggling back and forth on price, I bought the car and then made a deal with Dan to finish the restoration. As luck would have it, this was the next car in line to be completed! As I said, a lot of the building process was already well underway or done. But that was about to change…

engineWe were watching a Barrett-Jackson auction on TV when they ran a Corvette across the block. My wife loved the paint color. “That’s the color we want!”, she said. I looked online, found the color and the process began for “The Replacement”.

The body had to be pulled back off the frame, the engine removed, transmission, brake assembly, etc., so they could all be painted Atomic orange (to suit my wife). We also needed to pick a contrast for the two-tone, which wound up being Silver Champagne, thanks to Travis Kiel in Dan’s shop.

The next step was the interior design and colors. I stepped aside and turned the wife loose. Dan Wickett pulled out samples of headliner, seats, door panels and carpet which he thought would blend well and “tie it all in” with the paint.

55-wheelThings were going well until October 30th, 2014 when I suffered a cardiac arrest. Medics had to shock me with a defibrillator seven times to bring me back to life. After several weeks in the ICU, I was finally responsive enough to ask what was going on with the car. Well, my good friend Victor Pille had talked with my wife regarding the car while I was unresponsive and on the ventilator. Victor suggested, “How about if you just let me sort of take over and let’s keep Dan working on the car.” If it were not for Victor, this car probably would not be on the road today. He has done a list of work on mechanical issues since we brought it home.

This is a “driven” car, not trailered. Some of the participants and spectators thought we had been placed in the wrong class at Chevy Classics’ Winter National. We traveled with our friends to Bowling Green, KY last August for the Tri-Five Nationals and now Colin Date has found us with our friends again here in Orlando, FL.

I am running an LS-1 engine with a small cam. On the dyno she turned 340 horsepower at the rear wheels with a 4L60E transmission and 3.73 gear rear end. The car is equipped with a Wilwood 4 wheel disc brake system with Hydroboost. She runs on Michelin tires and Coy C-57 black chrome wheels – 18×7 on front and 18×9.5 out back. Our car has a custom ultra leather interior with power bucket seats and a center console with a Lokar shifter, Kenwood stereo, Vintage Air controls and power window switches.

We were thrilled to have been awarded the 1st place Custom ’55 with 996 points. We hope to be back to the Eckler’s Winter National next year and have many more shows lined up between now and then.


Secret Crushes

Colin-Date-head-shotHow about you? Do you have any secret crushes? I suppose if you told, they wouldn’t be so secret anymore, would they? Don’t sweat it – this little editorial isn’t intended to get you into any kind of hot water. Well maybe, depends on how willing you are to bare your feelings. What the heck am I talking about? Secret crushes on cars, of course – what did you think I meant?

I’ll lead off with a good example; I know a dyed-in-the-wool Tri-5 Chevy guy. He’s owned them (all three of ’em) over the years and has sworn up and down to having never strayed the course. “The only real Chevy is a Tri-5 Chevy”, I’ve heard him proudly proclaim on more than a few occasions. Except one day, in a hushed, don’t breathe a word of this tone, he admitted that he used to own a ’67 Mercury Comet. And, get this, that he missed that car – a lot. Wow. Judging from the look on his face, he appeared to be greatly relieved in finally getting this off his chest – like it had been some incredible weight killing him slowly all these years. He swore me to secrecy – so, I’m not naming any names here, or even geographic locations. After that confession, I didn’t know what to do. I felt like an attorney whose client just admitted he was guilty of some ghastly crime. Wait, it is just cars we’re talking about here, right? My friend has never breathed another word about this since.

Those of you who read my column here even on a semi-regular basis know that I pretty much love all cars. I have my favorites for sure, but I’m not so stuck on any one particular model that I have to secretly admire another one.

A while back, I shared an experience I had about 20 years ago. I was photographing a 1970 Chevelle back in Oregon. When we were wrapping up the shoot and heading back to the owner’s place, I asked him if he’d been a Chevy man all his life. When we pulled up to his three car garage, I saw what filled two of the bays – a ’69 Mustang Boss 302 and a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner. He told me yes, he was a Chevy man. But he was also a Mustang guy and “secretly” loved Mopars. Go figure.

How about you? Guilty as charged? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. Any responses will be treated with the utmost confidentiality, of course! We’ll even publish your response under a John or Jane Doe if you wish. Email me at

Onto this issue! Our first feature car belongs (I should say, used to belong) to a good car show buddy – Gary Robbins. We photographed Gary’s Cranberry Red ’70 LS6 Chevelle last summer in Oklahoma. Gary has since parted ways with this beauty, but his memories live on! This “King of the Muscle Cars” story starts on page 6. Next up we have a feature on a wild ’55 Pro Street Chevy. I met owner Hilbert Osborne at this past February’s Winter National in Orlando. His car is almost window-shattering loud! Check it out on page 14, but put in your earplugs first! Starting on page 18, you’ll find a feature on three Chevy A-Bodies. I met Bill Whorley at the Winter National as well. He’s a great guy who shared the story of his Chevelles (and his El Camino) with me. Then, on page 20, we have a piece on a ’56 Two-Ten Wagon. This car has belonged to owner Lloyd Malsam for over 50 years, and as you’ll soon find out, has been extremely well cared for. Our centerfold (and cover) car is the pride and joy of James Deason. I also met James at the Winter National in February, and he’s got a great story to tell! Check out “The Replacement”, starting on page 26. Rounding out our feature car department, you’ll find a super sharp Super Sport ’64 Impala residing on page 36. Owner Paul Lizun tells about his journey with his first new car – pretty cool!

There’s also some good event coverage in this issue. Page 9 brings us a story on last year’s Gambler Classic River Run in Laughlin, NV. Also in the Silver State – all the happenings at last year’s SEMA Show in Las Vegas – begins on page 22.

Tech centers around quarter panel replacement (page 32) and fixing stuck vent windows (page 34). Both good things to know! We also have an update on our Project ’55 – see page 38.

Happy Spring!



April 2016. The Corvette Issue, Behind the Scenes

Welcome to the all-Corvette issue of Chevy Classics magazine! We had a blast working on this one, and I must say, to quote John “Hannibal” Smith of the 1980’s TV hit The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

My original pie in the sky vision for this issue was to feature cars from each generation (C1 through C7), but given time constraints and owner’s individual schedules, that quickly proved elusive. I soon learned that C5, C6 and C7 owners tend to be working stiffs with not a lot of extra time on their hands. Next thoughts were to narrow the scope and pick some earlier (mostly ’60s) Corvettes that we could get down and dirty with. This was, I believe, the way to go.

What we’re presenting over these pages is much more focused than the aforementioned “all gen” concept. We have a good representation of C1, C2 and C3 gens here – important cars that aptly showcase some rare and highly collectible examples of the breed.

We’re kicking things off with a very clean, mostly unrestored Polo White ’54 Roadster. In its second year of production, Chevrolet offered the ’Vette in more colors than just white (3 more, to be exact), but the vast majority of them (3,200) were sprayed in this color. Learn more about the ’54 – beginning on page 6.

Next up, on page 10, is a Nassau Blue ’65 Sting Ray. When I first laid eyes on this car, I knew it had to be in this issue. Important mostly because 1965 was the first (and only) year the big-block 396 cubic-inch Mark IV engine would reside in a Corvette.

Starting on page 14 you’ll find a Mosport Green ’66 Sting Ray; a 427-equipped one at that. 1966 was the first year the 427 appeared in Corvette, and this one, a slick convertible, easily made the cut.

Check out page 18. What’s this you say? Another ’66? Yes, but for good reason. This car is one of just 66 “Big Tank” Corvettes produced that year. Yes, 66 in ’66. If you don’t know much about the Sting Rays equipped with RPO N06, you’re about to learn a whole lot more.

Then, more big-block firepower – a lot more firepower, actually. Starting on page 22, we have an honest-to-goodness 1968 L88-equipped Corvette. Exactly 80 of these were built that year. The L88 427 was an ultra-high compression big-block with aluminum heads and a Holley 850 cfm carburetor. Dynos have them pegged at 560 horsepower. Mega dollar muscle!

Our final feature car this issue is our centerfold beast – an Ermine White ’67 Sting Ray, also ordered with RPO L88. Why jump from a 1968 model back down to a ’67, you ask? Only 20 Corvettes got the L88 treatment in 1967, making this car the rarest and most valuable of our incredible line-up this issue. Hence, the centerfold spot!

Switching gears (but still in ’Vette mode!), we asked six Eckler’s employees what their favorite all-time Corvettes were. Thought you’d enjoy the responses here…

“My pick would be the one I own now – a 1967 roadster, big-block, 4-speed, Tri-Power. It’s the epitome of a muscle car. Just brute power, no frills. It’s what helped create muscle car legends, and why they’re so popular today. I’ve owned it for 43 years, and it’s still exciting to drive!” – Mike Boffo, Senior Tech Manager

“1967 coupe, 427/435 horse. Since owning one, it has been my favorite Corvette and most enjoyable to drive. Plenty of power, great looking and represents the Corvette brand.” – R.J. Schmieder, Senior Corvette Brand Manager

“Hard to pick just one, but if I could afford it – a red 1969 L88 convertible. I love the C3 body and the L88 had something like 560 horsepower, even though it was rated at 430. Can’t beat a big-block with a ton of power.” – Tom Whytas, CFO

“My pick would be a 1965 convertible with a 396/425 horse engine. This was the first year for a lot of cool standard upgrades and the first big-block 396/425 horse motor, and standard 4-wheel disc brakes.” – Justin Whitten, Strategic Sourcing Manager

“The 2012 Centennial Edition ZR1…rare, the fastest top speed of any production Corvette, and it’s the supercar you can drive daily.” – Scott Carpenter, Corvette Brand Manager

 “Since I am not as old school as some of the other Corvette guys here, I would say my 2016 Stingray would be my Corvette of choice. As much as I love the classics, this car has the best lines and high end sports car look of all the Corvette generations.” – Tom Holodak, VP of I.T.

How about yours, dear reader? Let me know what your dream Corvette would be (or is!). Shoot me an email –

There are plenty of great Corvette stories and features in this issue, so feel free to dig in!

Until next time,