If you have been into the custom automotive scene for any length of time you probably know good and well what a bitchin’ ride looks like. The 1957 Chevy Bel Air you see before you is owned by Sam “Holmes” Harper III who has been representing the custom car scene for almost two decades now. Having previously built several vehicles, including an S-10 that he took from mild to wild, Holmes knew exactly what he wanted his next project to be. His goal was to build something for himself to check off the “dream ride” list, while allowing others to enjoy the build that he would be showcasing. He also wanted to partner up with his Dad, who just happens to be his best friend, to build a Father/Son ride that the whole family could enjoy.
A long time ago, in a field far far away this Chevy was pulled from the weeds behind an old barn. The metal on the car was pretty much shot with the exception of the roof. Once a plan was set to keep the Detroit history alive, a blueprint was created. After the decades of rot was striped away, the Father/Son duo began by getting a rolling chassis set utilizing a 5.3 Chevy truck motor and Blazer rearend. The chassis was outfitted with Air Lift 2600lb. ‘bags all around and complimenting air accessories to set the ’57 flat to the floor. Feeling like the rolling chassis was coming together quite nicely they jumped into the “fun” part of the build next.
Photos: Sara Cunigan | Words: Jason Ballard
Knowing that Detroit nailed the aesthetics on this body style right out of the gate, Holmes decided to retain the majority of the factory GM look with his twisted vision thrown into the mix. The antenna and wipers were shaved and a set of Ring Brother 1969 Camaro door handles were added for subtle exterior changes that fit the Tri-5 curves perfectly. The rear wheel wells were cut out and modified to achieve the ultra Slam’d stance. Running a set of 20- and 22-inch Racelines, the wheel tubs were widened to 15-inches to help clear the big billets. A subtle and clean two-tone was part of the plan from the beginning, so once the exterior was rounded out it was time to lay down the Matrix Charcoal and Silver. While wet sanding and buffing the car Holmes had an epiphany. He didn’t want to spend the major funds needed for all new trim and chrome on the car and wanted to keep all the original trim so Holmes simply repaired and painted all off the trim, including the front and rear bumpers. The icing on the cake was Mike Olney laying down a bit of wicked in the form of airbrushed skulls and flames on the Chevy sails and in the engine bay.
Once the body and chassis work were dialed the focus shifted to the motor. Holmes turned to Tim Flanders for the wiring and fuel line routing, while he and his Father tackled the brake system including the disc conversion and plumbing all of the lines. Wanting to keep everything GM, the drivetrain on this classic consists of a 2002 GMC Sierra 5.3 liter V-8 and 4L60E trans connected to a Blazer rearend. Hooker high-flow headers were used in addition to a Flowmaster Super 40 dual exhaust. A billet alternator was added along with billet valve covers to clean up the engine bay a bit, and the motor was also painted prior to being installed. Brian Martin built a customer sheetmetal engine cover that Mike Olney airbrushed to match.
The plush interior was the work of Donell Brown. Ford Probe seats were used and cut down approximately six inches and reshaped. The rear factory seat was partially used, while the bottom of the seat comes from a Camaro and both were covered in a Camel colored vinyl. The factory dash was shaved and painted, which incorporates the two-tone paint scheme. Dakota Digital gauges were used to round out the killer custom looking dash setup and a custom center console was created to house the air suspension and power window switches. In the trunk Andy worked along side Sam Harper Sr. to build the trim panels needed to conceal the Hertz Audio sound system. All in all it took the Father/Son team about a year and a half to complete the build. This being their first build together, they created a bond and memories that will last a lifetime! The moral of this build is that Detroit lives on, and so does the family resilience that our fine country is built on. Although this car sat for a considerable amount of time and was worn away, it was not lost forever. We look forward to seeing what’s next out of the Harper camp – stay tuned!
Owner: Sam “Holmes” Harper III
Vehicle: 1957 Chevy Bel Air
Hometown: Battle Creek, Michigan
Front: Gear Head tubular control arms, 2-inch drop spindles, 2600lb Air Lift ‘bags
Rear: Danny’s Customs parallel 4-link with pan hard bar, C-notched, 2600lb Air Lift ‘bags
Shocks: Rancho RS9000xl
Viair 380c compressors, 8-gallon air tank, 3/8-inch valve block, all air ride hidden behind the trunk panels and in spare tire well
C-notched and painted frame
Front disc brake conversion with drilled and slotted rotors, GM Factory Blazer calipers in rear
2002 Blazer rearend and driveshaft
Performed By: Father and Son
Shaved antenna and wipers
Ring Brother’s 1969 Camaro Door handles
Matrix Jaguar Charcoal Grey and Matrix Andromeda Silver
Painted trim with the top color
Custom airbrushing with skulls and flames on sail panels and under hood by Mike Olney
Performed By: Father and Son
Ford Probe front seats cut down and reshaped
Rear factory back section with Camaro jump seat bottoms all covered in Camel vinyl
Factory dash shaved and painted with the two tone theme
Dakota Digital gauges
Retro Sound Bluetooth stereo
6.5-inch Hertz components in front kick panels
6.5-inch in back package tray
12-inch Hertz subwoofer built-in custom enclosure in trunk
Hertz Audio 5-channel 900 watt amplifier
Custom center console
ididit tilt column with Billet Specialties steering wheel
Performed By: Tim Flanders and Andy Khazad
Chevy 5.3 V-8
Hooker high-flow manifolds with Flowmaster Super 40 dual exhaust
Billet alternator, valve covers, and hood hinges
Motor detailed and painted with custom sheetmetal engine cover (Built by Brian Martin)
Special Thanks from Owner:
“Would like to thank first and most importantly my Dad for the awesome team build, also would like to thank Andy Khazad, Tim Flanders, Brian Martin, Donell Brown, and Curt Hall for all of their help and input along the way.”