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Ronnie Staples 1950 Chevy "Splitliner"
(from Volume 15, Issue 166)

Florida resident Ronnie Staples bought this 1950 Chevy in September of 2002 from Scott Graham of Generations Body Shop in Franklin, Indiana - though not in exactly the same form as you see it here. At the time it was a fresh mild custom, which had been nosed and decked, shaved, received a 1-inch chop, pancaked roof, pie cut hood and fenders, Mercedes headlights, dark green paint and a custom tan interior. Under the hood was a 350 crate motor with a 700R4, and Scott had built a new frame with a Fatman cross member, tubular A-arms, power rack, disc brakes, 4-link rear suspension, 10 bolt rear end with 3.42 gears, and air ride suspension.

Within a week of owning the car Ronnie had swapped out the wheels for a set of American mags (17x7” front and 20x10” rear). A 2001 Camaro Z/28 LS1 engine with a 4L60E transmission was installed in 2004 by Mike Griffin of Sarasota, and doubled the horsepower while also increasing gas mileage. Ronnie showed the car at Super Chevy in Bradenton during February of 2004, and it won the prestigious Award Of Excellence.

The hood gaps weren’t tight enough to suit Ronnie, so in the spring of 2006 he contacted Nelson Cunningham in Chester, Virginia to rework the hood. After replacing about 60% of the previously pie cut and pancaked hood metal he had it fitting very well. Ronnie thought since they had to paint the hood, they might as well change things up a bit, and sketched a two-tone paint scheme on notebook paper. At this point Ronnie thought the roof, which was pancaked already, needed something else. He came up with a reveal the length of the top, then it dawned on him to run that reveal down to the deck lid, splitting the window like a ‘63 Corvette. The gas lid off a Corvette was a no-brainer. Wanting to change up the rear of the car some they also raised the rear wheel well openings 1-1/2 inches, to show a little more wheel. Staying with the Corvette theme, they notched the center of the rear bumper for the 4 angled exhaust tips. The commercial trailer taillights that were on the car looked very out of place now, so a pair of ‘58 Corvette taillights were utilized, and after modification to the fender lines they looked right at home.

Now they needed to make the front look like a Corvette somehow, so Ronnie purchased a set of repro headlight screens for a ‘54 Corvette, but after thinking it looked like chicken wire one of the guys at Nelson’s shop told him about some heavier screen, with bends. Nelson shaped them to fit the Mercedes headlights, then chromed them. A stock ‘50 Chevy grill and bumpers made into one piece finished the front end.

The car was really taking shape, so now the interior was looking weak, and became the focus. Ronnie sketched a waterfall to match the rear bucket seats, that connects to the flowing console, which is elevated between the front seats. Not wanting a regular shifter he found an electronic push button shifter, and since he didn’t care for the bezel it came with Nelson drilled the console top for a direct fit. Nelson used 3/4” tubing for the console and waterfall framework, then covered it with sheet metal.

After working out the two-tone paint scheme, Nelson then sprayed the Lincoln dark green and silver base, and covered it in clear. The underside of the hood and deck lid were two-toned to match, then Danny Riddle out of Hopewell, Virginia pinstriped the whole car. Ronnie wanted a color that looked like you mixed the green and silver together, so Danny came up with the mint green for the striping, which continues on the inside of the hood, firewall, trunk and jams. Danny is also responsible for the Corvette coves airbrushed on the engine coil covers. The “Splitliner” name comes from the split rear window, and the Fleetline body style. Nelson then added several more coats of clear, sanded and buffed.

Freddy Steel of Stingray Upholstery in Prince George, Virginia was contacted about the upholstery, and used silver and dark green vinyl, along with dark green wool carpet. The silver coves on the door panels are early Corvette style, with 1957 crossed flag emblems. The emblem on the waterfall is from the front of a ‘62 Vette. Vintage Air keeps things cool, Clarion supplies the tunes, Dakota Digital gauges are in the original bezel of the smoothed and filled stock dash, and a 15” Impala steering wheel sits on a tilt and telescoping column. All the switches are in the glove box, and there are no inside door handles. Instead there are buttons to actuate the solenoids on the console, and hidden manual emergency cable pulls for the doors just in case.

Over the years Ronnie took an already award winning car, and managed to keep improving on it. There is no doubt that the new “Splitliner” makeover transformed his ‘50 Chevy Fleetline into a one of a kind car. The rewards include a sense of accomplishment for Ronnie, and admiring spectators crowding around whenever he takes it to the various car shows. CN