Ronnie Staples' 1957 Chevy 150 "Business Coupe"
(from Volume 18, Issue 208)

Ronnie Staples interest in 1957 Chevy 150’s began when his parents bought a new one back in ‘57. It was yellow and white with a 6-cylinder engine, manual transmission, no radio, and one sun visor. Ronnie got to routinely drive the car a couple of blocks to pick up newspapers for his route, before he even had a drivers license. After some experimenting, he discovered that if he turned the steering wheel a little to the right as he shifted to second gear, it would bark the tires. Since then he has had a soft spot for the “cheap” 150 version of ‘57 Chevys.

Ronnie bought this 150 off the west coast in 1997, then it sat for a couple of years in his shop waiting for treatment. A good friend of his, Marty Martino, who is an artist and body man, showed Ronnie his rendering of a ‘57 made into a Business Coupe, with Bel Air side trim. Ronnie said, “Marty, that needs to be on a 2-Door 150 body, like GM would have used”. In a few months they were off to the races with the concept. Marty used pictures of a ‘54 Chevy Business Coupe (the last year GM built one), and after calculating the proportions figured out exactly where the roof line would have been on a ‘57 if GM had produced a Business Coupe version, then made it a reality on Ronnie’s ‘57 Chevy at Marty’s shop in Gum Springs, Virginia. At Ronnie’s direction, other changes were also made which included making the chrome fender eyebrows not stick out from the fenders so much.

Once Marty had roughed things in, the car was taken to Nelson Cunningham of New Visions Auto in Chester, Virginia. The plan changed a bit again, and they ordered an Art Morrison chassis with the rear narrowed an extra 2-inches on each side, to accommodate mini tubs. Soon a laundry list of modifications would take place, only some of which will be able to receive mention in the limited space we have here.

They redid the rear wheel wells, opening them up. The rear bumper was narrowed to tuck it in closer to the body, then they added two extra taillights (upside down) in the bottom of the bumpers, with the exhaust exiting thru the backup light holes. The front fenders were pie cut 1-1/2 inches so that their lines would match that of the hood. Thinking the original bullets on the narrowed front bumper now looked too big, they were replaced with 5-inch tubing, and the rubber tips incorporate three small L.E.D. turn signal lights. The grill mesh was sourced from a hardware store, while the emblem is off a ‘60 Corvair. With all the modifications to the front, the stock 150 windshield opening looked too big, so they used one from a hardtop, which is about an inch shorter, and necessitated more work on the roof and above the doors. The drip rails were replaced with 1/4 inch rod for a smoother look, and the smooth theme was carried over by removing items like the door handles, hood emblems, and the louvers from the sides of the front fenders.

Nelson Cunningham applied black and silver paint, making sure it came out smooth as glass. The vertical portion of the side trim is from a ‘57, shortened 1/2 inch, but the horizontal side stainless is from a ‘55 Bel Air, which looks great....but as stock it was 8-inches too short. It had to be lengthened by welding in sections, which proved to be very difficult since the color of the welds had to blend in perfectly once all the stainless was buffed up, which took some trial and error experimentation, and finding just the right welding rods. Danny Riddle is responsible for the pin striping and lettering the “Black Ice” name on the quarter trim. The car can achieve a nice stance thanks to Air Ride Shock Wave suspension, with coil overs in front, and a 4-link for the rear. It stops nicely thanks to Wilwood 13-inch rotors with 6 piston calipers in the front, and 12-inch rotors with 4 piston calipers out back. Bose wheels (18x8 inch front, 20x12 inch rear) round out the eye-catching exterior.

Under the hood now resides an LS2 engine from a late model GTO, and is stock except for the hot cam from GM, and a set of long tube headers. The coil packs were hidden, and a factory fuel injected ‘57 air cleaner now draws air from over the left headlight to the throttle body. New inner fenders were fabricated, and the firewall smoothed. Shifting is via a Tremec 6-speed manual transmission, and the 9-inch Ford rear end is fitted with 4.10:1 posi gears.

When the rockets and flares were removed from the hood, they were preserved and incorporated into the interior, making the console very unique. The first button in front of the shifter is for the starter, the next button is for the traction control system, and the four buttons behind the shifter operate the power windows. Though the dash looks reminiscent of a ‘59 Chevy, it was actually formed using exhaust tubing, which was flattened on the sides to match the shape of ‘57 Chevy headlight bezels. The rest of the dash received extensive modification, classic muscle car gauges fill the openings, and Vintage Air outlets bookend the gauges. A ‘62 Corvette style steering wheel rests atop the Flaming River tilt column, while a Hidden Audio stereo system operated by remote pumps out tunes through Kicker speakers and a sub woofer. Paul Atkins did the red leather upholstery, using Saturn seats with the head rests cut down to about 2/3 their original size. Rockets also accent the arm rests on the door panels, for even more style points, while giving a nod back to the car’s roots.

Like I said before, it would be impossible to mention all the modifications that went into building this car here. Seriously, there are just too many! It all came together nicely, and it can take quite a while before you can pinpoint many of the changes, since they look so natural....even though you know something is different. It certainly draws in spectators at any car show, and for Ronnie it also brings back memories of driving his parent’s stock ‘57 Chevy 150 when he was still too young to have a driver’s license. Though I can guarantee you he doesn’t have to turn the steering wheel a little to the right as he shifts to make this one bark the tires! CN