Old school ’54 Chevy Cruiser
Special to The Union
Way back in 2008, the Roamin Angel Corner featured Mike Chatfield’s ’50 Chevy pickup, titling it “Old School.”
The reason was that Mike likes to build his street rods himself and drive them. Although his rods have won trophies, they’re just a nice byproduct rather than the reason he builds them.
Over the years, he has built a number of them, always Chevys, and driven them for a while before selling them. When he saw a ’54 Chevy 210 body and frame for sale on Craigslist for a good price, he decided to buy it and build it just to sell.
“I have as much fun building them as driving them,” he said.
The body had a little rust, but he repaired that. He painted it himself in blue and white, using paint named “blue suede shoes.” He dropped in a crate GM 350 CID engine, but only after souping it up with a hotter cam, a ProComp electronic ignition, a high performance intake and a Carter AFB carb.
He used a Turbo 350 auto trans and matched it to a Ford 8-inch rear end. Although he kept the stock front suspension, he completely rebuilt it. He’s quick to point out that it’s the same suspension that Corvettes had through 1962, so it gives pretty good handling. With power steering and brakes, as well as air conditioning, it runs and drives well.
For the interior, Mike installed new carpets, painted the dash metallic blue and used a Mexican blanket as seat covers. One of the few things Mike did not do himself was the headliner and door panels, opting to get some professional assistance. For sounds, he added an AM/FM/CD player. He finished it all this last April. It turned out to be fortunate that he did.
For the last 10 years, two guys out of Reno put on a long, multi-state cruise for 75 cars known as the Nevada Classic Car Tour. News of it has spread by word of mouth, and it is so popular with those who have gone on it that 65 percent of those who went the first year are still going on it. While most of the cars come from Nevada, most of the Western states have at least one participant.
Mike felt it would be a great way to meet people and have fun taking his car on a long cruise, so he and wife Diane signed up. He had planned to drive their ’50 Chevy pickup, but some issues with it made him have concerns about driving it on a 2,000-mile trip. When they decided to take the ’54 Chevy, which only had 800 miles on it since the rebuild, he told her, “Well, we’ll hope it stays together.”
They set out from Reno with the group on the cruise, heading on a loop through Oregon, Washington and Idaho before returning to Reno. In towns along the way, they put on “show and shine” car shows for local charities. One of them, in Baker City, Ore., was for a family with three daughters who all had heart problems. The money they raised was for a heart transplant for one of the young girls. It is a way the hot rodders make a fun event helpful to others. And Mike’s ’54 Chevy did well both in the cruising and the showing. In all, he and Diane traveled 2,200 miles without any problem to speak of.
Now that they’re back in town, Mike and Diane are going to continue to cruise around in their ’54. In fact, it turned out so well and Diane likes it so much, he just might keep it for longer than he planned. Still, if you make him an offer, it just might be yours.
After all, he can always build another one. And he’ll do it “old school.”
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