Dave Jenkins' 1957 Chevrolet
1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air owned by Ann Arbor Timing Association member Dave Jenkins of Ypsilanti, Michigan. October 19, 1956 Dave drove his mildly customized 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air 2 door post down to the local Chevrolet dealer to check out the long awaited showing of the brand new 1957 Chevrolet. Dave took one look and fell in love with the new Chevy. This was a Friday, and it took him all weekend to convince his dad about buying the car. Monday morning Dave returned to the dealer, and a car was ordered. December 6, 1956 Dave's dream car arrived. It was black with a black and silver interior, complete with a 270 HP engine with dual quads. His dad didn't know that part though.
Dave already had a lot of plans for the car when he got it, and the first thing he did was to install a set of genuine Jimmy Jones Bubble Skirts. "When Jimmy made his skirts, he rolled the metal over on three sides, and left the bottom folded in," Dave told Kustomrama in 2014. "The center brace featured a swing arm which held them against the body. They had a bracket on the bottom edge front and rear, and these did vary with different applications. The bottom, which Jimmy called the "Rainbow," was charged for by the inch. The lower it went down the more it cost. Seem to remember it went like 4-5-6- inches. He called the bow “Bubble” in the skirts by the amount that the buyer wanted the skirts to bow out from the body. That was also a cost consideration. When you went to Jimmy he would ask "How much rainbow and how much bubble?” Then he went from there. About 2 weeks later you would go back and the skirts would be in gray primer ready for paint. No body work necessary. Jimmy would then fit them to the car and you would be on your way. A very proud moment indeed. When I bought mine on January 22,1957 they cost $120.00 and at the time my job paid $46.50 per week so as you can see you really had to want them BAD!" Jimmy knew his trade, and famed car designer Harry Bentley Bradley has actually said that Dave's Chevrolet has "the best bubble skirts in America."
A local body man at the Buick dealer convinced Dave that a 1957 Buick grille would be a great enhancement to his car, so in january of 1958 a 1957 Buick grille was installed along with dual lake pipes and Oldsmobile Fiesta hubcaps. At the same time the gun sights on the hood were removed, and the car was nosed, decked and shaved for door handles. Along the way, Dave met Paul Hatton, a guy known for crazy paint, pin striping, flames and the like. Paul scalloped the factory black paint with an overlay of silver with white striping. After receiving the Hatton-touch, Dave continued to tweak the design of his car by swapping the Fiesta hubcaps for a set of Dodge Lancer hubcaps and by installing dual dummy spotlights. Paul was friends with Mike and Larry Alexander of the Alexander Brothers, and as Dave was not totally satisfied with the first scallop job, he had Mike and Larry redo the bodywork on the hood, deck and door handles. The car was repainted in black lacquer, and Paul Hatton applied another scallop design in silver. Later on, Dave went back to the Alexander Brothers, and had them mold in the lake pipes and add dual sunken antenna, two Alexander Brothers signature items at the time. Inside, the interior was modified by replacing the stock cloth with black pleats. The custom hubcaps were also scrapped after a while, and they were replaced by more modern chromed and reversed wheels from Appliance Plating. Dave remembers that the wheels costed $25 bucks each. The lake pipes were also dressed up by installing trim made from polished aluminum window channels that were rounded, buffed and pop riveted. In September 1961 Dave pulled out the stock 283 engine and installed a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette 293 engine with three deuces. The old engine was installed in Dick Bailey's Model T hot rod.
After a while California did it, they invented Kandy Apple paint. Dave knew he was in trouble, and he just had to have a candy paint job on his Chevy. He went back to the Alexander Brothers, and Mike and Larry shot a lot of panels till they came up with just what Dave wanted. The car was repainted in 1962. It was gorgeous, and everyone was really crazy about the color. At the time, Ray Kulakowski had an area at the Alexander Brothers shop where he was doing interiors, so Dave had Ray stitch him a white leather interior.
From 1957 until 1962 the Chevrolet was Dave’s only means of transportation. From 1962 to 1990, the car was red, and went thru a few different changes, raked, flamed, traction bars and different wheels and tires were tried. In 1990, the 32 years old candy paint was falling off on the garage floor, and Dave decided it was about time to bring it back to its 1959 version. Paul Hatton's son, Brian Hatton, accepted the job of completely redoing the car. He spent a year lining everything up, preparing it for another black paint job. Again, after all the years, Paul Hatton scalloped the car in silver with white striping again. In 2012 Dave was a member of Midwest Customs and Kustoms of America. He still owned the car, and he still enjoyed it every time he took it out for a spin or cruise.
After a long and painful battle with cancer, Dave passed away at home in Ypsilanti, Michigan September 26, 2016, 79 years old. He still owned the Chevrolet at the time. In 2017 Dave's granddaughter Clara told Kustomrama that Dave's custom is staying within the family.
Did You Enjoy This Article?
Kustomrama is an online encyclopedia dedicated to traditional hot rod and custom cars. Our mission is to protect, preserve and share traditional hot rod custom car history from all over the world.
- Find out how you can become a contributor.
- Forward this article to a friend.
- Subscribe to our newsletter and receive updates on Dave Jenkins' 1957 Chevrolet and other subjects featured on Kustomrama.
Help Us Make This Article Better
If you have additional information, photos, feedback or corrections about Dave Jenkins' 1957 Chevrolet, please get in touch with Kustomrama at: firstname.lastname@example.org.