Duane Steck's 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air - The Moonglow
1954 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe owned and restyled by Long Beach Renegades member Duane Steck of Lakewood, California. Also known as the Moonglow, Steck's Bel Air is a legendary and iconic custom that was built in a backyard on a shoestring budget. Due to its chopped top, it was classified as a radical custom. The truth is that the car featured many subtle modifications that enhanced its already good-looking lines. The car's appearance changed several times over the years, but most people favor the first version shown on the cover of Car Craft January 1957.
The First Version
Late in 1955, while the car was still under construction, Duane drove it around in light blue with primer spots. By then, the car had been shaved, nosed and decked. The upper part of the grill had been molded, and the taillights were frenched. Duane had also modified the car with hooded headlights similar to 1955 Chevrolets. The 55 Chevy-style hooded headlights were later replaced with frenched 1952 Ford headlight rims. New taillights were also created from sheet metal and round rods. For the homemade taillight housings, Duane had fit a pair of frenched 1956 Chrysler lenses upside down. Small backup lights from a 1956 Chevrolet were placed in the bumper guards.
In 1956, the first final version of the car made its debut. With good help from Duane's friend Ben Cook, owner of a local welding shop, the build took 12 months to complete. Duane and Ben chopped the top of the Chevy 4 1/2 inches. The rear window was made from Plexiglas that Duane and his brother heated in their mothers' oven. Duane kept the stock grille but added extra teeth to it. Fifteen teeth were used in total. The trim of the car was frenched into the body side, and the interior featured plain powder blue panels with white rolls that followed the stock Bel Air pattern. The upholstery was stitched by Delbert Crocker of Del's Trim Shop. The first version of the Moonglow was painted in a simple icebox white enamel with powder blue inserts. Earl Schieb laid the white paint on the car. Duane had heard about this kid Larry Watson in Bellflower that pinstriped cars out of his parents' driveway. One day, he pulled into Larry's driveway, introduced himself, and asked if Larry could incorporate these nude ladies into the striping. Duane had brought his own sketches and wondered if Larry could copy these. Larry didn't know if he could do it, but he took a chance and said yes. He outlined the tracings and striped around them so that they were less obvious. According to Larry, he pinstriped the Moonglow in the first part of 1956. The engine in the Moonglow was a 235. This version of Duane Steck's Chevrolet appeared on the cover of Car Craft January 1957.
The Second Version - Never Seen in Print
The Moonglow was an evolving canvas, and by mid-1957, Duane was already busy restyling it again. A new grille opening was made for the second version of the car. The rear bumper was lowered, and the exhaust tips were routed through it. Duane also lowered the car and extended and molded the rear pan to fit the rear bumper. In the same operation, Duane also removed the bumper guards and moved the license plate away from the bumper. The car was also repainted in a white enamel before Larry Watson of Watson's House of Style striped it. According to Rod & Custom magazine, the second version of the car has never been seen in print.
Later on in 1957, not long after the second version of the Moonglow was finished, Duane and Darol Jorgenson stripped the car down and painted it in a silver metallic nitro lacquer. Larry Watson did the scallops in white pearl tipped in candy blue and pinstriped in blue. The car also got "Moonglow" lettered on the rear fenders. For the third version of the car, the driveline was removed to paint the car under the hood fully. The engine was also fully chromed by now. This version of the car is seen in Andy Southard's book Custom Cars of the 1950s. The photo was taken at the first annual Renegades Rod & Custom Motorama in 1958. The third version of the Moonglow was also shown at the 9th annual National Roadster Show held February 15-23, 1958. The car was entered in the Full Custom Sedan class and won the award for best car in its class.
The Fourth Version - Minor Changes
By early 1959, Duane had removed the exhaust from the bumpers, and Buick Portholes were added to the rear fenders and hood. At that time, the wheel covers were changed, and Duane removed the front license plate. The engine sported dual carbs on a Sharp manifold, split exhaust, and plenty of chrome.
The Fifth Version - Candy Blue
In 1959, Duane brought the Moonglow over to Watson's House of Style for a new paint job. Larry painted it candy blue over silver pearl. According to Larry, it was his best candy blue paint job ever. This version featured small scallops on the spotlights, dashboard, and on the new Dodge Lancer wheel covers. Duane had also modified the car with peaked hoods over the headlights. The Moonglow never ceased to evolve. With each iteration, it pushed the envelope and garnered accolades and admiration. In 1959, he won the Full Custom award at the Krankers Motor Revue with the Candy Blue version. Later on, it also made the cover of Custom Cars March 1960.
Where Is It Now?
As is often the case with masterpieces, the Moonglow's physical form couldn't outlast the march of time. In the early '60s, Duane traded the Moonglow for a sports car. After that, the Moonglow was last seen by Duane's brother Steve as the iconic custom was on its way into a crusher near the L.A. Harbor. A final curtain call that Steve witnessed with a heavy heart.
Moonglow Recreations and Tribute Builds
Trend Book 143 Restyle Your Car
Car Craft January 1957
Custom Cars September 1957
Rod & Custom November 1957
Custom Cars January 1958
Motor Life February 1958
Car Craft April 1958
Rod & Custom August 1958
Car Craft February 1959
Custom Cars March 1960
Trend Book 197 Custom Cars 1961 Annual
Rod & Custom June 1991
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