1931 Chevy Coupe that started out as a $300 Junkyard buy
The Meguiar’s Ridler Award at the 69th Detroit Autorama went to “Sho Bird”, Rick and Patty Bird’s 1931 Chevy coupe. The completely modified street stem, equipped with a twin-turbo big block 509 cubic inches, was built by Bruce Harvey and his team at Pro Comp Custom.
‘I’ll find you a Rider. ‘
It was the promise Bruce Harvey made to Rick and Patty. Pittsburgh-area Harvey’s store had previously built a 1955 Chevy for the Birds, which won at the 2019 Autorama. When work began on the ’31, they all agreed to spare no effort in the pursuit of the Detroit Autorama’s most prestigious award.
Rick bought the coupe decades ago, after a 1932 Chevy he owned was destroyed in an arson attack. “I was going through a nearby junkyard and found this car,” he told us. “The scrapyard guy told me the car was going to be crushed. I asked him to sell it to me and I bought it for $300. I took her home and put her in the barn.
When Bruce delivered the ’55 Chevy to Rick and Patty’s Bellefonte, Pennsylvania home, he spotted the junkyard coupe on their property, where it had been sitting for years. “I was coming back with an empty trailer, so I asked Rick if I could bring the car back with me,” Bruce said. “He said yes, and that’s how it all started.” Rick and Patty told Bruce they wanted to take this Chevy to the Autorama and win a “Great 8” – a Ridler runner up award. “I’ll get you the Ridler,” Bruce replied.
Eye on the Price
Bruce said he was confident throughout the build because he had done his homework. “I started imagining the cars that have won Ridler awards over the last 20 years. I knew the first 6-12 months is the most important part of building because that’s when that you have to figure out how to create the car. You have to have it all flowing back and forth, tweaking everything and making sure every idea is something that hasn’t already been done.”
One of those ideas was to make sure that the extensive changes to the exterior sheetmetal didn’t hide the coupe’s identity as a Chevy. That makes a lot of sense in the hot rod world, where 1930s cars usually wear Ford badges. Custom mods designed to improve those Chevrolet lines include the trimming of the top five inches and the channeling of the bodywork to the frame. The hand-formed hood features a shaker-style scoop. The running boards and fenders have been reworked, especially the artistically cut rear fenders. The reshaped roof-integrated spoiler follows the style of the side scoops and the contours of the trunk lid. A single taillight panel houses four 1965 Impala taillights, which look great even on a body style 34 years earlier. Just to crush any possible misidentities, Pro Comp Custom decorated “Sho Bird” with literally hundreds of little Chevy bowtie graphics, from the beltline molding and trunk lid to the dash. The candy paint – a color described as Wineberry Orange Glow – was photographed by Bruce in the Pro Comp Custom spray booth.
In most cases, the bodywork and paintwork are the first things to draw attention to on a hot rod, especially a show car. In the case of “Sho Bird”, Nelson Racing Engines’ twin turbochargers and 72mm air intakes, installed at the front of the car (and flanked by the forward headers), draw as much lure as than anything else on the Chevy. The radically engineered system, designed by Bruce and put together by Will Wibberding at Pro Comp Custom, powers a Shafiroff-style 509ci W big-block engine. . Methanol injection keeps things cool. The engine is backed by a 6L80 six-speed transmission and a Winters Championship quick-change rear.
The front suspension combines a lowered I-beam axle, cantilevered Hydroshox coilovers and a four-bar setup. Hydroshox and four bars were also used in the rear. “Sho Bird” leaves a big footprint, with massive low-profile tires rolling on custom-built 18- and 20-inch wheels from Billet Specialties. The fully customized interior is covered in caramel-colored leather.
Dream This. Drive it.
Winning the Ridler Prize was a longtime dream for Rick and Patty, as well as Bruce, but the big prize was only one reason to build the car. The other was to drive it. Everyone says they plan to drive their trophy winners, but for the Birds, that’s always been the plan. “From the beginning of the project, I expected Bruce to build it where I could drive it,” Rick said. Bruce accepted. “It’s about driving it. People think the car won’t be driven, but we’re going to prove a point.”
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