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2018 Detroit Autorama Ridler Award: The 1957 Chevrolet built by Johnny’s Auto Trim & Rod Shop

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 2018-03-04 Hot Rod Network Staff

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From the moment the doors of Cobo Center in downtown Detroit opened on Friday morning, the number of cars in contention for the Ridler had been reduced to the eight vehicles identified as the Pirelli Great 8. The question on everybody's mind since then has been, "Which car will win?" And just minutes ago, on Sunday afternoon, the final announcement was made.

The imagination behind "Imagine" began as many projects do, with a concept and an illustration. Designer Jason Rushforth provided the artwork and renderings for the Tri-Five. Since then, the project has gone through several iterations spanning more than a decade—even before going to Johnny Martin's shop in Alamosa.

The first changes to get everybody's attention are the numerous body mods. The stuff we love about '57s was retained, but tweaked. The roof was totally recontoured and the top was chopped three inches. The window glass was sunk and laid back for a more aerodynamic profile. The popular 1957 bullets have been retained on the pancaked and sectioned hood—and can function as scoops for a pair of for small twin blowers or turbos. The body has been channeled three inches, and wedged and sectioned one inch in back and three in the front. The 19- and 21-inch one-piece custom wheels were designed and built to resemble stock hubcaps. The car was finished beautifully using PPG pint products.

Related Video: 2018 Ridler Winner: '57 Chevy


Power is provided by a Nelson Racing 515 cubic inch twin-turbo Chevy big-block engine, dressed up fancy with custom components. The beauty is also a beast—the engine is capable of more that 1,000 horsepower on pump gas. Feed it race fuel and the horsepower rating jumps to 1,800 hp. The engine is backed up by a modified Turbo 400 transmission. The Corvette rear is packed with 4.11:1 gears. The rear is suspended with custom fabricated coilovers.

The interior is '57 Chevy inspired, but with 21st Century styling, starting with the handcrafted bucket seats, split by a custom console. A new single insert was grafted into the dash and houses one-off gauges created by Classic Instruments. An Evod steering wheel was created to match the elegance and style of the rest of the cockpit.


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