Mike Walker invested 20 years into building his 1954 Chevy Bel Air.
All of us are aware of a buddy who has spent years, maybe decades, to get his hot rod just right. In fact, each of us has probably spent way too many years trying to get our favorite ride on the road, but in the end, we all believe it was time well spent.
Mike Walker of Wenatchee, Washington, developed a liking for the 1054 Chevy back in the day as a result of his high school buddy who had a post-war Chevy. Moving forward, well a few years, a friend of Mike’s found the 3,200-pound car, and knowing he wanted one turned him onto the Bel Air. The future project was sitting in a barn near Colville, Washington.
The previous owner had their own ideas on hot rodding the ol’ Chevy by removing the 235-inch Stovebolt and replacing it with a 283 small-block hooked up to a non-functioning Powerglide. While the body was straight the interior was long gone but, nonetheless, it caught his eye sitting there on Cragar wheels. (And why wouldn’t it!)
While original plans called for the car to be “tuned up” and driven immediately that just didn’t happen and over the course of 20 years Mike kept evolving the build process until you see what’s pictured on the pages in front of you. Part of the “agony” of the build over several decades was the ebb and flow of the build as well as the changing of ideas on what the car should look like. Finally, he arrived at the shop door of Tim Divers of Divers Street Rods Inc. in Startup, Washington. (You gotta love the city’s name for a hot rod build shop!)
Having waited for what seemed like an eternity, there was no doubt that the final push would be to finish the Bel Air in a manner that would make it a great looking but a topflight performer. It was Divers who wanted to base this project on a solid foundation so out went the factory ’rails and back underneath a 2×3-inch rectangular steel chassis from the shop of Art Morrison Enterprises (AME). The AME chassis is outfitted with a Strange rear-end and AME IFS spread over a stock 115-inch wheelbase.
The AME IFS is based on Wilwood Pro spindles manufactured by Wilwood with a 2-inch drop and then fitted with their 13-3/4-inch rotors and calipers, all sandwiched by AME control arms utilizing Strange six-way adjustable coilover shocks. More front suspension components include the use of an AME antiroll bar, AGR power rack-and-pinion steering in conjunction with an ididit steering column, and a Kugel Komponents pedal assembly.
The rear-end is based on a Strange 9-inch equipped with 3.75 gears and 31-spline axles with large outer bearings. Holding the rear in position is an AME triangulated four-bar and controlling the bumps is a pair of Strange six-way adjustable coilover shocks. Braking falls to more Wilwood this time their 12-3/4-inch rotors and calipers.
At the corners are Rushforth wheels featured in their Fuel model measuring 18×9 fronts with 6-3/4-inch backspacing and in the back 19x11s with 6-5/16-inch backspacing. Pirelli Russo tires 275/35Z-R18 are wrapped around the wheels in front and in back 285/35Z-R19s.
Now, you would imagine that all of this suspension could (and should) handle plenty of hot rod motor. And you would be correct. A 540-inch big-block Chevy out of the Lingenfelter/Motion shop has the entire lineage to support the 660-plus horsepower and 640-plus lb-ft of torque. Inside are a Calles crank, Manley rods, JE forged pistons, Speed Pro rings, and a Lingenfelter/Motion cam ground by COMP cam.
The Lingenfelter/Motion block is topped with Dart 320cc aluminum heads featuring additional porting by Lingenfelter. Finishing off the Dart heads are the use of COMP Cams valve springs with titanium retainers, stainless steel 1.7 ratio rockers all neatly covered by the polished Motion valve covers. Cooling this monster is a Be Cool aluminum radiator with its coolant pumped via a serpentine belt system by Billet Specialties.
Making sure there’s plenty of spark and delivery an MSD billet distributor with Magnecor 8.8mm primary wires are used. Getting those spent gases out of the cylinders are the combination headers and 3-inch exhaust system fabricated at the Divers Street Rod shop. Getting all of this power to the Strange rear-end falls to the duty of a Mad Dog Transmission prepped 4L60E overdrive and a Northwest Driveline ’shaft.
The big-block’s crowning glory is the Kinsler electronic fuel injection neatly packaged onto a cross-ram intake manifold. Long known for its track performance there’s no denying that the cross-ram manifold gives that absolute performance appearance to back up the badass performance.
At first glance, the 1954 Chevy appears mildly treated with a proper stance. The just-right look should give away that this isn’t any ordinary post-war Bel Air. The two-door has all of the wheel openings gently massaged, 1955 door handles were incorporated, 1966 Chevy Impala mirrors were added, and Philips HID 4300K headlights were positioned; rears are stock. Further one-off sheet metal treatment occurs with the Divers Street Rods grille and insert, inner fender panels, firewall, floorboards, and dashboard.
All of the brightwork was handled by Queen City Plating & Show Quality Metal Finishing while the PPG Indian Turquoise (known for its greenish quality or blue trait; also recognized as an in-between color) was ever-so neatly sprayed on by Divers own Rich Thayer. Thayer was also the one with the worn-out fingers after countless hours of bodywork getting the sheet metal oh so straight.
The lightly modified but repainted 1954 dash is outfitted with original factory gauges refreshed at Divers Street Rods and outfitted with a Kenwood DDX719 head unit, JL Audio XD 600 amplifiers with JL and Focal speakers, all installed at Divers Street Rods. The Divers crew also handled the car’s wiring based on a Ron Francis Wiring system. The dash was modified to conceal the double-din touch-screen stereo, which has Sirius XM satellite radio; note the ashtray it is actually the latch to open the door concealing the radio.
The factory steering wheel is cut down and sits atop an ididit tilt with column shifter. Other interior appointments include the factory e-brake handle and the use of Lokar gas and brake pedals. The stitchwork is more effort put forth on behalf of Divers Street Rods’ own Scott Divers who used Andrew Muirhead Leather material in Ingelston White for the reworked stock seating while German square-weave carpeting is down in a Mercedes-Benz Navy hue. The door and kick panels are made from ABS plastic and fabricated at Divers’ shop.
It may have taken 20 years to build but we believe that the wait was worth the effort. Proving once again that all good things come in time.