For centuries since the dawn of time, wise men have offered less experienced souls good advice on a multitude of subjects-whether one decides to listen or not is entirely up to the recipient.
Such was the case with Alex Bugarin of Fowler, California, and his entry into the world of customized vehicles. Alex told us he caught the customizing bug back in 1997 from his two brothers-in-law. The pair owned an assortment of super-clean '55-57 passenger cars that really caught Alex's eye. For Alex, a landscaper by trade, the attraction translated into a truck, something he could relate to a little better. Alex combed the local classified ads and located a '57 Chevy big-window in Madera, California, for $2,500. The '57 was in real nice shape with a few upgrades already in place. The original 265-inch small-block had been swapped out for a slightly souped-up 327, plus it had a sweet color change with a lot of life still left in the paint.
When Alex showed his new acquisition to his brother-in-law Hector Marroquin while telling him about all the plans he had for the '57, Hector told him to "just chill out and drive the truck for a while." Alex nodded his head in total agreement, then promptly drove the '57 home and blew it all apart. The last thing Alex did before he was brought back to reality was sandblast the cab, bed, and fenders down to the bare metal. Alex had no sooner finished planning the '57's next steps when Marcus, his first son, was born. Alex soon discovered babies were a lot more demanding once they were outside of their mother's womb. The time and money Alex had earmarked for the '57 were reallocated to working side jobs and buying diapers. Before Alex knew it, four more years had passed, and his second son, Matthew, was born. It didn't look like Alex was ever going to be able to finish the '57 when Hector offered to help him put the truck back together. To say Hector put the '57 back together is putting it mildly; when Hector takes on a project, the end results are always very thorough and absolutely incredible.
It took Hector and Alex six years to complete the big-window '57 Chevy from start to finish. As often as possible Alex would show up at Hector's shop, and the two would dig in. They attacked the project on two fronts, with the chassis setup and the bodywork approached at the same time. Hector touched up the body parts that were previously sandblasted with his on-site sandblasting rig and sandblasted the frame down to the bare metal, preparing it to accept a '78 Camaro front clip. Without a moment's delay after sandblasting Hector sprayed a heavy coating of Valspar DTM (Direct To Metal) 2000 epoxy primer onto the body parts and POR-15 onto the frame, launching the long job to getting the '57 ready for Viper Red paint.
With the Z-28 clip welded in, the next step was to hang on the front brakes, steering, and suspension from the Z-28 donor. For the '57's rear Hector looked to RB's in Glendale, Arizona, utilizing a Serious Hardware bolt-in rear suspension kit to mount an S-10 rearend housing a set of 3.25:1 gears. Peering through the 17-inch Billet Specialties' wheels reveals the S-10 drums were retained on the rear as well as the '78 Z-28 disc brakes in front.
For propulsion, the 327 was tossed out in favor of a '69 Chevelle 350-inch small-block engine. Hector enlisted the help of his trusted friends at Hanford Auto Parts to handle a custom rebuild before hanging on a set of Billet Specialties valve covers along with a matching Billet Specialties air cleaner. For induction Hector chose an Edelbrock four-barrel Performer carb mounted on an Edelbrock intake manifold. Behind it Hector installed a rebuilt Turbo 350 automatic transmission. At the '57's tail end Flowmaster mufflers provide Alex's pickup with a healthy exhaust note.
One of the few items that wasn't handled at Hector's shop was the '57's interior. For upholstery, the truck was sent up to Cal-Fast in Fresno, California, where Tom and his crew did a fine job of stitching in beige leather.
Alex told us, "It's been a blast building a truck with my brother in-law. I want to give Hector a special thanks for making it happen." That's a two-way street; we're no doubt sure Hector is happy Alex is the kind of guy who gives credit where credit is due. CCT