The saga of the '57 Chevy stepside with the Panoramic rear window gracing these pages started late in the fall of 1956 when a Dekalb, Mississippi, farmer walked into Kemper Motor Company, his local Chevrolet dealer, and plopped down a little under $1,800 cash. The farmer only got to drive the '57 a little over 69,000 miles when five years later in '63 the grim reaper came-a-knocking. The farmer's widow pulled his pickup into the barn and pulled the doors shut. It was early in August of 2003 when Joe Cowart of Gulfport, Mississippi, spotted an ad in his local newspaper's classified section offering the truck for sale. After listening to the widow tell about how much the old farmer had loved his '57 Chevy a deal was struck for $3,500 and Joe became the truck's second owner. Joe rolled the '57 out of the barn and loaded it onto a tandem car trailer where he hauled the truck for 120 miles to take it to its new home.
The first thing Joe did when got the '57 into his garage was to get the old 235 fired-up and drive the truck around. That was enough for Joe, he decided the only way he was going to be able to enjoy the '57 was if it had the performance of a modern truck, and looked like a cleanly customized classic. The cab, bed, and fenders were peeled off the truck's chassis and sent to a media blaster to be stripped down to the bare metal. There weren't any big surprises, but the lower halves of the doors had to be re-skinned and the eyebrows on the front fenders had to be patched up. The good news was when the bodywork was all said and done the truck still had most of the original sheetmetal it left the factory with. Not everything went as smooth as silk though. There were several people involved in building the '57 before things were really beginning to take shape. The first two entities involved took sizable cash deposits, but not a lot got done. After about two years of dealing with good talkers Joe hauled the '57 out of the second shop and parked the '57 inside the building he runs his plumbing business out of. There, Rob Brown, a guy that Joe had become friends with during the early stages of the truck's construction helped Joe to undertake the completion of his barn find '57. Back to the truck's sheetmetal, a replacement front panel was mounted to the bed and a few reproduction cross sills were added. Bodyman Joe Gates finessed the sheetmetal, ensuring that the gaps were up to show-quality standards, and then blocked her all out in primer. Kyle Lifer from Kyle's Customs in Gulfport, Mississippi, sprayed the truck in House of Kolor Candy Mandarin Orange over a Nova Orange base. Underneath, the frame was painted Galaxy Grey and then moved back to Joe's plumbing shop where he and Rob Brown did the reassembly. Stainless steel nuts and bolts were used in place of the factory hardware. Stainless steel hard lines were run from the compressors to the tanks and from the valves to the Conti-Tech airbags on the Fatman Fabrications' IFS frontend. For the drivetrain, Joe chose an '04 5.3L Vortech with a 4L60E transmission and an '04 Silverado disc-brake rearend with positraction. Hanging the rearend is a four-link setup located with a Watts link. To feed the 5.3 there's a bed-mounted 21- gallon fuel cell. The front bumper and grille are triple nickel chrome-plated parts from LMC Truck of Lenexa, Kansas, complete with LMC's Eurostyle headlights. For nostalgia, the original factory rear bumper was rechromed and still bears the nameplate from Kemper Motor Company. The rolling stock features Foose Torque II wheels, 18-inches up front and 20-inch versions in the back all wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber.