Don & Judy Smith’s 1939 Chevy Coupe
When you step back and think about it, most hot rod and custom shops are in the business of fulfilling dreams. They restore, rebuild, and craft cars and trucks that their customers have dreamed about for years – sometimes decades. When Eddy Whipple and his crew at Whipple Motorsports finished this custom 1939 Chevy coupe, they were not only fulfilling the dream of owners Don and Judy Smith, but an even older dream held by Judy’s late uncle, Don Gallaher.
Gallaher bought the Chevy back in the 1990s in hopes of crafting a cool, smooth street rod. He got started on it and made substantial progress toward building his dream over the course of 20 years, even after the car was burned in a fire. Then his health began to deteriorate, and the Chevy languished in his garage. In an effort to help Gallaher fulfill his dream, Don and Judy bought the Chevy and worked with Whipple to complete it.
The coupe’s long list of modifications begins with the updated chassis that now incorporates a modern IFS, rack-and-pinion steering, RideTech air springs front and rear, Wilwood disc brakes, and 17- and 20-inch Schott wheels wearing Pirelli tires. There’s a healthy dose of modern, reliable power thanks to the Corvette LS1 engine backed by a 4L60E transmission.
The body is even more extensively modified, starting with a 4-inch top chop with a one-piece windshield and door glass. Those doors now open suicide-style, while the nose is completely reshaped with a pie-cut hood top, smooth hood sides, custom grille, and headlights from a 2000 Thunderbird. Smooth custom hourglass-shaped running boards lead back to smoothed rear fenders with frenched LED taillights, a shortened deck lid, and a rolled rear pan with flush-mount exhaust outlets. Glenn Dorman gets credit for the smooth final bodywork and application of the PPG Kona Brown finish.
There’s more custom metalwork inside, where a ’55 Chevy dash has been trimmed and modified to fit, and then outfitted with AutoMeter gauges and a 15-inch ’55 Chevy-style steering wheel atop a tilt column. Resurrection Upholstery stitched the custom tan leather on all the soft surfaces.
The Smiths hoped to complete the 1939 Chevy before Judy’s uncle Don passed away. He did get to see it after it was painted – and told them he loved the color – but sadly he died before the coupe was back together. Now that it’s on the road, the Smiths are racking up awards and honors in Uncle Don’s memory and feel honored to have fulfilled his dream.
Photos by Damon Lee & Chris Shelton