Karl Kustoms’ 1954 Chevy Bel Air
When a custom car shop is an extension of a successful Chevrolet car dealership and is also one of the country’s highest-volume Chevrolet Performance dealers, you can expect builds that seamlessly integrate modern GM technology with vintage metal and style. And when the build in question also happens to be for the company owner, it’s easy to expect things to go one notch higher.
We were not entirely surprised to find out that this great-looking 1954 Chevy Bel Air convertible built by Karl Kustoms was commissioned by the shop owner, Carl Moyer, who is also the head of the Karl Chevrolet family of dealerships. This was especially true when we looked a little closer at what first appears to be a relatively simple mild custom, only to find a wealth of modern components and technology underneath.
The two-year build began with a relatively clean driver-quality car that was hiding some previous bodywork sins under its paint. As the Karl Kustom body shop began replacing sheet metal, a new Art Morrison chassis was readied for the build using RideTech coil-overs, Wilwood disc brakes, and custom 17-inch EVOD wheels machined to look like late-’50s Lancer hubcaps, which were wrapped in wide whitewall radials.
The Chevrolet Performance LS engine got some attention, too, with Lingenfelter cylinder heads, Borla 8-stack fuel injection, and Holley engine management. They added plenty of chrome and polish, including Chevrolet script valve covers, a Billet Specialties front drive system, and Ultimate Headers leading to a custom exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers. Shifting is handled by a 4L60E overdrive automatic transmission.
The custom firewall and inner fenders surrounding the engine are just some of the subtle sheet metal modifications that were performed. Other custom touches include little tricks like the fuel filler hidden behind the taillight, shaved and tucked bumpers, plus body panels that are aligned and gapped to a high show quality. The sheet metal is topped with bright red PPG paint topped with House of Kolor clear, all applied by Ed Birmingham of Karl Kustoms.
There’s a classic OEM look to the custom upholstery inside, which uses pleated white leather with red waffle pattern inserts from a ’55 Nomad. The original dash is fitted with Dakota Digital instruments, a Vintage Air system, and an Ididit tilt column, with Lokar pedals and an American Autowire harness finishing things off.
For Carl, the goal was a classic Chevy that looks mildly modified but works and drives like a new car. Thanks to the first-rate build team at Karl Kustoms and a host of top-shelf products, this Chevy is right on target.
Photos by John Jackson