River City Speed & Kustom, River City Speed and Kustom, Rick Steele 1952 Chevy Kustom, Kustom 1952 Chevy, panel paint, lace paint, traditional custom, traditional kustom

Panel & Lace – Rick and Alta Steele’s 1952 Chevy Custom

If you ever needed proof of how influential a shop can be to a build, look no further than Rick and Alta Steele’s striking 1952 Chevy Bel Air. The custom touches and ’60s-style paint are hallmarks of the shop where it was built, River City Speed & Kustom. And choosing that shop was a very personal decision for Rick.

River City Speed & Kustom, River City Speed and Kustom, Rick Steele 1952 Chevy Kustom, Kustom 1952 Chevy, panel paint, lace paint, traditional custom, traditional kustom

“Claude Freund, my best friend since the seventh grade, had a Model T when we were 12,” Rick says. “That’s what started my love for cars; we built several over the years. His son, Russ Freund, and business partner Darrel Peterson, were the primary forces behind building this car.”

River City Speed & Kustom, River City Speed and Kustom, Rick Steele 1952 Chevy Kustom, Kustom 1952 Chevy, panel paint, lace paint, traditional custom, traditional kustom


Russ and Darrel helped steer the Chevy’s early-’60s design theme, while also incorporating some more modern elements under the skin, like a ’70 Nova subframe providing an updated IFS and disc brakes, and a ’56 Chevy axle out back. Painted steel wheels wrapped in 7.75 Firestone whitewalls and topped with spider caps and small center trim rings helped set the stage for the nostalgic look.

River City Speed & Kustom, River City Speed and Kustom, Rick Steele 1952 Chevy Kustom, Kustom 1952 Chevy, panel paint, lace paint, traditional custom, traditional kustom
River City Speed & Kustom, River City Speed and Kustom, Rick Steele 1952 Chevy Kustom, Kustom 1952 Chevy, panel paint, lace paint, traditional custom, traditional kustom

The small-block Chevy engine was treated to old-school goodies like finned aluminum valve covers and triple carbs on a polished Edelbrock intake, along with polished TruRam exhaust manifolds leading to the dual exhaust pipes. A TH350 transmission kept shifting simple and easy.

River City Speed & Kustom, River City Speed and Kustom, Rick Steele 1952 Chevy Kustom, Kustom 1952 Chevy, panel paint, lace paint, traditional custom, traditional kustom

Of course, the cool factor with a custom like this is in the body and paint work. The River City team made plenty of subtle mods, including frenching the headlights, shaving and louvering the hood, shaving the emblems and handles, and eliminating the taillights in favor of custom hidden lights in the bumper guard. They pulled out all the stops on the paint, though, laying down a pearl white base and topping it with brilliant blue panels that incorporate stripes, endless lines, and lace patterns. “It was interesting to see the looks two dudes got while shopping for lace at JoAnn Fabrics,” Rick says with a laugh.

River City Speed & Kustom, River City Speed and Kustom, Rick Steele 1952 Chevy Kustom, Kustom 1952 Chevy, panel paint, lace paint, traditional custom, traditional kustom

River City Speed & Kustom, River City Speed and Kustom, Rick Steele 1952 Chevy Kustom, Kustom 1952 Chevy, panel paint, lace paint, traditional custom, traditional kustom

The stock dash got similar paint treatment, along with Classic Instruments gauges and a downsized ’58 Chevy wheel. Rick and Alta’s son, Rich Steele, handled the upholstery at his shop, Richcraft, stitching the seats in traditional-style white vinyl with patterned fabric inserts and blue carpet. Vintage Air helps keep everything cool.

River City Speed & Kustom, River City Speed and Kustom, Rick Steele 1952 Chevy Kustom, Kustom 1952 Chevy, panel paint, lace paint, traditional custom, traditional kustom

River City Speed & Kustom, River City Speed and Kustom, Rick Steele 1952 Chevy Kustom, Kustom 1952 Chevy, panel paint, lace paint, traditional custom, traditional kustom

Completed in 2019, the custom 1952 Chevy has made the Northwest rounds – and even made an appearance on the Goodguys Gazette cover two years ago. It’s a rolling testament to the power of friendship and the vision of a tradition-minded hot rod shop.

River City Speed & Kustom, River City Speed and Kustom, Rick Steele 1952 Chevy Kustom, Kustom 1952 Chevy, panel paint, lace paint, traditional custom, traditional kustom

Photos by Steven Bunker

Digital Media Editor

A lifelong car kid, Steven grew up around drag strips – his name may sound familiar because his grandfather is Bob Bunker, a Pro Mod pioneer who piloted the “Folsom Flash” ’55 Chevy from the ’70s through the ’90s. Steven’s father, Bob Bunker Jr., heads up Bunker Motorsports and is a regular in the West Coast racing scene, building chassis and race cars for more than 30 years. With genetics like that, it’s no wonder Steven has a passion for both cars and motorsports. In addition to helping his father and honing his fabrication skills at Bunker Motorsports, Steven began shooting photos at the drag strip and capturing the action with his Canon camera. He is now artfully crafting stories around the awesome machines at the shows, as well as the men and women behind them. When he's is not on the road covering events, he spends his downtime out on the water fishing, building his 1962 Chevy Nova, or cruising his 1987 GMC Suburban.