This coupe is a showstopper, but the real story is under the hood
You’ll think you’ve seen something special when you first see Billy Glines’ 1935 Chevy Standard coupe gleaming in the late morning light. And you have; but all the same, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Even from a distance, the Dragon Fire red coupe with intricate pinstriping obviously is a showstopper, and, in fact, a show winner. What makes the ’35 truly remarkable, however, is what’s inside and how it all came together.
The restoration took six years, Glines, 82, a Friendswood native, said. But the story of this three-window coupe began more than six decades ago with a teenage car nut hanging around an oval dirt track called Arrowhead Speedway, where another teenage car nut named A.J. Foyt was learning to be a motor sports legend.
“I was 16 or 17 years old,” Glines said. “I spent a lot of time hanging around the pits talking to Tony Foyt, A.J.’s dad. I never got very close to A.J., but I got close with his dad.”
Somewhere in those pit chats, Glines, already a dedicated hot-rodder, said he’d like to have one of the engines powering ’37 and ’38 Chevy coupes that A.J. was driving.
“Tony called me one day in March 1957 and told me they were switching to small-block Chevy engines,” Glines said.
One day and about $1,700 later, Glines owned a 1954 Fisher-GMC 302 cubic-inch in-line six-cylinder manually fuel-injected racing engine.
The very idea of a six-cylinder engine in an American race car or hot rod might seem a little off to some in a world where big displacement is thought to be everything, but the straight sixes were utterly lethal in some applications.
“They would outrun just about anything on a quarter-mile oval track,” Glines said. “Six-cylinders have always been my choice because it’s so gratifying to see people’s reactions when they are told they got beat by a six-cylinder.”
The Fisher-GMC has powered a couple of cars over the years — a ’29 Chevy roadster that somebody stole, luckily while the engine was out, and a dragster — and it sat around a lot, especially in the ’60s after Glines was drafted and went off to serve in the Army.
In about 2008, Glines started looking for a new hot-rod project and a new home for the Fisher-GMC. He found the original ’35 body up for auction on eBay in Boxford, Mass. The body had been in storage from 1968 until about 2001, he said.
For most people getting an engine ready for a hot rod means souping it up, for Glines it meant souping it down.
“I had to have the cam milled down some,” he said. “It was just too radical for the street. You had to get it up to 1,700, 1,800 rpms before it would even start to smooth out.”
He also has replaced the crankshaft, which was cracked, the valves and other head components and the pistons and connecting rods. And he replaced the manual fuel injection with an electronic system by Fuel Air Spark Technology, better known as FAST.
The 302 is producing about 325 horsepower now, Glines said, down from probably 500 when the Foyts were running it with the hotter cam and on a racing fuel blend.
The rest of the car reads like a hot-rod who’s who: Outlaw Performance built the frame and the car sits on Heidts coilover independent suspension systems front and rear.
“My wife has a 2015 Cadillac and this rides just was well as it does,” Glines said.
Strange Engineering supplied the differential, based on a Ford 9-inch with 3.25 to 1 gears and the shifting is done by a GM 700R4 four-speed Turbo-Hydramatic transmission.
The interior is done in aircraft-grade leather and an electrician friend wired the car to aircraft standards, Glines said.
While the engine is the star of the show, the paint deserves an ovation. It was done by Robert Meza at Alamo Custom & Collision in Alvin and was a story in itself.
“We put the car together and got it running,” Glines said. “Then we took it apart again to get the paint done. We had the frame painted first, then we had the body painted a piece at time and put it all back together again.”
Glines said he’s put about 700 miles on the car since November 2014, when the restoration was completed.
And while there’s a lot to like about the ’35, he doesn’t hesitate in naming his favorite thing.
“It’s the engine,” he said.
Glines said he’d been offered as much as $12,000 for the 302, which he’s had for 60 years now, but couldn’t imagine parting with it.