LT4 Powered Tri-Five Chevy

Tri-Five Chevy With Modern Power Plant and Independent Rear Suspension

By Brian Brennan   –   Photography By John Jackson

Before we get too deep, let’s go over the title of this month’s story on Terry Medders’, of Houston, 1957 Chevy Bel Air “post” coupe. Clearly, it’s not about the color but rather about what happens when you buy a hot rod and want to make a “few” minor changes. Once the hood is open there is no questioning there will be other changes, and once you start they seem to come one after another.

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04 Tri Five Chevy With Modern Power Plant and Independent Rear Suspension

Read More: Unconventional 1941 Willys Coupe

Terry originally bought the 1957 post with Bel Air trim in Pro Street build style, unpainted and with a small-block Chevy. From here the Tri-Five was built with the help of Charles Swindoll of Swindoll Paint and Body back in 2013. It was painted black and outfitted with a big-block Chevy. No question it was a good-looking Tri-Five and would win awards to prove the point. As many of us do, when we have had our project on the road for a while, we begin to look at what “small” changes we might enlist to upgrade or modernize and freshen up our ride. The changes were noticeable yet very doable, such as upgrading the powerplant to an LT4 engine with a 10-speed automatic transmission. But once the “covers” were lifted the changes cascaded into a full suspension redo, massive new brakes and master cylinder, custom exhaust, fuel system, fresh body and paint, and an amazing interior.

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05 Close up of the powerful Chevrolet Performance LT4 engine under the hood of Terry Medders 1957 Chevy

Next up Scott of Slick’s Fab Shop began the so-called mild-mannered changes. Beginning with the frame, yes, it is a Tri-Five frame, for instance it was cut off just behind the doors and a new clip was installed that now housed the Winters quick-change setup with 3.0 gears and a four-link setup all handled by the previous owner. Also, in the back are QA1 coilovers, a custom Panhard bar, along with Wilwood brake kit featuring six-piston calipers matched to drilled rotors. In front the basis of the suspension comes by way of Classic Performance Products with chrome control arms, spindles, chrome 1-1/2-inch sway bar, Wilwood brake kit six-piston calipers with drilled rotors, QA1 coilovers, and a Flaming River rack-and-pinion. Budnik wheels measuring 18×8 and 20×14 were then fitted with Mickey Thompson tires with the obligatory “skinnies” in front and “steam rollers” in back.

10 custom interior of this Tri Five Chevy

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Underhood is a Chevrolet Performance LT4 engine with Scott’s Hotrods custom valve covers and a K&N air filter. Next up the engine swap harness came by way of Speartech as they specialize in LS and LT engine conversions. Taylor spark plug wires provide the spark, a Powermaster alternator and starter, a PWR oil cooler, and an Interstate battery relocated to the truck are all employed. From here the 1-7/8-inch stainless steel headers are matched up to the Slick’s Fab 2-1/2-inch custom exhaust that runs into a pair of stainless Borla mufflers. A Drive Junky serpentine belt system along with a Chevrolet Performance water pump and dual electric SPAL fans help with the cooling chores. The LT4 engine is used in conjunction with a GM 10-speed automatic transmission with a ZL1 shifter.

The body is an original factory 1957 Chevy with Bel Air trim post car and from this point Slick’s Fab handled the body and the PPG Black was laid down by Mark Endersbee. A custom Tungsten color was used on the side trim pieces. From here some of the badging was eliminated but much of the remainder of the chrome and factory trim was retained and freshened.

02 Classic Performance Products suspension on a 1957 Chevy Bel Air post coupe

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From here the 1957 Chevy took a drive over to MTI Automotive Designs under the attentive eye of Chris Pate for fresh stitchwork. It was the desire of Terry and Pate to recreate the BMW interior of Terry’s wife. One can see the influence with LED lighting, a custom dash, Relicate leather, and Alcantara black fabric–wrapped interior and trunk. (Alcantara is a trade name for a soft, suede-like microfiber pile material that is used in place of conventional leather. It is a “harder” use material that is more moisture resistant than, say, suede. It also has more grip than conventional leather.) The seating consists of four custom bucket seats and a center console, with cup holders that flows front to back. Other appointments include a Vintage Air AC and heat system, wireless phone charger, custom power window switches, and a ZL1 shifter. The Flaming River steering column with the Forever Sharp steering wheel is wrapped in Relicate leather. The dashboard is basically stock with a combination of material and paint. Looking at the dash you will take note the radio delete package is in force. From here RTX Dakota Digital gauges are used along with an American Autowire system positioned by Slick’s Fab to bring the hot rod’s electrics to life.

There are plenty of Tri-Fives on the road but none of us ever tire of seeing a 1957 Chevy Bel Air trim post car that looks and performs well. Here’s one we can all enjoy looking over. MR

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of LT4 Powered Tri-Five Chevy.

mr january 2024

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