From Lawn Art to Red Sled – Upgrading An Older Restoration

Before. The car as it was done in 2006. Body off, acid dipped, Morrison GT55 chassis, Edelbrock crate motor, custom interior, painted Torch Red, American Racing Wheels…and on and on…nice car.

After. The car after the update and frame off for 2019.

Back in 2006 Danchuk conducted an experiment.  We always said if you had a body you could build an entire car out of our catalog so we decided to put that to the test by building a 57 Resto-Mod for the 50th anniversary of the 1957 Chevy.  The car came out really nice and it was built with items readily available in the Danchuk catalog.  It has been displayed on the front lawn of our building in Santa Ana, California ever since.  Super Chevy even dubbed it “Lawn Art” in an article they did on the car back in 2008.  (You can see everything about that build by clicking HERE).

Now you would think that a clean up of a 12 year old frame off restoration, acid dip down to metal..Morrison Chassis, nothing old, that was used as Lawn Art would go off without a hitch. Well, read on.  It was anything but….

Fast forward to 2019. Our Lawn Art is showing it’s age.  Paint needed attention, interior needed attention and all around the beautiful build we did 12 years ago is looking a little…well…dated. Not to mention the little quirks that show up when you just don’t drive a car at all…except to put it up on the lawn and put it away each day.

We were planning to start taking our ‘57 on the road but short trips around town were getting increasingly harder due to the cars reliability.  We had electrical problems, mechanical issues, leaks, a really annoying miss in the engine, all the things that make you not trust your ride. We realized it was time to freshen up the car, update it for 2019 and make it trustworthy again so we could take it anywhere without worrying.

We started by taking the car to our painter, Eddie Meek.  There were some spots where the paint was peeling and we wanted those fixed first.  Once Eddie was done we turned our attention to the upgrades and repairs to the rest of the car.

Orange County Hot Rods Logo

Enter Aaron Hamusek from Orange County Hot Rods. (Checkout their Shop Spotlight post by clicking HERE). Aaron offered to rework our old project car (he actually started building this car for us back in 2006) and bring her into the 2019’s. We could not think of a better person to do the job. Aaron really knows his way around a Tri-Five so we knew our car would be in good hands.

The transmission and frame, and everything around them, was filthy and coated with transmission fluid.

You can kinda tell that the trans was polished from the bell housing, but other than that…

Originally this rework was just supposed to be a clean up, fix the gremlins that make the car not reliable, add some really cool new items not available 12 years ago and replace some others to bring the car up to date.  Originally.

Once Aaron got hold of the car things changed drastically.  After assessing the problems (it was worse than we thought) and the condition of our “Lawn Art” the plan of action became…frame off restoration.  And that is just what he did.

And the body comes off the Morrison GT55 chassis.

The biggest reason for this decision was the leaking automatic transmission caused by some crushed lines due to improper installation.  As a result, there was tranny fluid all over our beautiful polished transmission and awesome Morrison GT55 Chassis.  We were replacing the exhaust and doing some updates on the parking brake system anyway so by taking the car off the frame that work, and the cleaning and the detailing would be easier..and come out better.

Looks like it is coming together nicely.

Once the car was off the frame the engine and transmission were removed. The transmission was cleaned (you couldn’t tell it was polished when it came out) and the engine was partially disassembled so it could be painted body color.  The rear end was removed, disassembled and reassembled with new gaskets and seals.  The Wilwood brakes that came with the chassis were replaced with updated 6-piston units. The new electric E-Stop parking brake system was installed and set up to work on the newly reworked rear end.

Nice and clean and beautiful. Aaron does excellent work. Check out that exhaust.

Once that was done, the new Vintage Air “Front Runner” pulley system was installed on the engine.  That accomplished, the engine and trans went back in the chassis.  Aaron then installed the headers and bent a custom exhaust system that fits like a glove. (Don’t ask us why the Flowmasters are painted black…we wondered the same thing).  The new exhaust system is awesome and the Flowmaster 50’s are not going to rattle the teeth of the people driving or riding in the car, which gets annoying after a couple hundred miles.

Yikes! What is with the green stuff?

When Aaron got to the body all that was supposed to happen was that a few items were to be replaced, just to freshen them up.  Side panel inserts, headlight bezels and taillight assemblies.   But when Aaron stripped off the first piece of side stainless he ran into another problem.  There was rust on the quarters and moss growing behind the stainless.  Not good.  Aaron cleaned everything up, fixed the rust, reworked the panels and repainted them.   By the time he was done you couldn’t tell there was ever a problem.  The body was then reinstalled on the Morrison GT55 chassis.

Our Lawn Art ‘s transformation into Red Sled was getting closer.

Maybe it’s us. But is underdash wiring supposed to look like this?

The body went back on the frame and attention was turned to the inside of the car.  But when we got under the dash to replace the Vintage Air unit and install the new Dakota Digital gauges and Custom Autosound US-740 stereo we ran into another problem.  The American Autowire Update Series under dash wiring was a mess.  Looked like a rats nest.  Aaron has installed hundreds of the AAW wiring kits so he knew just what to do to put things back in order.  Once that was done and the gauges and stereo were in the new under dash unit for the updated Vintage Air was installed.

This is going to look so nice in the car.

Upgrades to the appearance of the engine compartment and replacement of the outdated items on engine could now begin.  The old valve covers and air cleaner were replaced with a set of Billet Specialties “Streamline” valve covers and matching air cleaner painted Torch Red to match the exterior of the car.  The intake for the new Edelbrock Pro-Flo 4 injection was also painted body color to match the engine.

See the AC lines? Aaron has awesome plans to clean this area up.

Hardline routing complete. Awesome.

Aaron then tackled the rest of the under hood updates and reworks.  Aaron made all new HVAC lines, which now ran thru the firewall cowl area on the passenger side behind the hood hinge. (The new kits from Vintage Air not only eliminate the cables, using all electronic switches instead, but make for a much cleaner looking installation).  While he was at it Aaron also installed new re-routed lines for the Hydro-Boost brake booster and power steering, added new custom bent hard lines from the transmission to the new Derale transmission cooler, hard lines for the AC condenser and for the overflow can for the radiator.  He also installed the new Wilwood master cylinder on our Hydro-Boost unit and plumbed it with new lines.

New Wilwood Master. Re-worked upper hose, Billet Specialties Valve Covers and Air Cleaner. Black Vintage Air Front Runner System. Very nice.

When it came to hooking up the cooling system instead of the outdated corrugated chrome radiator hoses and heater hoses we used rubber hose with a metal tube connector, fabricated by Aaron, and the trick new Gates heat shrinkable hose clamps.  These clamps not only look nice…but they work much better than conventional screw type clamps.

Next, Aaron turned his attention to installing our beautiful TMI Interior.  The TMI system is basically a custom interior that you can buy complete and install yourself making waiting for the upholstery guy to get around to your car a thing of the past.  And they are Beautiful.  We opted for the whole package including the dash cover and one piece headliner, which we felt would really change the look of our car and finish off the transformation from Lawn Art to 2019 boulevard cruiser. Aaron said the kit is a snap to install and everything you need comes in the box. We think it looks awesome and it really makes the car. And the best part is we didn’t have to wait for an upholstery shop.  Aaron had it installed in a couple of days.








So that’s it. Lawn Art has been transformed into Red Sled…which we will be showing off at various shows around the US for the next several years.

Special thanks to Aaron at Orange County Hot Rods for the long hours, excellent work, expertise and advice, TMI Products for the awesome interior kit and for inadvertently getting this project started and Mike Martin for keeping it all coordinated and on track.

We also want to thank Dakota Digital (Retro Tech RTX Instruments), Vintage Air (Front Runner Pulley System), Edelbrock (Pro-Flo 4 Fuel Injection Kit), Eddie Motorsports (Billet Hood Hinges, Hood Braces and Hood Latch Support Kit), Custom Autosound (USA-740 Stereo), Notchead (Line Clamps), American Legend (Racer Wheels), McMahan Tires (Nitto NT555 G2 Tires), Wilwood (6-Piston Calipers and Master Cylinder) and Dapper Lighting (HDR Switchback Halo Headlights).

Without your help we could never have pulled this off.

Aaron explains what he did to the Danchuk ’57 to bring it back to life and update it for 2019!  Watch the video.

Check out the Shop Spotlight for Orange County Hotrods by clicking HERE.

See all the photos we took during the restoration by clicking HERE.

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