It would be hard to build a custom vehicle for someone who has specific requests about what the car should look like, especially when they don't know the car is actually being built.
That's the case of Carrie Flanders' husband, Steve, who not only took extraordinary measures to purchase and oversee the construction of his wife's dream car, but to also successfully hide the fact it was being built for her over the last three years!
Steve, who owns and operates Brothers Truck Parts (an aftermarket supplier of '47-87 Chevy truck parts) in Corona, California, has spent many of his 48 years collecting and building all sorts of vehicles, and it's been a hobby ever since he graduated high school. As Steve's high school sweetheart, Carrie, has endured his love of cars for just as many years, and she used to joke about Steve's collection of up to 20 cars at a time with the fact she drove the family Suburban.
Over the years Steve has offered to buy some sort of fun car for Carrie to drive, but she never took him up on the offer, that is until one day when she says she found her "dream car." Carrie had captured a cell phone picture of a ratty old primered station wagon that had been driving around town and showed it to Steve, reminding him of his offer. Steve researched the car in the photo and found it was a 1957 Oldsmobile Fiesta wagon.
Out of the wagon business through most of the early '50s, Oldsmobile reintroduced the body style in 1957 with pillar and pillerless versions and, in limited production, a top-of-the-line Super 88 Fiesta hardtop wagon. Not exactly a run-of-the-mill vehicle or particularly easy to find.
Without telling his wife, Steve began the search for her car by checking out the Internet and, after losing out on a few because they sold before he could get to them, Steve eventually tracked down a likely candidate completely across the country in Connecticut.
It was a 74,000-mile, rust-free, original-paint car with all its trim intact and in good shape, so the deal was made and the wagon stealthily shipped to the truck parts store's warehouse. The original idea was to add a decent drivetrain and update the chassis so the wagon could compete with a contemporary vehicle, but the first shop Steve took the car to couldn't provide the quality of workmanship he was looking for, so he pulled the project.
Dave Welch, of A.R.T. Customs in Jurupa Valley, was already doing work for Steve on another vehicle in his shop and, after some conversation about how it should be done, Steve turned the wagon project over to Welch to get it finished. Welch, helped at his shop by Jason Dunaj, went through the car from top to bottom.
The chassis features airbags front and rear (with ShockWaves and an AccuAir system added up front) as well as a four-way disc brake setup. A custom four-link was also fab'd, and Welch designed the custom aluminum 28-gallon gas tank, which was made by No Limit Engineering. Circle Racing Wheels' billet smoothie 18x9.5 rears and 18x8 fronts are wrapped in Falken 285/45R18 and 245/50R18 tires (ground for a 1.75-inch whitewall) and topped with original '57 Olds poverty/dog dish hubcaps.
Rather than go with a vintage powertrain, Steve wanted a higher level of reliability for his wife's ride, so an '07 5.3 Chevy LS motor, backed to a 4L60E transmission, went into the engine compartment. Welch fab'd the mandrel-bent 2-1/4-inch exhaust for the wagon and used Flowmaster 70 Series mufflers. An aluminum radiator from Northern Radiator helps keep the engine running cool, and the motor was topped with a modified engine cover that features a gold paintjob (like the engine blocks of the original Olds Rocket engines) and a custom Rocket 88 emblem from South Bay Customs.
Welch and Dunaj also finished the car's bodywork before covering the car with House of Kolor products—from primer to clear. To get the right shade of magenta, 16 different blends were concocted before the final hue was decided upon. Once the car had its color, it was shipped to Frank's Hot Rod Upholstery in Temecula for its threads. Frank, with son Frankie, created the vintage look of the interior while updating certain areas to contemporary standards. A combination of magenta, gray, and white vinyl and cloth was used throughout, including the factory bench seat that is now equipped with six-way power actuators from an '07 Suburban.
Now when she drops the kids off at their school, people point and take pictures.Back at Steve's shop for the final six months of assembly, the team had to be careful when Carrie would come by. Luckily she never saw the project, partially because the guys took extra care to cover it or block it from view with stacked boxes when she would visit the facility!
Welch and Dunaj continued on finishing up the car with a Power Plus Series 20 wiring kit from American Autowire and installing a substantial stereo system. A Custom Autosound CAS-630 unit with Bluetooth interface was coupled to Alpine MRX-V70 five-channel amplifier and Alpine speakers, and the vintage Coleman ice chest resting in the back of the car actually houses a Kicker-based subwoofer system that helps crank out the sound. Also wired up is the Dakota Digital universal gauge kit that was modified to fit the original Olds gauge housing, and Vintage Air Gen IV A/C is delivered through four dash vents fitted to the dash by Welch. Charles Sihilling Metal Polishing in Santa Ana, California, took care of all the car's chrome and polished trim pieces.
When he first got the car, Steve thought a quick go-through would do the job but, as time and reality eventually checked in, the process took a bit longer. During that time Steve was trying to figure out on what occasion would it be right to surprise his wife with the gift.
As it turned out, the car was being finished in the summer of 2014, just in time for the couple's 22nd wedding anniversary. The pair had decided to renew their wedding vows and, after the evening's ceremony and festivities were over, Steve handed over the claim ticket to the valet to retrieve the family car.
Unbeknownst to Carrie, arrangements had already been made to swap the family car for the wagon, and she was genuinely floored when it rolled up to the curb. Surprised to say the least, she first exclaimed "That's a Fiesta!" when she saw the car rolling down the street. But then she noticed their valet driving it, and it started to sink in, but it didn't really hit her until they had started driving back home on how her husband had managed to pull off such an elaborate undertaking.
Now when she drops the kids off at their school, people point and take pictures, something Carrie is slowly getting used to. Plus she has also found a lot of women who see her driving it give her a "thumbs up," something that didn't happen when she drove her Suburban. Now when she gets behind the wheel, she says "Every day is a fun day when I get to drive it."
Article courtesy of Hot Rod Network Street Rodder, written by Eric Geisert.