Cruising the boulevard doesn't have the same meaning it did back in the '50s. In the past, any vehicle would do just as long as it got you and your letterman's jacket to the burger joint to meet up with your friends. While that still may be true in some areas today, many cruise spots seem more like a car auction, where some onlookers can't help but pick out every scratch and misplaced bolt they find.
For Tri-Five Chevys, the bar has been set extremely high. These vehicles are not only prized classics, but also considered to be high-end street machines. To make an impression with the cruising crowd, any classic Tri-Five needs to have a flawless appearance or a killer engine combination to gain any notoriety from the crowd at all.
But this kind of pressure didn't deter Caden Khalili of Fullerton, California, from building his prized possession. In fact, he wasn't going to be satisfied with simply owning a pristine '57 Chevy that would end up as just another boring, restored museum piece. He wanted to keep the car's original appearance, but add some unique street rod style amenities that would cause a stir and be the center of attention no matter what cruise spot he pulled into.
Once Khalili had his vision, he put his plan into action. From the outside, the car appears to be as flawless as an original '57 Chevy Bel Air could hope to be. From the bright red hue to every piece of polished stainless, the car is highly detailed and finished to perfection. And for most casual bystanders the Intro wheels and disc brakes only give a hint as to what's really under this '57's classic exterior.
As you would imagine, the car's original small-block engine is long gone. While it would have been awesome to have a high-horsepower big-block with a monster carb under the hood, Khalili asked JKR to install a mild street-performance engine that wouldn't require a Pro Stock pit crew to maintain. JKR's choice was to build a 355 small-block Chevy, equipped with an Eagle crank and CP pistons. Featuring an 11:1 compression ratio, the engine cranks out a modest 365 horsepower with the help of an Edelbrock camshaft (234/244 duration at 0.050 with 0.488/0.510-inch lift) that gives the '57 a hefty sounding idle but maintains its manners on the street. The engine is fed from an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake and a Demon 750-cfm carburetor that keeps it all running smoothly and reliably. Billet Specialties pulleys and a serpentine belt system operate a polished billet Powermaster alternator and Vintage Air A/C unit. The aluminum crossflow radiator is mounted to a polished aluminum core support that also houses the A/C condenser. But you'd be hard-pressed to find too many A/C lines as they have been meticulously routed into the smoothed and painted fenders with various billet bulkhead fittings. These details, along with Lokar flexible engine and transmission oil dipsticks give the engine compartment an incredibly clean appearance. But to add to the engine's attitude, a set of Hooker headers and Gibson mufflers accentuate the sound of the exhaust pulses, making onlookers know that something serious is approaching.
To be the center of attention at local cruise nights, Khalili also knew that his car's interior had to go far beyond a tuck 'n' roll bench seat. Armando's Upholstery in Temecula, CA, stitched up a street rod style tan leather interior for the car, which includes a pair of bucket seats up front, with an integrated center console that extends from the car's dashboard and into the back seat. A custom headliner and door panels are also part of this car's unique style, integrating brushed billet door handles and window cranks. The Intro billet aluminum steering wheel is mounted on a polished ididit tilt steering column, which ties the car's dash to its interior color and style. With some custom knobs, the dash maintains its original styling but has been nicely upgraded with some ball-milled stainless accents that replace the factory pieces. Keeping the factory dash styling, Khalili upgraded the gauges with a set of red Classic Instrument gauges.
The Intro Hauler wheels used on the '57 are mounted on a set of Nitto NT555 tires, P225/40ZR18 up front and P295/35ZR20 at the rear, which fill out the wheelwells and provide for a tantalizing stance.
When it came to the suspension, he took the car over to JKR Customs in Orange, CA, where Rob Green installed a set of QA1 coilover shocks. JKR also installed 2-inch lowering springs and set the suspension so that it could maintain a low stance, yet deliver a smooth ride with performance handling characteristics.
The factory frame had long since been retired, deemed unusable, from the time his dad first purchased the car. Khalili opted to install a complete Art Morrison chassis that includes tubular control arms mounted to C6 Corvette spindles with late-model disc brakes on all four corners. The Morrison chassis also incorporates a triangulated four-bar rear suspension, which was adapted to a Chevy 10-bolt rear that's outfitted with a posi unit and 3.73:1 gears.