Sometimes the best car builds come from a collaborated effort. Case in point, long time buddies Brent VanDervort and Dick Lowder from Fatman Fabrications did an incredible job with their 1957 Chevy.
If the color scheme looks familiar, it’s reminiscent of legendary stock car racer Smokey Yunick. Dick went on to say, “Brent and I decided to build this car like we thought Smokey would build it today. We came up with the idea while working the Shades of The Past show in Tennessee.”
With a theme in mind, the build process began. At the time, Dick already had the ’57 body in pieces in the back of his shop, and Brent had the perfect frame ready for it. From there, Dick assembled the 383ci small-block powerplant, while Brent started working on the custom aluminum door panels and inner fender wells.
Now the true beauty of this Tri-Five is the simple fact that it was not to be a standard fair showpiece. No way. It was quite the opposite; this build would require more than that and would also become a rolling testament to the capabilities of Fatman Fabrications.
Dick told us, “We wanted to build a street car that you could drive anywhere, drive on the autocross, and compete with a new Camaro or Vette. I think we have done that and have had a lot of fun. We also wanted to use the same frame that every customer gets when he orders a Tri-Five frame from Fatman Fabrications, and I think Smokey would like this one.”
Since the completion of their build, both Brent and Dick have toured the car all over the country, been involved in many performance driving events, and looked good doing it. When this Tri-Five hits the autocross course, it’s amazing to see the number of people crowding up to barriers to check out this gem in action.
As for it being a driver; we’ve had the opportunity to cruise through the Southern heat with the air conditioning cranking, and let’s just say that it didn’t skip a beat. The four on the floor was a blast to row through, and truth be told – we didn’t want to bring it back.
Were you half expecting to see an LS powerplant in here? Instead, both Brent VanDervort and Dick Lowder stuck with a conventional 383ci small-block powerplant. We’re talking old school with a factory block, a 400ci crank, and a set of Chevy Pink Rods with Chevrolet Performance aluminum cylinder heads. Tickling the valves is a COMP camshaft while the rest of the induction features an Edelbrock Air-Gap manifold with a dual cold air setup. Expelling the fumes is a set of Sanderson headers that lead into a pair of Flowmaster Hushpower mufflers.
Behind the 383ci is a Top Loader four-speed transmission that mates through a Lakewood bell housing. Because this Tri-Five is meant to be driven, a Gear Vendors overdrive system was installed and can be activated by the quick push of a button. Their clutch of choice is a Hays diaphragm clutch package that transfers the power through the Universal Specialties driveshaft out of Charlotte, North Carolina.
The interior is all business, and the ButlerBuilt seats are surprisingly comfortable. The gauges were handled by Doc’s Kustom in Omega, Georgia, and the dash features a rare clock and radio delete plates. The tilt column is an ididit piece and the four-point harness is from Simpson Safety from Charlotte Speedway. Check this out; a visit to Hendrick Motorsports scored them an authentic steering wheel, a four panel mirror, and the shifter boot. Rounding out the interior, Lokar Performance Products were used for the necessary cables and pedals while Robert McCarter out of Harrisburg, North Carolina, completed the headliner and carpet. And for those warm days, a complete Vintage Air system keeps the temperatures at bay through the factory ’57 controls.
The body is essentially stock with the exception of the station wagon rear bumper to relocate the license plate off the deck. Aluminum head light covers and rear window retainer straps were added for the race car look. The shine is a PPG Black and Gold by Don Eddins’ crew at Fat Cat Customs in Albemarle, North Carolina. A local Danchuk dealer handled all the plating and supplied the rubber and trim pieces. Dickie Lowder went on to say, “We chose the number 13 from Smokey’s infamous ’66-67 Chevelle. Although we have seen photos of a Smokey car with the number 3; you just can’t have a black Chevy in the South with a 3 on the door everyone thinks of that other famous departed racer!”
Rollers & binders
The choice of wheels are rather unique. Since authentic NASCAR-style wheels are only available in 15s, they had Stockton Wheel create the 17x9-inch wheels shown here. Rubber of choice is a grippy set of NT05s with 235/40s up front and 275/40s out back. To slow the Tri-Five down from speed, a complete set of Wilwood Engineering brakes were enlisted with 13-inch rotors and six-piston calipers.
The foundation of this street machine is a complete Fatman Fabrications chassis, which features a full X-member and Fatman’s full surround X-member design for maximum torsional rigidity. The front suspension features Fatman’s Stage III setup with 600 pound double-adjustable QA1 coilover shocks, Fatman stainless steel control arms, a power rack, and a Hellwig Products’ sway bar that is built to their specs. Out back is 9-inch rearend built by John’s Industries out of Caspian, Michigan, that’s mounted to a Fatman parallel rear four bar and Z-bar, along with 375 pound rated QA1 coilover shocks and a custom spec’d Hellwig Products sway bar. CHP