Some of the players in this...
Some of the players in this real-life drama are (front to back) Mikes son Teddy, Karen Johnson, Karens new husband Don Hoevel, Terry Neilsen, and Tony Noto.
Mike was all about horsepower,...
Mike was all about horsepower, so its no surprise that a 495hp 420ci small-block resides under the hood of this thumper 57.
It doesnt get any more...
It doesnt get any more classic than a 57 with fat tires and Cragar S/S wheels. Add the PPG Victory Red paint and youre there.
Mikes son Teddy occupies...
Mikes son Teddy occupies his rightful place next to his dads 57 while friend Terry Neilsen stands next to his black 57 that was a previous Johnson-built streeter.
Larry Ellis performed the...
Larry Ellis performed the interior magic with help from Mercedes leather and a Grant Banjo style steering wheel. For the little details, Karen went to American Auto to complete the project.
Sometimes a car feature comes along that becomes very personal. If you lived the car culture that was the San Fernando Valley just north of Los Angeles anytime after the early 70s, you might well have met Mike Johnson.
He prowled the streets of the valley with an amazing string of bad-fast cars. In fact, he met his wife Karen at Irwindale Raceway (near Los Angeles) one night over 25 years ago when he blew the doors off her 64 Chevelle.
Mike was a giant of a man, and that made him intimidating to some. He proudly placed a sign on his toolbox that read Large Primates that told you everything you needed to know about him. His tough side could be scary, but the good news was that you always knew exactly where you stood with him. If you were lucky enough to count yourself among his friends, you discovered he had a heart that rivaled his size. Mike worked for both Car Craft and Hot Rod magazines as a project manager for several years, working with his good friends Leonard Emanuelson and Jim McGowan.
The last car in Mikes string of performers was a 57 210 that he intended as a first car for his son Teddy. He bought the car in 1994 and began the familiar restoration process by completely disassembling the car and rebuilding from the frame up. This is where Warren Boughn of Precision Street Rods in Northridge, California, helped with chassis work, welding, and some fabrication. Along the way, Mike bolted the completed small-block to the rolling chassis and trucked it and the body up to his friend Rick Leonard of Special Interest Auto in Grants Pass, Oregon, for the bodywork and paint. Unfortunately, this was a project Mike would never finish. Midway through the construction phase, Mike suffered a stroke that eventually took his life. Not long after his death, Karen decided that the family should complete the car that Mike had begun.
While Karen has never been afraid to open up a toolbox and spin a few wrenches, she knew there were plenty of Mikes friends she could call on for help. Rick Leonard was already well into work on the perfect canvas on which to lay the paint. After just the right amount of metal massaging, Rick laid on a coat of PPG Victory Red while Mikes friends in California went to work on the details.
Mike was working for Performance Automotive Warehouse (PAW) when he died, and all of the engine parts for the 420ci small-block that Mike assembled came through PAW. In his typical fashion, this was no slouch small-block, employing a 0.030-over 400 block, a stroker Cola crank and Crower rods to breathe through Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads, a hydraulic roller Comp Cams valvetrain, and a 750-cfm Holley carb. Combined with a bitchin Borla stainless steel exhaust, the parts combined to bend the needle on Ken Duttweilers dyno to the tune of 495 hp at 5,600 and 523 lb-ft of torque at 4,300! Mikes plan was to mate this monster to a B&M TH700-R4 overdrive twisting a Currie 9-inch with 4.10 gears. Wrap it all up with 16-inch Cragar S/S wheels and BFG rubber, and the 57 had all the right parts.
A few of Mikes closest friends got together to ensure that all the pieces fell into place. Terry Neilson, Tony Noto, and others kept the project on track and made sure that the 57 was properly Johnsonized. It is a complex effort to try to name everyone who contributed, but Karen wanted all of the people who helped with the 57 to know that their efforts are deeply appreciated. A wise man once said that the true measure of respect for a man is tallied in the number of his friends. If so, then this is far more than just a 57 Chevy. It is a Victory Red monument to the impact that Mike Johnson had on the people he called friends.