Bill Shelley's 1957 Chevrolet

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An early version of Bill's Corvette as it appeared after "Tommy the Greek" had pinstriped it. "I had the taillights, headlights and the side panel striped. My Corvette was white with red inserts and interior. Tommy striped my headlights and taillights in red with black trim. He striped the side panel in black with white trim to look like a shadow." Photo courtesy of Mike Shelley.
A photo of Bill's Corvette at the 1960 National Roadster Show. Photo courtesy of Mike Shelley.
Photo courtesy of Mike Shelley.
Two photos of Bill's Corvette from the Oakland Roadster Show were published in Trend Book 205 Restyle Your Car in 1961. In the story, Bill's name was wrongfully spelled "Bill Shelby."
Photo courtesy of Trend Books.
Photo courtesy of Trend Books.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette owned by Bill Shelley of Oakland, California. In 2017 Bill told Kustomrama that he purchased the car with less than 3000 miles on it; "I paid $3000.00 back in 1957 when I was 20 years old and bought it with money I received from selling my small herd of cows. A new Vet would be $3500.00 which was a lot of money back then."[1]


Striped by "Tommy the Greek"

Before Bill started to customize his Corvette, he had "Tommy the Greek" stripe the car. "I had the taillights, headlights and the side panel striped. My Corvette was white with red inserts and interior. Tommy striped my headlights and taillights in red with black trim. He striped the side panel in black with white trim to look like a shadow. At that time there were not many people that detailed cars. Being young and curious I would watch Tommy stripe the car. Tommy knew that I was concerned about my Corvette and would start striping and would tip the can of paint enough so it would spill onto my car. This would get me concerned because my car was white and he spilled red paint on it. Tommy was a jokester with us young kids and would do this or fall on the paint he just striped with to smear it."


Designed by Bill

Bill believes that he and his buddy, Bob McNulty, started building the car around 1959 to 1960. "Earlier I designed what I wanted my car to look like and showed it to Bob. At that time I did not have the money to start the rebuilding and found out later that Bob stole my design and used it on another Corvette owner's cars. Therefore, I redesigned my Corvette BUT did not show the new design to Bob until I had the money to begin construction."[1]


Restyled by Bill and Built by Bob McNulty

During the building of the Corvette, Bill and Bob had the body completed but not painted. "One weekend Bob said he had to go to Los Angeles and would not be working on my Corvette. Quite a while after that and after my car had been in the Oakland Roadster Show, I took my custom Corvette to San Diego and stopped at several drive-in's on my way down. At one of these drive-in's a guy came up to me and said the car looks better with the new paint. I asked him how he knew what my car looked like since this was the first time I took it out for a long trip. He took me to his home and showed me pictures of my Corvette with only primer on it. I later found out that Bob took my Corvette for his weekend trip because his Corvette (The Shark), was not running. Don't get me wrong I was a friend of Bob's but was ticked off that he took my car without my permission."[1]


"Bali Hi"

The front end on Bill's Corvette was restyled by removing the bumpers. The fenders were modifyed to house canted quad headlights from an Edsel, before Bill and Bob extended the front several inches into a neat V. The grille opening was reshaped and dressed up with a grille that was handmade with solid rod tubing. The bumpers were also removed in the rear of the car, along with ornaments, the exhaust tips and taillights. Fins were added to the rear quarter panels, before Bill and Bob installed boomerang Chrysler taillights. "Bob was a good looking man and drew girls like a magnetic. He worked with Fiberglas so much that his hair was always full of Fiberglas dust. He lived in his parent's home in Castro Valley with his sister. Times when we would be working late on my Corvette, and I lived in Oakland, I would stay at their home. Bob painted my Corvette and put the last coat on the night we were to enter my car in the show. We had to be careful and not touch the paint because it would crack because it was thick. At that time Metalflake was not around and Bob went out and purchased roofing paper mica and used that for the glitter. He modified the tip on his spray gun to be able to spray the mica. After every three coats of mica we would sand the car then put on more mica. There are 53 coats of clear paint on top of the mica to give it it's depth, we sanded the clear paint after every sixth coat to get rid of the orange peel from the spray gun. (On Bob's Shark, he purchased cases of pearl nail polish and use that to paint his Corvette. Bob installed a phone and record player in his Shark. They did not work – they were just for show.") After painting Bill's car, Bob dressed it up with Purple scallops, before Bill installed chromed and reversed wheels. "I named my custom "Bali Hi.""[1]


Let's Race

"At the drive-in's Bob and I would always be challenged to see which car was faster. Bob's Shark only had a 6 cylinder engine and I had the faster 8 cylinder 283 cu. engine. One of the comments to us was "ALL SHOW AND NO GO". So we would not get a ticket we would race on the Castro Valley Freeway, the two cars racing would be up front while all the other cars would block the freeway so we could race. After the race we all would get off the freeway and head to Bob's home in the Castro Valley hills and pull my car into his garage. We were lucky back then because the police could not catch us and they could not go out of their area. Also no radar!"[1]


Trouble with the Law

"I was part of a group of Corvette owner's who would take our cars out for long trips. We would get stopped by the cops asking for our parade permit because they said anything over three cars needed a permit. The police used to give us a bad time when we were cruising, by always checking our cars and stating that the cars were not up to code since we changed the front and rear lights, rerouted the tail pipe or some other reason. I used to get stopped because I did not have my hood on the car and got several ticketd because the police said the chrome under the hood was glaring to other drivers. After getting several tickets on my car I decided to take the last ticket to court. The judge told me that the next time I receive a ticket to get as much information on the officer that I can and bring the ticket and information to his office. When I asked the officers for their badge number and name and told them what I was going to do with this information they did not issue me a ticket. This seemed to stop all the harassments I had with the police."[1]


Parked

Bill parked the Corvette in his garage in 1964 and has not driven it since "With getting married and raising children time gets away from us. Now that I am 80 years old and have to put my money elsewhere, the Corvette sits and nobody knows about it. I keep cars a long time, I still have my 1970 Chevrolet pickup that I continue to drive, also have my 1946 cattle truck that I used to load with hay back in 1950."[1]


Magazine Features and Appearances

Trend Book 205 Restyle Your Car

References





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