Ray Strappazon's 1958 Chevrolet

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The car as it looked before Ray had Barris Kustoms restyle it. Photo from the Fuzzy Fuerholze collection
Photo from the Fuzzy Fuerholze collection
Photo from the Fuzzy Fuerholze collection
Photo from the Fuzzy Fuerholze collection
Photo from the Fuzzy Fuerholze collection
Photo from the Fuzzy Fuerholze collection
Photo from the Fuzzy Fuerholze collection
Photo from the Fuzzy Fuerholze collection
Photo from the Fuzzy Fuerholze collection
Photo from the Fuzzy Fuerholze collection
Photo from the Fuzzy Fuerholze collection
Ray getting best of show at the Illinois Valley Mis-Fires Rod & Custom Show in La Salle, Illinois for his Chevy. Photo from the Fuzzy Fuerholze collection

1958 Chevrolet Impala restyled by Barris Kustoms for Ray Strapazon of Joliet, Illinois. [2] Ray bought the car from his friend Bob Carey in 1959. Bob had his dad sell the car right after he went into the service. When the car came up for sale Ray cruised the streets of Joliet in a mildly customized 1954 Chevrolet Convertible.[3]


Ray's friend Jim Lucenti, who was stationed in the Marines in California came back to Illinois in a 1953 Chevrolet Convertible with 1954 Packard taillights and a 1954 Pontiac grille. The car was painted in a deep puple color, lowered and fit with side pipes. When Jim returned home the car became a huge hit with everyone. In early summer of 1961 Ray drove his Impala out to California in order to have Barris Kustoms restyle it. Ray left the car in Jim's care. Jim lived right down the street from the Barris Shop and stopped by the shop frequently in order to check out the progress. During his visits to the shop George let Jim work on the car. A picture of Jim working on the car appeared actually in Rod & Custom August 1961. At the Barris Shop, Ray's car was nosed and decked and the front end was molded in. The bumpers were altered and fit with bullets, while the top grille bar was removed for a cleaner appearance. The doors were shaved of their handles and push-button operated. The shaved trunk was also electrically operated. Hand made side scoops, lakes pipes, dual spotlights and fender skirts were added to the car, while the chrome strips placed on the front fenders and the rear fender scoops were removed. The back panel was filled and 1960 Chrysler taillights were installed inside hand formed taillight housings. Once the bodywork was done, the car was painted with 32 coats of Kandy Wild Cherry Lacquer. Ed Martinez made a white rolled and pleated Naugahyde interior for the car. He also did the trunk and wheel cover in white Naugahyde. Upon completion the newly restyled car was put in the back of a semi loaded on a rail car and shipped back to Joliet. The shipping was put underway by another friend of Ray who was an OTR driver. Once the car was delivered, Ray removed the 1960 Oldsmobile grille that Barris had installed, and designed his own out of chrome bullets and cabinet door handles instead. All chrome was done by Art Larson. Ray named his car the "Wild Cherry" after its paint job. At night while cruising the boulevards under the street lights, the color was dark purple, while in the sunlight it appeared as Wild Cherry.[3]


The Wild Cherry was powered by a 348 cubic in. engine fit with an Iskenderian full race cam and three 1958 Chevrolet truck carburetors with a progressive linkage. The engine was hooked to a 3 speed overdrive transmission and a 4:11 rear-end. A Thunderbird floor shifter was fit inside the car.[3]


Ray sold the Wild Cherry to a guy in Lockport in 1964. By then the paint had begun to crack because it had so many coats of lacquer and the cold Illinois weather took its toll.[3] Rumor has it that Ray's old Impala is still around, located somewhere in the Northern California.[4]


Magazine Features

Rod & Custom August 1961
Speed and Custom November 1962


References



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