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1950 Chevy Custom Panel Van - Engulfed

Joe's Rollin' Inferno

Bob Ryder
May 2, 2006
Photographers: Bob Ryder
Photo 2/21   |   1950 Chevrolet Custom Panel Van front Right View
When covering as many shows as we do during the season, we definitely see every kind of custom truck known to man. At least that's what we thought until we focused our eyes on Joe Frease's wild '50 Chevy Panel, which is definitely a unique ride. It's presented here in yellow skin and orange flames, shaved, frenched, slammed, and tuckin' 20s and 18s. These multi-task boxers were workhorses during their prime, haulin' everything from parts to produce. Many people ask, what is the difference between a "Panel" and a "Delivery"? A Panel is built on a truck frame with truck sheet metal and has barn doors in the rear. A Delivery is built on a car frame with car sheet metal and has a big single door that opens to the left.
Photo 3/21   |   1950 Chevrolet Custom Panel Van front Side View
Joe resides in Thousand Oaks, California, with his wife, Veronica, and their two kids, daughter Lacey and son Cody. Joe has been building custom rides and cruisin' since high school (in the mid '60s). For years Joe dreamed of someday owning and building a custom Chevy Panel. He had been stalking '50s Bow Tie Panels for a couple of years at shows, swap meets, truck traders, want ads...even just cruising neighborhoods. But the ones that had potential were out of his price range. One of Joe's close friends, Lew Coon, had known of Joe's passion and dream of someday purchasing and building a wild Panel.
While strollin' through a swap meet, Joe and Lew discovered a '50 Panel that was bone stock, in reasonable shape, and was a runner. Trying to negotiate a reasonable price both parties could agree upon, Lew knew it was too tall of a price for Joe to reach. But when a long friendship becomes enriched with respect, affection, and admiration, people do things for others just because. So Lew left the swap meet, ran to the bank, withdrew a fistful of cash, came back to the swap meet, and loaned Joe the money to buy the Panel. That was in 1983. Needless to say, Lew and Joe's relationship has become one for a lifetime. In fact, the relationship has become so deep that Lew and his wife, Aryles, are godparents to Joe and Veronica's children. Very cool!
Photo 4/21   |   1950 Chevrolet Custom Panel Van rear Side View
The first version of Joe's '50 Panel was a plain-Jane with a stock 235ci inline 6-cylinder souped up with 3 Weber carbs. The Panel was driven and cruised to shows in that configuration for a couple of years, until 1995. In '95 it was completely torn down to the frame and finished as we see it today. The Panel was delivered to Chris and the team at Totally Polished in Simi Valley, California. The first procedure was to box the entire length of the framerails and then C-notch the rear of the framerails to allow the suspension ample clearance when the Panel is layin' and tuckin'. A pair of Fat Man 2-inch dropped spindles, Gabriel shocks, and Shockwave pneumatic springs up front allow the suspension vertical freedom. A pair of Firestone 2800 pneumatic bags and Gabriel shocks in the rear provide vertical ride height with the flip of a switch. Three Air Ride Technologies Big Red valves are fed from two five-gallon air supply tanks. To flatten out the corners, a beefy 1-1/2-inch diameter front sway bar was installed. Stopping power is provided with Baer disc brakes and oversize rotors in the front and drums in the rear. This flamin' Panel rolls on Intro Segster 18x8-inch polished billet aluminum wheels wrapped with BFGoodrich g-Force 225/40R18 BFG rubber. The rear wheel and tire combo was stepped up with a pair of Intro Segster 20x10-inch polished billet aluminum spools encased in BFGoodrich g-Force 245/40R20 grabbers. A Jaz 22-gallon fuel tank was fitted between the framerails behind the rearend housing.
Photo 5/21   |   1950 Chevrolet Custom Panel Van engine View
Under the hood is a potent '02 Chevy 454ci cast-iron block with polished aluminum Edelbrock Performer cylinder heads and a Competition Cams full roller bumpstick. To increase longevity, the internal rotating components were balanced by Steve's Automotive in Thousand Oaks, California. A 750-cfm Holley carburetor sits atop an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold. To achieve a throaty rumble, a pair of Smitty Custom headers were bolted up to the exhaust ports and then bolted to a pair of Flowmaster 3-inch oval exhausts. The mild 454 powerplant produces 450 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. The Chevy Turbo 400 was stuffed with a TCS 2,200-rpm stall converter. The driveshaft was shortened and balanced by Inland Empire Driveline in Ontario, California. The Ford 9-inch rearend housing was narrowed and then equipped with a new set of axle bearings and a fresh set of Richmond ring 'n' pinion gears. A yellow-top Optima battery is located in the stock location under the floor.
Photo 6/21   |   1950 Chevrolet Custom Panel Van grille View
The five stock grille bars were refurbished and polished. Joe and Lew fabricated the sixth bar, which serves as the front bumper. A pair of frenched HID Headwinds headlights illuminate the darkness of night, and a frenched antenna receives needed radio waves. To achieve the smooth complexion, all the doors were shaved. The original hood seam that runs right down the center was also smoothed. The rear fenders feature a pair of frenched '59 Cadillac bullet taillights, separated by a smooth roll pan installed by Archie. A third brake light was frenched into the roof above the barn doors, and the license plate is also frenched into the driver-side rear barn door. The center windshield post was removed and then replaced with a V-butted windshield. The running boards are notched to exit the exhaust tips in front of the rear fenders. Ralph Grant helped Joe with the bodywork and fusing the front and rear fenders to the Panel body. The fenders were first carefully MIG-welded to the body, then ground and filled with a thin layer of filler and sanded smooth.
Photo 7/21   |   1950 Chevrolet Custom Panel Van half Front Right View
After the bodywork was completed it still didn't sit low enough for Joe, so he loaded up the Panel onto his trailer and delivered it once again to the crew at Totally Polished after they moved to Moorpark, California. They said they could get it grounded and ground it they did. To achieve the 5-inch body drop the rear frame was step-notched to lay the frame out. The Panel was then loaded onto a trailer and towed over the hill to Bakersfield, where Craig Fraser and Dion of Kal Koncepts applied the House of Kolor yellow blend with a Kandy accent. While attending a custom car show, Joe's son discovered a guy wearing a wild T-shirt featuring scratchy flames and sick skulls. He took a picture of it and then presented the pics to Craig for a possible concept idea for the Panel's paint scheme. The interior dash and firewall received a serious dose of Von Dutch-style pinstriping, applied by Craig at Kal Kustoms.
Photo 8/21   |   1950 Chevrolet Custom Panel Van open Rear View
After its first show (Goodguys at Del Mar, California, in '04) Joe decided the Panel needed more flames. The Panel was delivered to Craig at Kal Koncepts for additional flames, this time on the roof. To achieve this feat, Dion hung in a sling from the ceiling so he could lay out the flames, mask, and paint; then Craig pinstriped their outer perimeters. The paint scheme represents every member of the Frease family: yellow (Joe), orange flames (Cody), purple pinstripes (Lacey), and green (Veronica). A simple Pioneer MP3-P450 MP head unit delivers the vintage tunes through a pair of Zeus amps powering the mids and highs and two 12-inch subwoofers. The mids and separates are located in the rear, front side panels, and dash. The two 12-inch subwoofers are located under the rear custom Lincoln seat. For viewing entertainment, a TFT 6-inch LCD monitor was grafted into the dash; and a Pyle DVD 10-inch monitor is mounted on the rear deck behind the seat.
Photo 9/21   |   1950 Chevrolet Custom Panel Van front Interior View
Opening the driver door showcases the stitch-craft of Jerry Noone out of Lancaster, California. The interior carries on the exterior flamed theme in plush buff leather and beige Lexus wool carpet. The high-back 60/40 split seats were rescued from an '86 Lincoln Town Car. The dash has received insane custom pinstriping, done by the steady hand of Craig Fraser at Kal Koncepts. The original gauges have been replaced with a set of Auto Meter whiteface gauges encased in ball-milled billet aluminum clusters. The rear seat was extracted from a Lincoln and then modified to fit. Accent "Limo" mood lighting was installed above the rear-seat side panels. To achieve creature comfort, a Vintage Air front and rear system was installed. Needless to say, Joe's flamin' Panel draws attention when cruisin' by fire stations or blazin' past fire engines on the road. I wonder if he played with matches as a kid?


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