Dave Jenkins' 1957 Chevrolet

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December 6, 1956, Dave Jenkins finally took delivery of the car of his dream; a brand new 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air. Dave already had a lot of plans for the car when he got it, and the first thing he wanted to do was to install a set of genuine Jimmy Jones Bubble Skirts. The skirts cost $120.00. “At the time my job paid $46.50 per week so as you can see you really had to want them BAD,” Dave told Sondre Kvipt in 2014. Photo from The Dave Jenkins Photo Collection.
Dave's Chevrolet as it appeared in 1958. This version was nosed, decked, shaved for door handles, and featured dual lake pipes, Oldsmobile Fiesta hubcaps, Jimmy Jones Bubble Skirts and silver scallops by Paul Hatton. The scallops were applied over the stock factory paint. Photo by Dave Jenkins.
A photo of Dave with his Chevy taken in 1958. The first pair of skirts that Dave made for the Chevy was stolen at a drag strip, so he returned to Inkster for another pair. The bottom edge of the skirt was called Rainbow. “The “Rainbow” was charged for by the inch,” Dave told Sondre. “The lower it went down, the more it cost. Jimmy called the bow “Bubble” in the skirts by the amount that the buyer wanted the skirts to bow out from the body. That was also a cost consideration. When you went to Jimmy, he would ask "How much rainbow and how much bubble?” Then he went from there. About two weeks later you would go back, and the skirts would be in gray primer ready for paint. No body work necessary. Jimmy would then fit them to the car, and you would be on your way. A very proud moment indeed,” Dave remembered. By now he has also installed dual spotlights and Dodge Lancer hubcaps with extra bars added. Photo from The Dave Jenkins Photo Collection.
Dave's Chevrolet as it looked in 1959. Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Photo by Dave Jenkins.
This photo of Dave's Chevrolet was published in Customs Illustrated March 1961, in a story titled "What are the best cars to customize?". The caption wrongfully lists Dave's car as a 1955 Chevrolet. Photo courtesy of Customs Illustrated.
Dave's Chevrolet with freshly molded-in lake pipes and a sunken antenna in 1961. Photo by Dave Jenkins.
An interior shot from 1961. This is the stock interior with the cloth removed and with black panels put in their place. Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Another version of Dave's 57 rolling on chromed and reversed wheels from Appliance Plating. The wheels costed about $25 bucks each. By now Dave has also installed chromed bullets on the bumper and trim on the lake pipes. The trim pieces were made from polished aluminum window channels that were rounded, buffed and pop riveted. Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Dave's Chevy with a Candy Red Alexander Brothers paint job in 1962. Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Photo by Dave Jenkins.
The Candy Red version of the car featured a brand new custom made interior by legendary Detroit upholsterer Ray Kulakowski. Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Dave in the trunk of his Chevy. Photo provided by Dave Jenkins.
The car as it looked in 1976. After removing the molded pipes Dave wasn't able to match the original paint, so he had Paul Shedlick paint flames over the candy red paint. Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Dave's Chevrolet as it sat in 1988, just before it was completely re-done. Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Don Garlits behind the wheel of the Chevy. Photo by Dave Jenkins.
The car as it appeared in 2011. Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Photo by Dave Jenkins.
Photo by Dave Jenkins.
September 19th, 2019 the Chevrolet was sold by Braun & Helmer Auction Service. The auction was held at 4533 Carpenter Rd in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and the iconic custom changed hands for $87,000 plus a 10% buyers premium.
Dave's Chevrolet as it sat when it was advertised for sale in 2019. Photo courtesy of Braun & Helmer Auction Service.
An original Alexander Brothers receipt that was sold with the car in 2019. The car came with plenty of old photos and memorabilia. Photo courtesy of Braun & Helmer Auction Service.


1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air owned by Ann Arbor Timing Association member Dave Jenkins of Ypsilanti, Michigan. October 19, 1956 Dave drove his mildly customized 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air 2 door post down to the local Chevrolet dealer to check out the long awaited showing of the brand new 1957 Chevrolet. Dave took one look and fell in love with the new Chevy. This was a Friday, and it took him all weekend to convince his dad about buying the car. Monday morning Dave returned to the dealer, and a car was ordered. December 6, 1956 Dave's dream car arrived. It was black with a black and silver interior, complete with a 270 HP engine with dual quads. His dad didn't know that part though.


Jimmy Jones Bubble Skirts

Dave already had a lot of plans for the car when he got it, and the first thing he did was to install a set of genuine Jimmy Jones Bubble Skirts. "When Jimmy made his skirts, he rolled the metal over on three sides, and left the bottom folded in," Dave told Kustomrama in 2014. "The center brace featured a swing arm which held them against the body. They had a bracket on the bottom edge front and rear, and these did vary with different applications. The bottom, which Jimmy called the "Rainbow," was charged for by the inch. The lower it went down the more it cost. Seem to remember it went like 4-5-6- inches. He called the bow “Bubble” in the skirts by the amount that the buyer wanted the skirts to bow out from the body. That was also a cost consideration. When you went to Jimmy he would ask "How much rainbow and how much bubble?” Then he went from there. About 2 weeks later you would go back and the skirts would be in gray primer ready for paint. No body work necessary. Jimmy would then fit them to the car and you would be on your way. A very proud moment indeed. When I bought mine on January 22,1957 they cost $120.00 and at the time my job paid $46.50 per week so as you can see you really had to want them BAD!"[1] Jimmy knew his trade, and famed car designer Harry Bentley Bradley has actually said that Dave's Chevrolet has "the best bubble skirts in America."


Alexander Bros and Paul Hatton

A local body man at the Buick dealer convinced Dave that a 1957 Buick grille would be a great enhancement to his car, so in January of 1958 a 1957 Buick grille was installed along with dual lake pipes and Oldsmobile Fiesta hubcaps. At the same time, the gun sights on the hood were removed, and the car was nosed, decked and shaved for door handles. Along the way, Dave met Paul Hatton, a guy known for crazy paint, pinstriping, flames and the like. Paul scalloped the factory black paint with an overlay of silver with white striping. After receiving the Hatton-touch, Dave continued to tweak the design of his car by swapping the Fiesta hubcaps for a set of Dodge Lancer hubcaps and by installing dual dummy spotlights. Paul was friends with Mike and Larry Alexander of the Alexander Brothers, and as Dave was not totally satisfied with the first scallop job, he had Mike and Larry redo the bodywork on the hood, deck and door handles. The car was repainted in black lacquer, and Paul Hatton applied another scallop design in silver. Later on, Dave went back to the Alexander Brothers, and had them mold in the lake pipes and add dual sunken antenna, two Alexander Brothers signature items at the time. Inside, the interior was modified by replacing the stock cloth with black pleats. The custom hubcaps were also scrapped after a while, and they were replaced by more modern chromed and reversed wheels from Appliance Plating. Dave remembers that the wheels costed $25 bucks each. The lake pipes were also dressed up by installing trim made from polished aluminum window channels that were rounded, buffed and pop riveted. In September 1961 Dave pulled out the stock 283 engine and installed a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette 293 engine with three deuces. The old engine was installed in Dick Bailey's Model T hot rod.[1]


Kandy Apple Paint

After a while California did it, they invented Kandy Apple paint. Dave knew he was in trouble, and he just had to have a candy paint job on his Chevy. He went back to the Alexander Brothers, and Mike and Larry shot a lot of panels till they came up with just what Dave wanted. The car was repainted in 1962. It was gorgeous, and everyone was really crazy about the color. At the time, Ray Kulakowski had an area at the Alexander Brothers shop where he was doing interiors, so Dave had Ray stitch him a white leather interior.[1]


The Restoration

From 1957 until 1962 the Chevrolet was Dave’s only means of transportation.[2] From 1962 to 1990, the car was red, and went thru a few different changes, raked, flamed, traction bars and different wheels and tires were tried. In 1990, the 32 years old candy paint was falling off on the garage floor, and Dave decided it was about time to bring it back to its 1959 version. Paul Hatton's son, Brian Hatton, accepted the job of completely redoing the car. He spent a year lining everything up, preparing it for another black paint job. Again, after all the years, Paul Hatton scalloped the car in silver with white striping again. In 2012 Dave was a member of Midwest Customs and Kustoms of America. He still owned the car, and he still enjoyed it every time he took it out for a spin or cruise.[1]


In the Family

After a long and painful battle with cancer, Dave passed away at home in Ypsilanti, Michigan September 26, 2016, 79 years old. He still owned the Chevrolet at the time. In 2017 Dave's granddaughter Clara told Kustomrama that Dave's custom is staying within the family.[3]


The Dave Jenkins Estate Sale

In 2019 Dave's widow Linda decided that time had come to part ways with the Chevy. September 19th, 2019 the Chevrolet was sold by Braun & Helmer Auction Service. The auction was held at 4533 Carpenter Rd in Ypsilanti, Michigan.[4] The bidding started at $50,000 and the iconic custom changed hands for $87,000 plus a 10% buyers premium. The new owner was Kenney Farmer of Milan, Michigan. After the auction, Farmer told Don Sherman that he didn't intend to enter the car in shows or even drive it much, "I just want to see it parked in my garage."[5]


Magazine Features

Rodding and re-styling May 1959
Custom Rodder March 1960
Customs Illustrated March 1961
Custom Rodder May 1997
Kustoms Illustrated 18
Hometown Hot Rod Magazine Feb/May 2009
Hot Rod Deluxe March 2012


References



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