“When I was growing up, my Uncle Ray would let me sit behind the wheel of his ’51 fastback while he was working on it,” says Eli Balandran of Anaheim, California. “I always dreamed that one day I would have an old Chevy of my own. Then I saw this ’53 wagon for sale. It was like nothing I’d seen before and I knew that it had to be mine.”
So began Eli’s ’53 Chevy Handyman project. He actually drove it around in primer for a while before deciding with his wife, Rhonda, to completely restore it. Another uncle, Uncle Tony, helped out with rebuilding the engine and transmission and getting the vehicle in running order. While Orange County shops like Ron’s Autobody in Garden Grove and Advanced Carburetor in Santa Ana worked their magic with the body and mechanicals, Eli and Rhonda spent “countless weekends” at SoCal swap meets in Long Beach and Pomona trying to find all of those hard-to-find accessories.
Eli and Rhonda christened their ’53 “Family Dream” and began to display it with other Good Times Car Club (Orange County chapter) vehicles at various SoCal car shows. Eli claims seven First Place trophies and five Second Place trophies, with the highlight being the Second Place class award won at the 2006 Lowrider Magazine Super Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Being family oriented, Eli thanks his wife and their daughters Gabriella and Lilliana for their support in “pushing me to complete the dream when I wanted to give up.” He also credits his “Pops” for all of his knowledge and advice, as well as his Good Times C.C. familia.
Eli tells us that all of those trophies don’t mean that his Family Dream machine can’t be improved upon in the future. He plans to tear down the wagon, and add airbags and some chrome to the engine. It seems that the ’53 wagon has become a member of the family and will be around for the long haul.
Family DreamOwner: Eli and Rhonda Balandran
Vehicle: ’53 Chevrolet Handyman
City/State: Anaheim, California
Club: Good Times C.C.-Orange County
Engine/Drivetrain: Eli and his Uncle Tony rebuilt the original 235-c.i.d. engine and fitted the car with a 9-inch glass-pack exhaust system.
Body/Paint: After Eli added bumper guards and fender skirts, Ron at Ron’s Autobody in Garden Grove, California, applied Sherwin-Williams emerald green paint with refrigerator white for the top. Frye’s in Garden Grove added the pinstriping. Diego at Advanced Carburetor in Santa Ana, California, provided the chrome plating. Jac Bat Glass in Santa Ana cut new green windows.
Interior: West Coast Upholstery in Garden Grove created the pleated green velour interior in “OG fashion.” Like any older vehicle builder/restorer, Eli will tell you how much fun he had finding those vintage interior accessories, items like a tissue dispenser, flashlight, fan, compass, shaving kit, ice chest, picnic basket, Presalite cigarette lighter, “beehive” ashtrays and Smokey Bear “snuff-it.”
Sound System: Eli kept it simple, installing a Kenwood head unit and a few discreet speakers.
Tires: P175/75-R14 Hercules
Wheels: 14×7 reversed Roadster