Growing up in the heart of Compton during the ’70s and ’80s was not an easy task. For many, it served as an environment fraught with guns, drugs, and gang violence. Fortunately for Dee, the city immortalized by gritty hip-hop records during rap’s golden age provided much more than that. The notorious city served as a backdrop for Dee’s introduction into the positive world of the Lowrider Movement. Surrounded by lowriders from an early age, Dee recalls a particularly influential ’57 ragtop that belonged to Droopy from the storied MafiaIVLife Car Club. He remembers the car being a fern green color with subtle tape shades, a bit different from the popular colors at the time. Dee says the car was well-known from its numerous appearances on the streets of the neighborhood as well as the many nights it spent on the legendary Crenshaw Blvd. This notable ’57 even appeared on the cover of rapper Mack 10’s album “Based on a True Story.”
The car made quite an impression on Dee; so much that he knew one day he would have to have a ’57 Bel-Air Convertible to call his own. Dee finally found the ’57 he had longed for as a youth, in fact, he found the ’57 he once dreamed about in those teenage years. It was the same car he grew up idolizing. The MafiaIVLife was for sale, presenting an excited Dee with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of literally buying his childhood dream car. He immediately seized the moment and purchased the Bel-Air, intending to overhaul it, and make it his own.
After acquiring the convertible, it was taken to the legendary John Kennedy of Bowtie Connection, based out of Torrance, California to begin its transformation. Dee hired John to oversee the entire project, as the car needed a complete major makeover. In order to start a new chapter in the car’s life and give the car its own identity, Dee knew it was critical to give the exterior an entirely new paint job. The prep work was done by Fuzzy, who made sure that the car became a bare shell of its former self. Once the car was ready for its next phase, John shipped the car to Holix Auto Body of Harbor City. After it arrived there, Kasa and Nino took on the task of preparing the classic winged tri-five. The ’57 was then given brand new Cars Inc. floors, installed to replace the factory ones that were crudely cut out to allow the old hydraulics to work. Now that all of the metalwork was done on the Bel-Air, it was sent off to the painter, so he could work his magic. The paint crew started off by spraying the Chevy with a two-stage PPG Mercedes silver that was spread throughout the entire car. This included the engine, the engine compartment, even the trunk of the ragtop. The car was then buffed and shipped back to the Bowtie Connection, where it was reassembled.
While the car was stripped and broken down, John made a great call to take advantage of the situation and sent out all of the trim to Sergio of Metal Finishes of Los Angeles, so that he could plate everything. John’s crew then began the task of bolting on the refurbished trim, including the spotlight mirrors, factory power windows and vent windows of the ’57. The body received a new frame with modern suspension, which included a 605 gearbox and CPP tubular arms, an ABS electric brake booster, as well as a Ford 9-inch rear end to handle the torque from the LS1.
Dee wanted this car to be a driver, so the crew made sure to add some modern amenities to ensure that it would be ready for the boulevard, or the highway. A new Street and Performance LS1 crate engine was used, and dressed up with a polished intake, smoothed out coil covers, and a Street and Performance serpentine system. In order to keep the car’s temperature down, Fuzzy bolted up a Matson aluminum radiator. A set of 50 series Flowmaster mufflers was installed to allow the Bel-Air to breathe properly. The LS1 engine and 4L60E transmission was tuned for heavy usage to ensure that the car would always be ready to roll on its 13×7 Zeniths, or its original factory wheels, depending on Dee’s seasonal mood.
The exterior of the convertible came together quickly, thanks to Dee’s clear vision for the car, as well as the crew’s availability schedule. The same would hold true for the interior part of the build, which was now underway thanks to master stitch man Freddy, over at John’s Exports. Freddy wrapped the power bench seat and rear convertible seat in a CARS, Inc. interior kit, which perfectly complemented the exterior of the Chevy. The interior was dressed up with Dakota Digital gauges, as well as a chrome Ididit tilt column. Freddy also installed the custom stay-fast charcoal grey convertible top. The Bel-Air received a booming sound system, hooked up courtesy of Gordo at 562 Kustoms of Paramount, California. Gordo installed an Alpine head unit with Ipod compatibility, powered by JL Audio amplifiers, and wired up to the four JL Audio woofers and midrange speakers which blast out Dee’s favorite music.
This immaculate ’57 Bel-Air ragtop has now come full circle, entering its second life thanks to the efforts of Dee and his crew. Its rebirth will no doubt captivate another young man in the same way it did Dee, when he first saw Droopy cruising in it through his own Compton neighborhood so many years ago. A few people get to build the car of their dreams, while even fewer get to build the actual car from their dreams. Dee appreciates his ’57 that much more, as he has taken his childhood inspiration and literally made it his own. This “Silver Bullet” will undoubtedly be the pride of Compton, and a piece of Lowrider history, as it enters its second tour of duty on the streets of Southern California.
The Silver Bullet
Owner: Dee of Compton
Vehicle: ’57 Chevrolet Bel-Air convertible
City/State: Compton, California
Club: No Affiliation
Engine: Street and Performance LS1 crate engine, 4l60E transmission, Street and Performance serpentine system, coil covers and a polished intake.
Paint: Two stage PPG Mercedes silver.
Sound System: Alpine double din head unit with video and iPod compatibility, JL Audio amplifiers, and four JL Audio woofers and midrange speakers
Tires: P155/80-R13 Champion radials
Wheels: 13×7 chrome Zenith wire wheels