There is something about shifting a three-speed column shifter and hearing the rap of pipes that attracts many to the classic Chevrolets from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. For those enthusiasts, there is simply no substitute for “three on the tree” and a split manifold. One of those enthusiasts is Susan Placencia, a Bomb rider who was just 22 years old when she first learned how to drive a Chevy Bomb. The car that became her classroom was a four-door 1954 Chevy 210, equipped with a manual transmission leaving Susan no choice but to take command of the “three on the tree.” Since the car was her daily driver, she got used to the format fairly quickly making it only a matter of time before Susan and her friends were cruising Whittier Boulevard in the ’54. While she loved the Bomb, Susan eventually moved on from the ’54 and bought a 1969 Chevy Impala that she decided to keep completely original. She drove the ’69 for a while but eventually it was wrecked by her sister and replaced with a 1977 Cutlass. Like a true Lowrider, Susan kept upgrading her cars over the years until she came upon her 1953 Chevy two door Bel Air which she calls, “Blue Diamond,” featured here.
A few years ago, Susan and her husband, Rocky, took a ride in his ’53 Chevy four-door to visit their friend Joe Epstein at his shop in Montebello, California. While they were at his shop, Susan looked around and saw the ’54 tucked away in a back room. Curious, she asked her husband to ask Joe what he was going to do with the Chevy. Joe offered to sell them the car and they agreed to buy on one condition – they wanted Joe to be the man to perform the restoration as at the time of purchase, the car was nothing more than a shell.
Joe agreed, and he started the restoration by making sure the mechanicals were sound and the wiring in the car was updated. The Blue Flame 235 was rebuilt, detailed, and mated to one of Joe’s signature split manifold dual exhaust systems. The three speed transmission was refurbished by Joe and he made sure the “three on the tree” was ready for Susan. She decided to stick with the stock suspension, so Joe again made sure everything was in working order. A set of 15″ powder coated Chevy NOS rims and original 1953 Chevy hubcaps with hand painted Bow Ties by Leonzo mounted on 15″ Firestones 3″ white wall tires finished off the rolling stock.
Joe had Ochoa’s Body and Paint in East Los Angeles make sure the body was prepped for paint. The body was kept original and it was sprayed with a two-tone, 2 stage Ivory and Teal paint job by Ochoa’s. Once the paint work was done, the car was returned back to Joe Epstein’s shop for reassembly when tragedy struck. Joe’s shop was damaged by a natural gas explosion, so he had to move the cars and his shop to another location. It was a setback for Joe and his customers including Susan, but thankfully, no one was hurt and Joe eventually found a new location for his shop.
Another tragedy struck during the restoration of Susan’s ’53. She was diagnosed with Cancer. As the car was being reassembled, Susan became resilient, and kept fighting the Cancer. Thankfully her doctors, the support of her family and her determination to get behind the wheel of her Chevy helped Susan pull through and win her fight against Cancer.
After the two setbacks, Susan and her husband, Rocky, were even more determined to get the Chevy assembled. Rocky and his friend, Pelon picked up all of the chrome pieces from Sergio and Metal Finishers in East Los Angeles and put them all back on the car, piece by piece. Martinez’s Upholstery in El Monte, California covered the interior in Ivory White leather and a multi-patterned Teal. Hector, out of West Covina, California installed the Pioneer sound system in the interior to provide Susan with the proper music while she is cruising.
To complete “Blue Diamond,” Susan added some rare accessories like the Driver Spotlight with Mirror and the Fog Lights that were installed by her and her husband, Rocky’s good friend, Tutu. Susan also installed a visor that was found by Danny Boy of Groupe Car Club. A set of original and very rare 1953 Chevy Window Rain Deflectors were found and also installed on the car while Susan finished off the accessories with a set of 1953 Cadillac headlight bezels. Susan’s plan to restore the ’53 while keeping it as original as possible was finally accomplished!
With Susan Cancer-free and the ’53 roadworthy, it was time to celebrate and drive the car as much as possible. During its outings, the car has taken its fair share of awards at shows like Best Bomb, Best Interior and Best Original at numerous car shows in the Southern California region. Susan and “Blue Diamond” are fixture at her club’s functions as well, like their annual New Year’s Day and Cinco de Mayo picnics.
As with all of the rides featured in the pages of Lowrider, Susan has list of people to thank for the outcome of her project. First and foremost, Susan sends her love and thanks to her husband, Rocky, who stood by her side during her battle with Cancer and put the rest of his time into the car. She also wants to thank Joe Epstein for all of his top notch and detail oriented work, as well as Danny Boy, Tutu, Leonzo and Pelon for their contributions to the restoration. Susan would also like to thank her children and grandchildren for their help and support. Now that Susan has her ’53 completed, she is enjoying it as much as possible and has no plans on selling it. This one is staying in her possession and she plans on driving it as long as she can. Despite a couple of setbacks, Susan turned this Chevy from a “diamond in the rough” to a “Blue Diamond.”
Owner: Susan Placencia
Nick Name: Blue Diamond
Vehicle: 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air 2 Door Hardtop
Club: Bomb Club Originals
City/State: West Covina, CA
Paint: Ivory Top with a Teal Body 2 Stage two tone Paint Job by Ochoa’s Body & Paint in East Los Angeles, CA
Interior: The Martinez brothers of Martinez’s Upholstery in El Monte, California covered the interior in Ivory White and Teal Leather throughout the interior.
Suspension: Suspension is stock Chevrolet.
Wheels: NOS Chevrolet 15″ powder coated wheels.
Tires: 15″ Firestone tires with 3″ wide white walls with original 1953 Chevy hubcaps.