SALINA — Six years ago, Cary Wagner set about making his automotive dream come true. He had been fascinated by the one-year body 1958 Chevy for years and he finally found one for sale in Arkansas through an Internet search.
“When I was 16, I saw one of these in a hot rod magazine and I said, `I’m gonna have one of them someday,’” he recalled. But the car he was after wasn’t the newly introduced Impala hardtop. It was the base model Chevy sedan.
“I wanted a Delray because they are kind of odd. I don’t want to be like everybody else … so I picked one that’s hard to find parts for,” he said.
The major parts, like fenders and hoods, are pretty much interchangeable from the Bel Air through the Delray, he explained. But Delray-specific parts, like the rear quarter trim, are a different matter.
His car began life as a 2-door sedan equipped with a venerable 283 small block V-8 and a 3-speed manual transmission. It wasn’t in drivable condition, so once he got it home he set to work getting it running again. But he knew what he wanted the Delray to be, so he began a full-on rebuild, stripping the body down to bare metal and laying out plans to install a more potent power train.
“I had it all figured out just what it was going to cost me,” he said, shaking his head. In the long run, it cost just about twice what he had budgeted.
“I wanted a standard transmission, so I got a 4-speed Muncie,” he said. A stout Ford 9-inch rear end with 3.50 gears was also prepped for the car. Wagner wanted to stuff larger tires under the car, which meant he had to install custom Air Ride upper rear suspension arms to clear everything, since the ’58 Chevy was built using the X-frame chassis with coil springs all around.
He opted for disc brakes at all four corners, using Ford Explorer discs up front and 12-inch Classic Performance Products discs in back. The car was lowered two inches front and rear, with the chassis and all suspension parts powder coated before reassembly.
A set of Coys wheels bolted right up, massive 18x8-inch rims in back, fitted with 245 /40 /18 BF Goodrich TA tires, and 17x7-inch rims in front, wearing 225 /50 /17 BFG rubber.
For the power upgrade, Wagner settled on a Chevy Performance Fast Burn 385 crate motor. Equipped with a GM Hot Cam, a 670 cfm Holley Street Avenger carb and Doug’s headers, the 350 cubic inch engine now generates a hefty 430 horsepower.
Del’s Mufflers Unlimited in Salina took on the task of bending the 2 1/2 inch exhaust tubing to snake around the X-member chassis, using a set of Flowmaster Super 44 mufflers. “They’re fairly loud,” said Wagner, who said that was just what he was after.
A March serpentine belt system mounts the various accessory pieces under the hood, including a Classic Auto Air air conditioning compressor and power steering pump. A hefty Griffin aluminum radiator, with an assist from a Cooling Components fan, keeps underhood temperatures in check.
Although the Delray has considerably less chrome trim than an Impala, a Bel Air or even a Biscayne, getting all the trim up to better-than-showroom spec was still more expensive than Wagner had bargained for, especially since he shipped it to Paul’s Chrome Plating Inc. in Evans City, Pa., perhaps the best known chrome plater in the country. Included was a set of chrome Biscayne door surrounds.
“I decided to try something a little different there,” Wagner said.
He bought one replacement bumper and all of the smoke-tinted glass from Auto City Classic in Isanti, Minn, which specializes in ’58 Chevy parts.
Wagner had spotted a cowl induction hood on a ’55 Chevy in another magazine and decided it would look perfect on his ’58 Delray, so he bought one and had it installed.
Classics Auto Body in Salina handled the body and paint work on the Delray, saturating its smooth, flowing panels in gallons of Torch Red paint.
“It turns out there are like 15 shades of Torch Red,” Wagner said, but he is more than satisfied with his version, which has a slight orange tint to it.
“I think the color and the paint job are what makes the car so nice,” he said.
Inside, he chose to retain the stock Delray dashboard, which came complete with chrome air conditioner outlets. He added a big Auto Meter tachometer with shift light just behind a billet aluminum Zoops leather-wrapped steering wheel and a trio of Auto Meter under-dash gauges.
Auto Upholstery Unlimited, another Salina shop, stitched up the Ultraleather interior, including the split bench front seat, rear seat and door panels. A Hurst 4-speed shifter sprouts from the floor, but will eventually be swapped out. A 700R4 automatic overdrive transmission is planned, now that Cary Marks is in his 40s and a weekend drive around town with his wife involves strapping in a pair of car seats for their young children.
“I probably have nearly enough parts left over to build another one,” Wagner observed, noting that there were more than a few changes in plans as the Delray came together. Although the project lasted longer and cost more than he had anticipated, he says it was well worth undertaking. That teenager’s dream car is now his reality.