WIt’s no stranger to showcasing cars with the front wheels lifted off the deck. Street Machine. What’s different about Adrian Kiwikiwi’s ’61 Chevrolet Bel Air Coupe is that instead of going off the line on the drag, it’s powered by air thanks to a complex hydraulic system. Adrian’s Chev is all about style – cruising low and slow and feeling great doing it.
As published in the December 2010 issue. Street Machine
“The car came from Queensland. It was baggy with big wheels and no chrome moldings. I bought it because I’ve always loved the ’61s and Bel Air coupes are rare,” he says.
The first step was to track down the missing molds in the States and replace the rims with something more traditional. A set of custom 13-inch strings from Los Angeles, the spiritual home of LowRiding.
“I used wheels at Paul’s Automotive through Paul and that really got me into the lowrider scene,” says Adrian. Paul is the Australian distributor for Blackmagic Hydraulics, and the car under his influence had a light ride with its tires completely clear of Mother Earth at the flick of a switch.
The boot-mounted hydraulic system uses a single-piston sidewinder pump to power the front cylinders, with a single check valve, Super Duty Adel II dump valve and custom stainless hardline return. Twin rear pumps are chromed straight blocks with half-inch check valves, delta dump, hex-style retarder and hardened return. Confused? It just means Adrian can change the Chev’s ride height in a real hurry.
“We used an eight-inch cylinder in the front and 10s in the rear. It’s a pretty basic system but it still bounces easily up front. We’ve bounced it up to knee height but it easily bounces off your hips. shall pass,” says Paul.
The rear cylinders mount to a custom lower rear arm via rear coil springs similar to the coil-over shock design. The front cylinders are mounted between the chassis and the lower control arm.
Paul had the wheels custom made in California. They are 13-inch spokes with black anodized lips on the dish, black spokes and chrome nipples. These days they can be ordered powder coated, anodized, engraved with patterns or painted in candy or metal flake.
Because Adrian’s Chev is a street car rather than a dedicated hopper and the system is only front-to-back rather than front-to-back, only limited chassis reinforcement was needed. This meant the guys were able to keep the car’s standard coil spring and shock absorber configuration with the hydraulics, meaning it rides extremely smoothly for something that packs a punch. [lowrider slang for a car fitted with hydraulics].
“It’s a good street setup that’s still very fast,” says Paul. “We ran a 3.5-ton coil in the front, while people are usually too stiff for hopping, so it runs pretty well. It’s still a good hopper though — one hit of the switch and the front is straight up. Comes.
The car also runs a full CPP braking system from the States, which includes master cylinder, booster and disc brakes front and rear. The purpose-built discs are compact to fit inside 13in wire wheels.
The finely detailed Crate 350 runs a polished Edelbrock inlet manifold, chromed Edelbrock carby and piles of bolt-on bling.
While he liked the shade of orange it already had, Adrien felt he needed a custom touch. Enter Mike at Hot Rod Company.
“It’s what you call a finished effect,” Mick says of the roof. “We used three different grades of metal flake, from 350 microns down to 150 microns, with candy apple on top. We first put down a thick metal flake, then covered the scallops on top.
The individual stripes are different grades of metal flake, and varying amounts of candy apple then give the effect of the paint being darker in the middle and lighter towards the outside. The more candy, the darker it gets.”
The rest of the car was later resprayed by Paul in its current shade of orange to finish it off.
Hydraulics controls are to the left of the steering wheel. Adrian used to keep them in the glove box for safety but now the pumps are wired so they only work when the shave is stationary.
Inside it’s largely standard issue Chevy, though the retina-searing exterior has been re-trimmed in a tasteful combination of orange and black vinyl. Dual bench seats mean the Shiv transports six in comfort, which is important considering the low-riding is all about traveling with your mates.
A billet tiller, modest Alpine stereo system, Autometer instruments and the all-important skill shifter are the only real deviations from the stock, unmistakably built-for-cruise cabin. In particular, it still remains the hook, which Adrian says is fine.
“A lot of people think that registering a left-hand drive car in Australia is a hassle and you have to run stickers and stuff, but as long as it’s over 30 years old, you’re sweet.”
He had just started hitting shows in the car when a chance encounter with a street machine photographer inspired him to take things to the next level.
“When I first built the car, the engine bay and boot were all black. When I met Chris at a rod show, he said that if the bay was finished, it might be in the mag. I’ve had street machines for years. Been a reader, and I was big into V8s and drag racing when I lived in Darwin, so it became a goal to get it up to a standard where it could go in the mag.”
In two weeks of around-the-clock work, the entire front end was stripped and the chassis and engine bay were painted, while the engine was completely finished. The same happened on the donkey, the entire hydraulic setup was stripped so the boat could be painted before the entire show was reassembled and plumbed into a purpose-built rack. A tough slog but worth the effort – and they had some fun. “We had a lot of nights and drank a lot of beer!”
He is very happy with the way the car turned out and credits Paul with much of the work as well as inspiration. Likewise, Paul is impressed with the result of the duo’s handiwork.
“Adrian’s car turned out great. It’s a really good driver that rides even smoother with airbags. It’s just a great combination; I’m very happy with it.”
But now the search for the next one is on.
“I’m looking for a ’57 or ’59 rig for my next project,” says Adrian. Looks like another Solomon Lowrider is ready to hit the mean streets of Melbourne.
Check out what’s in the boot:
- Batteries – There are eight in total; Count them if you want! More batteries mean more grunt to drive the pumps, which in turn can make the hydraulics work faster.
- Rear pumps – Chromed straight block pumps with half-inch check valves feed the left and right rear cylinders
- Front pump – This chromed single sided winder pump has a bunch of upgraded parts including a larger check valve. Just forward of the check valve, the system splits onto a chrome Y-piece and runs to the front two cylinders.
- Rick – All hydraulic hardware is mounted on a rack, built by Paul K.
1961 Chevrolet Bel Air Coupe
|the color:||Glasurit orange, metal flake roof, white scallops|
|Brand:||Shave Crate 350ci|
|include:||Polished Edelbrock manifold, chrome Edelbrock carb|
|Preferred Fuel:||The pump|
|Cooling:||Three row radiator, thermo fan|
|Emissions:||Block Hager Headers, Twin System|
|Difference:||Stock Chevy 12 bolt, 3.36:1 LSD center|
|Suspension and brakes|
|Specs:||Black Magic 3.5-Ton Coil (f), Black Magic Pre-Kits (r)|
|shocks:||Black Magic 8in Chrome Hydraulic Cylinder (f&r)|
|Modes:||Chromed custom rear lower arms|
|brake:||CPP Discs and Master Cylinder (f&r)|
|Seats:||Re-trimmed stock bench|
|Taylor:||Features of the billet|
|engrave:||Orange and black vinyl|
|Equipment:||Autometer Sport Comp gauges|
|Stereo:||Alpine Head Unit, R-Type 6x9s (f&r)|
|Wheels and tires|
|password:||Custom 13 inch wires (f&r)|
|Rubber:||Cooper 155/80/13 (f&r)|
Paul Kay at Paul Kay Automotive Repairs (0411 141 567)