Years in the car world will allow you to see some strange, uniquely beautiful and some over the top creations, but when it comes to the underlying cause of all of these things, passion is the key. While many enthusiasts dote on the classic Chevys, hot rods and Fords, others choose to branch out on their own, exploring territory not as common as the rest. Such is the case with this unique car we spotted at the 2013 Temecula Rod Run.
Now, you may be thinking that this is just a classic Tri-Five with a killer paint job, but you’d be missing a major factor in this car’s identity. That’s because what lies under the hood is not a bowtie powerplant. Rather, it’s of a competitive blue oval-wielding brand. And before you start spouting about blasphemy, this car really deserves a second (or third) look.
Having seen this 1957 “Fordolet” at the Temecula Rod Run, we couldn’t help but want to know more about its creative process.
So we went straight to the source to speak with the man with the brains and creative edge behind this magnificent ride, Mr. Joe Abeyta. And lucky for us, he was more than willing to share the full story behind the build with us.
Just like many gearheads, Abeyta found his passion for cars at a young age. By age 13, he was already interested in modifying and restoring vehicles of his own. With very few tools, Abeyta came up with projects to keep himself busy, using pieces from wrecked cars and putting them together on his first car, a ‘47 Ford, to create something new and different. Abeyta even claims to have come up with the idea of Ram Air long before it was actually put on production cars.
“I’m more into modifications than stock restorations,” Abeyta told us in a recent phone interview. “It’s something I’ve always been interested in and will continue to do.”
He also added, “Modifications are my forte. I like to do something someone else hasn’t done – not to piss people off, but to get a reaction.” Having a particular interest in Fords, Abeyta worked on many Ford project cars, but it was when he had the opportunity to combine his passion for the Ford brand and his eye for the natural beauty of the ‘57 Chevy Bel Air that Abeyta’s passion took a special turn.
“I wanted something different; something no one else had,” Abeyta’s said of the unique build.
The Fordolet project began in 1998, starting with a full frame-up restoration that included rebuilding the frame itself. From there, Abeyta told us, the project went on and on, finally ending in 2002 with the completion of the car. Along the way, Abeyta’s brothers Larry and Tony Abeyta as well as Dan Garcia and other friends helped out. The immaculate ‘57 with Black Pearl Paint over a Sunset Red base you see here is the end result of all their efforts.
To make his creation work, Abeyta wanted to make the car’s inner workings subtle. With this in mind, he kept all the Ford components contained within the engine bay and to the undercarriage, all except for a discrete “Powered by Ford” phrase behind the front wheels.
To support the boat of a Chevy and the performance upgrades it would receive, Abeyta opted for a Fatman Fab Stage IV Mustang II frontend with air bags, which is controlled by a custom system that makes use of a hidden oxygen tank, and a Ford 9-inch 31-spline rearend with a Detroit Locker and 3.73 rearend gears tucked under a 2 ½-inch mini-tub.
As for the power plant, Abeyeta fitted the car with a Ford 427ci stroker engine topped with a Kenne Bell supercharger and a Peterson exterior oil pump. This setup is backed by a Tremec T56 6-speed transmission attached to a 3-inch 6061-T6 Inland Empire aluminum driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline Service in Ontario, California.
Feeding the potent engine is a 21-gallon stainless steel gas tank, giving the engine plenty of fuel to produce a little over 515 hp and 643 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm on just 6-lbs of boost and regular pump gas. While Abeyeta told us the engine could easily produce 1,000 hp on 28-lbs of boost, he chose to keep the supercharger mild enough that the car could be driven daily and reliably. After all, Abeyta has driven the car as far as Kansas and Montana from his home in Norco, California and once traveled through 11 states with the car in just two months.
“I like to get on the freeway and drive 80 or 90 mph and be comfortable,” Abeyta said. “The Fordolet was trouble free, aside from speeding tickets,” Abeyta added with a laugh.
More Than Typical Mechanics
Self-taught in engineering, Abeyta set his car up with plenty of interesting details, including power windows, power vent windows controlled by the mirror switch out of a ‘98 Camaro, and a fully custom interior.
Inside the car, you’ll find an all-leather interior created by Bill’s Auto Upholstery that features power seats with power lumbar supports. Other modern additions include a full stereo system, two DVD players, TVs, and a navigation system. Power door locks and a power trunk release add convenience to the car while the Vintage Air system and Dakota Digital gauges add form, function and creature comforts to the classic Chevy.
In the rear of the car, you’ll find a trunk that follows suit, hiding the vehicle’s battery and air compressor while giving the car plenty of room for necessities for a day trip or luggage for a longer getaway.
Since the car was completed back in 2002, Abeyta has enjoyed it to the fullest, taking it on trips and to a cars shows across the country. Unfortunately, it’s at car shows that he’s gotten the worst critiques of the car, but if you can’t appreciate the true uniqueness, then frankly you’re probably doing yourself a disservice.
“Some people love it and some people hate it, but it will always stand on its own,” Abeyta told us. “It’s my money and I built it for me, and I enjoyed it and got a lot more enjoyment out of it than those who didn’t like it.”
Earlier this year, Abeyta took the car to the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California where the car took third place in the Semi Hardtop class. Since then, Abeyta has sold the car to its new owner, Nick Sfetku.
“All around it was the perfect car and did everything I built it for,” Abeyta said, “but unfortunately I have to get rid of cars so I can build new ones in its place.”
Currently, Abeyta has about 18 project cars, one of which is a ‘65 Mustang that he’s building for his daughter. When asked what the caliber of this particular project car will be, Abeyta told us it will be as much of a marvel as the ‘57. “I won’t Mickey Mouse anything,” he proclaimed. We’re guessing that will go for the ’57 Ranchero Abeyta also has in the works for himself. Bet we haven’t seen the last of Joe Abeyta and his crazy creations!