Over the years, we've seen plenty of projects start out with brand-new trucks that are destined for modifications from day one. While there's certainly nothing wrong with this philosophy, there's something truly special about working with what you've already got, especially when it's a family heirloom. The story of this 1957 Chevy Cameo began in 1967, when current owner Cleave Simpson's father picked up the truck in bone stock form. After hauling the family and all their belongings from California to their new home in Alamosa, Colorado, it served on the family farm until 1976, when it was given to Cleave for his sixteenth birthday. It was then that his passion for customizing kicked in and the alterations began.
In true hot-rodding fashion, the first step was to tear out the truck's original motor and replace it with a more muscular 396 ci and Turbo 400 transmission. After spraying the body in a fresh coat of white paint and bolting up a set of slotted mag wheels, Cleave cruised Main Street on weekends with his high school sweetheart (now his wife) by his side. Driving the Cameo through the end of his college years, Cleave eventually had to put it into storage, knowing that it would be resurrected one day.
When that day came several years later, Cleave turned to long-time family friend Johnny Martin, owner of Johnny's Auto Trim & Rod Shop in Alamosa, Colorado. Johnny said, “I remember this truck from a very young age. Cleave was the older brother with a bitchin' ride. When he asked if I would bring it back to life, I was honored.” Johnny worked on the truck alongside his other projects, and Cleave left it in his capable hands after finding a new job in Australia. It was soon decided the build would be completed for the SEMA 2012 show, so Johnny buckled down to get it done in time.
First off, the original chassis was replaced with a TCI fully boxed model, which features a Mustang II front suspension, Ridetech ShockWave air shocks, and a four-link coilover rear suspension. Power comes from a new 502ci crate motor, and passes to the wheels through a built 700-R4 transmission and Ford 9-inch rearend. After smoothing and painting the entire frame, suspension, and powertrain, work began on the body. Johnny fabricated a custom one-off bed, with a 6-inch higher floor, molded tailgate and bumper, and inlaid aluminum strips. The Santa Fe Paint Company mixed a custom PPG Pearl White paint for the truck, and it was prepped and sprayed at Alternative Automotive Design in Peyton, Colorado. To match the classic exterior, Johnny built a complete one-off interior, including a custom console and panels, lipstick-red leather upholstery, and aluminum accent strips.
Although it has clearly surpassed anything Cleave could have imagined back in high school, the Cameo's abundance of custom work and potent big-block hold true to its hot rod roots. Fortunately, Cleave intends to carry on the truck's family legacy by passing it down to his son Jared, but only after he's able to pry Cleave's hands from the wheel. Cleave would like to thank Johnny Martin, Emmitt Flowers, Wayne Saunders, and the rest of the build team for all the hard work on the truck.
I remember this truck from a very young age. When Cleave asked if I would bring it back to life, I was honored. – Johnny Martin, ...
Inside the Build
Year Make Model:
1957 Chevrolet Cameo
Owner and City/State:
Cleave Simpson • Australia
Type: 502ci big-block V-8
Exhaust: Stainless 2½-inch
Cooling: Be-Cool polished radiator
Transmission: Built 700-R4
Rearend: Ford 9-inch with 4.11 gears
Front suspension: TCI fully boxed chassis, Mustang II front suspension swap, Ridetech ShockWave air shocks
Rear suspension: TCI fully boxed chassis, four-link with coilovers
Brakes: Front and rear disc
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Billet Specialties Legacy 2, 17x8-inch front and 17x10-inch rear
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport, 245/45R17 front and 335/35R17 rear
This truck's one-offbed looks almost factory, but touches like the molded bumper and tailg
Under the hood, the 520ci big-block's Billet Specialties valve covers and air cleaner have
Gorgeous red leather was applied to the entire interior, including the floorboards, and of