When I introduced myself to Rodger Lee, the owner of Ironworks Speed & Kustom in Bakersfield, California, I was impressed. He was an unknown, 26-year-old visionary builder with ambition, drive, and knowledge of design, style, and function. He stands 6-feet 6 inches, wears a size 15 Red Wing boot, and his shop dog's name is Jake. I sensed his abilities and self-made customizing business would develop into a key component in the major leagues. Fast forward four years later, the past 18 months I have been making frequent trips to Bakersfield, following along as Rodger, Brycen Smith, and Sean McDougall designed, fabricated, and assembled this one-of-a-kind all-tubular frame and chassis that will be the foundation of the wild custom '57 Chevy pickup, project Black Gold. As I became involved in such an in-depth project, I became more connected and committed to its journey. I have seen it develop from the tubing rack to an incredible masterpiece. Its progression has been documented on the glossy pages of Truckin' in nine tech articles.

Black Gold's frame started out on the massive ISK chassis table. Rodger started with custom fabricated wheel/tire fixtures that determined the trucks wheel/tire axis, ride height, wheelbase, and track width. The enhanced '06 Corvette C6 LS2 404ci engine and torque tube style Tremec six-speed manual transaxle werecentered, aligned, and squared on the chassis table. The front suspension hubs, spindles, ball joints, and upper and lower control arms were mounted to the wheel hub fixtures. A CAD system was used to help design the upper and lower main tubular frames. The tubular frames were then measured, and bent to conform to the suspension components. The two, 1-1/2-inch 0.120 wall tubular frames were seperated by 1-1/2-inch x 4-inch support tubes, and 4-inch dimple-holed support plates.

Front and rear suspension control arm, pickup point tabs were then welded in place. The frame was delivered to Media Resurfacing Systems in Huntington Beach, California, where it was media-blasted to remove the oxidized surface, and expose a new virgin-metal surface. It was then sent to Specialized Coating in Huntington Beach, where it was rolled into the curing oven and baked to sweat out any contamination that may have settled inside the steel pores. Then, it was pulled out of the curing oven and ambient cooled. Afterwards, it was preheated in the curing oven before being powdercoated with Dupont Red Baron. Finally, it was rolled into the curing oven where it baked for 55 minutes at 390 degrees.

The front suspension is supported by a single Speedway Engineering sway bar (1.75-inch diameter by 37 inch, with 48 spline ends) that meshes into 1-inch thick by 48 spline aluminum sway bar arms, sprint car style. The independent front suspension (IFS) uses all factory '06 Corvette C6 aluminum upper and lower control arms, spindles, and hubs. A Woodward power steering rack and Woodward aluminum tie rod ends link up the spindles to activate the left/right turning action of the front suspension. A pair of Air Ride Technologies, V3.0 dual adjustable bellows style 'bags deliver both ride height ad-justability and ride quality.

Out back, an independent rear suspension (IRS) uses an '06 Corvette C6 Tremec six-speed manual transaxle, which is located in the rear end. The Tremec transaxles were linked to aluminum '06 Corvette C6 aluminum hubs that were connected to aluminum upper and lower control arms. The adjustable ride height and body roll of the rear suspension is controlled by a pair of Air Ride Technologies Series 9000 Firestone sleeve-style dual-adjustable air springs that were mounted horizontally above the rear end.

The unique cantilever rear suspension system adjusts the ride height, ride quality, and handling performance of the rear suspension. A pair of rear stabilizers eliminate any rear suspension wheel hop. A Wilwood brake clutch pedal assembly and dual master brake cylinders deliver instant fluid pressure to the large Wilwood six-piston front calipers and four-piston rear calipers, which apply instant clamping power to the massive Wilwood 14-inch rotors.

This incredible '57 Chevy rolls on a set of Budnik Muroc II polished aluminum 20x8-inch front and 22x11-inch rear wheels consumed in BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW 245/35ZR20 front and rear 265/35ZR22 rubber.

Jim Watkins at Watkins Racing Development in Bakersfield built a potent '06 Corvette LS2 6.0L 404ci engine. The LS2 aluminum block received a pair of RHS performance aluminum cylinder heads and Kinsler EFI system with 6-inch by 2-1/8-inch, 180-degree, fluted velocity stacks, with aluminum fuel rails. An ATI Super Dampener absorbs any engine harmonics. The Meziere electronic water pump eliminates robbing valuable horsepower and torque. A Woodward power steering rack receives muscle from a Concept One power steering pump. Rodger designed and fabricated a pair of 34-inch equal length headers by using 2-inch 4-, 6-, and 8-inch radius SPD U-bend tubes that merge into a 3-inch collector and a 2-1/2-inch reducer. The 2-1/2-inch exhaust flows into an X-pipe to equalize the dual exhaust before entering a pair of 15x6-inch round, 3-inch inlet/outlet DNA cylindrical stainless steel mufflers.

Kelly Inman at Specialized Coatings created a special titanium-gold blend ceramic coat for the entire exhaust system. Specialized Coatings also applied aluminum ceramic coating to the torque tube, transmission, and transaxle case. A Hurst six-speed shifter and shift rod mounted atop the torque tube translate the gear selections to the Tremec transaxle. A Center Force multi-disc clutch delivers pressure to engage the power to the torque tube shaft and torque ball to the Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transaxle. The Power Master XS high torque starter engages into the 168-tooth factory flywheel, rotating the Callies crankshaft, bringing the Corvette thunder to life. A set of MSD ignition HVC II coil sparks the MSD multi-spark coils, through MSD plug wires as the electric juices are kept flowing through the MSD alternator. The custom-built 18-gallon aluminum fuel tank received a couple ceramic coats of Kelly's titanium-gold, and was cradled inside the tubular framerails, behind the Tremec transaxle.

If, after examining this totally tubular rolling chassis displayed before you, it seems unfortunate that it'll be covered up by the '57 Chevy cab, fenders, hood, and bed. I guarantee its immaculate body components will top this.

Stay tuned for the complete Black Gold package in an upcoming Truckin' issue.

Ironworks Speed & Kustom
  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
  • |
  • View Full Article