Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson
Built on the hit TV show “Monster Garage,” this car was chopped and sectioned by Gene Winfield, Dick Dean and Bill Hines with frame and running gear by Fat Jack. The interior features a handmade skull in the dash by Norm Grabowski. The dash and headers were done by Jesse James, and the paint is a one-of-a-kind Winfield fade-away job by Gene Winfield. Automatic transmission. From the Tammy Allen Collection.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1954 Chevrolet 210 Custom Hard top
Years Produced:1954, 2003
Number Produced:194,498 (1954 Deluxe 2-door)
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $10,450; high sale, $47,300 (all 1954 Chevrolet sedans)
Tune Up Cost:Estimated $250
Chassis Number Location:Tag on driver’s door pillar; stamped on frame rail under driver’s seat
Engine Number Location:Stamped in pad in front of passenger’s side cylinder head
Club Info:Goodguys, National Street Rod Association (NSRA)
Alternatives:Any other ’50s-era custom cars with modern builds following traditional methods
Investment Grade:D

This car, Lot 249, sold for $38,500, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s Las Vegas Auction in Las Vegas, NV, on October 15, 2016.
Barrett-Jackson offered over 80 cars — including a few customs — from the Tammy Allen Collection at Las Vegas in October. Some of them went for serious money, like the chopped and slammed 1950 Mercury coupe, nicknamed “Wasabi” for its Japanese mustard-green paint finish, which sold for $159,500.

This Chevy 210, at least on paper, looked like it had all the ingredients for a record-setting price. But despite attributes such as a Thom Taylor design, a “Monster Garage” TV show feature build, a radical chop-and-section job by custom culture legends Gene Winfield, Dick Dean and the late Bill Hines, and running gear by “Fat Jack” Robinson, the gold-on-gold Chevrolet went for relatively little money. It sold for less than it sold for previously, right after it was completed.

I think I know why. First, a little history.

Fins and Moonglow

By the late 1950s, the custom-car era had basically peaked. A new 1957 Chevrolet, for example, had all the elements that customizers were striving to emulate —memorable GM Motorama-derived styling with natty little fins, a powerful 283-ci V8 topped with optional fuel injection, and a luscious (for the era) interior, making its earlier cousins from the 1952 to 1954 era seem rather dowdy in comparison.

But in the panoply of great Chevy customs, Duane Steck’s “Moonglow” ’54 Chevrolet hard top, constructed from 1955 to ’56, still evokes praise, even though the car itself disappeared decades ago.

Steck built his slammed hard top (there was no B-pillar) in his own garage. Painted white with blue accents, and with a radical, 4½-inch artfully chopped top, a nosed and peaked hood, frenched ’52 Ford headlights, ’56 Chrysler taillights and a restyled grille with multiple bars, “Moonglow” was a Car Craft cover car in January 1957.

Striped by Larry Watson, and subsequently redone three times, “Moonglow” became a custom-car classic. The modifications were tasteful, and they accentuated the car’s already great lines.

Steck’s “Moonglow” took a year to build for its first iteration, and then he modified it further over the years. He sold it in 1960, and Steck’s brother sadly recalls seeing it on its way to a wrecking yard. Several tribute “Moonglow” clones have been built — a mark of great respect in custom circles.

On the other hand

In contrast, this car was built in five days for a Jesse James “Monster Garage” TV program. We know that similar projects in fact took a lot longer to build, but the actual time was probably compressed to give the illusion, for the sake of TV viewers, that the complex work — a three-inch body section — was done in record time.

Looking at footage of the build, with the car in a complete state of disarray, it’s hard to believe the entire project was accomplished in so little time. It was called the “Old-School ’54,” and the traditional online rod and custom encyclopedia Kustomrama reported the cost to build it was $23,360. I suspect that was a wholesale figure.

In January 2011, this car sold at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale Auction (for the first time) for $44,000, including commission. Eventually, if not then, it ended up with Tammy Allen, a high-profile car collector and supporter of local charities who operated Allen’s Unique Cars in Grand Junction, CO. After the untimely death of her son, Allen sold her entire collection in January of this year at Barrett-Jackson, where she was very well known, as she’d bought many of her cars at the giant Scottsdale venue. Auctioned at B-J for a second time, the radically customized Chevy sold for $38,500 — somewhat less than its first sale five years earlier.

Back to the future

I referenced Duane Steck’s “Moonglow” here because if it were still extant, I think it would sell for much more than this car. Other notable custom cars, like the Barris-built ex-Bob Hirohata ’51 Mercury or another Barris beauty, the 1955 Chevy “Aztec,” are still acclaimed.

Despite the all-star cast who were involved with the Old-School ’54, to my eyes, this car simply doesn’t rank as a memorable custom creation. If anything, the builders tried to do too much. The end result is rather unattractive.

The fundamental purpose of customizing has always been to modify an already nice-looking car to make it even better looking, and in that vein, this severely re-proportioned 2-door misses the mark. It looks like the handiwork of a committee, and it fails, in my opinion, to have lasting value despite the small-screen fame and important names attached to it. All things considered, I’d call it well sold at the price paid here.

(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)

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