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Unleashing the Power: The Ultimate 57′ Chevy Cameo Makeover

ISAAC MION May 25, 2023 Chevrolet

A Chevy Cameo on its way to spanning four generations and two “hot rodifications,” cleave simpson’s former farm truck has been transformed into what could very well be the meanest, cleanest chevy cameo on the planet.

The year was 1967. The radio played Cream’s “Disraeli Gears.” Longhaired kids gathered at Haight-Ashbury to protest the Vietnam War and hippies gathered in upstate New York to frolic in the plasma-colored rain. At the time, Allan Simpson was in the middle of a move away from all that. He’d just  bought a stock ’57 Chevy Cameo and used it to  relocate his family from California to Alamosa, Colorado.

'57 Chevy Cameo
The theme for the exterior is clean with shaved handles and PPG oneoff Pearl White paint created by Johnny Martin and Emmett Flowers of the Santa Fe Paint Company. Credit for the rest of the bodywork goes to Wayne Saunders of Alternative Automotive Design. Beauty isn’t just skin deep, though, thanks to a TCI fully boxed chassis, coilover 4-link 9-inch Ford rearend with a Mustang II and 2-inch dropped spindles with Shockwave pneumatic ’bags.
Billet Specialties Wheels
Cleave’s Cameo rolls on a set of Billet Specialties polished billet aluminum Legacy 17 x 8 wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 145/45R-17 rubber. The rearend gets traction from a pair of Legacy 17 x 10 wheels consumed in Michelin Pilot Sport 335/35R-17 rubber.
The ’57 Cameo runs a 502 backed by a built 700R4 with Billet Specialties valve covers and an air cleaner painted to match the exterior. All components—motor, transmission, A-arms, 4-link and rearend—are smoothed and painted silver with semi-flat clear. A polished Be Cool radiator and Street Performance serpentine pulley system share the bay with Eddie Motorsports hinges. After all is said and done the Cameo’s big-block expels its nasty gasses with Stainless Performance exhaust system. While that may sound bad on paper, it has a beautiful resonance in person.

The truck served dual purposes as a farm and work vehicle up until 1976 when Allan gave it to his son Cleave (no relation to the Beav). Cleave, 16 at the time, commuted to and from school for a while until the high-test started flowing through his veins as it does many of us when we reach that age. He and his dad put a 396 and a turbo into the old farm truck and slapped on a coat of white Imron paint. Mullets and Sho-Los more than likely grew in unison as Bob Seger resonated through the Kracos while Cleave and his high-school sweetheart (now his wife, of course) cruised Main Street on Saturday nights. Cleave took the truck to college at the School of Mines before moving to Texas. The truck sat there for a few years before it eventually found its way home like one of those cats you hear about.  Enter Johnny Martin of Johnny’s Auto Trim and Rod shop, also in Alamosa and also a childhood friend of Kevin Simpson, Cleave Simpson’s younger brother.  “I remember this truck from a very young age,” said Martin. “Cleave was the older brother with the bitchin’ ride. When he asked if I would bring the car back to life, I was honored.”  This isn’t Martin’s first rodeo. Around the same time Cleave approached him to do the build he happened to be in the middle of one of the biggest projects of his career, a Corvette he called Elegance. This tour de force received accolades from the Detroit Autorama when they named it one of the Great 8 builds Martin eventually took Elegance to Barret-Jackson with no reserve and pulled down a whopping $412,000 for his pristine creation.  The same type of effort and then some has gone into Cleave’s project, being so close to the family and all. Only this time, of course, the vehicle’s not for sale.  “I intend to one day hand the truck over to my son Jared,” said Cleave. “But only after I have driven the hell out of it can he pry my hands from the steering wheel.”

This tour de force received accolades from the detroit autorama”

'57 Chevy Cameo
History resonates through the cabin in the form of a shifter made by Cleave in his high school machine shop. While his right hand is rowing through   gears, Cleave steers through the power slides with his left hand on the Billet Specialties steering wheel attached to an ididit chrome column. His steely eyes glance at the Classic Instrument gauges and custom console as his bottom is nestled in custom dark red leather seats with aluminum accents sprinkled around the cabin to match the bed.


OWNER: Cleave Simpson

BUILDER: Johnny Martin

FRAME: TCI boxed frame with Mustang II front clip

SUSPENSION: Front: Ride Tech upper and lower control arms with 2-inch dropped spindles and Ride Tech Shockwave pneumatic ‘bags; rear: TCI 4-link with panhard bar anchor the Ford 9-inch rearend: Ride Tech coil-over shocks and pneumatic ‘bags

WHEELS: Front: Billet Specialties polished billet aluminum Legacy 17 x 8; rear: Billet Specialties polished billet aluminum Legacy 17×10

TIRES: Front: Michelin Pilot Sport 245/45R-17; rear: Michelin Pilot Sport 335/35R-17

ENGINE: GM Performance 502-ci,500 hp; Street Performance billet aluminum pulley system; Street Performance headers and exhaust; Be Cool aluminum radiator; Billet Specialties valve covers and air cleaner painted body color; GM 700R4 automatic transmission

BODY AND PAINT: Bodywork by Alternative Automotive Design by Wayne Saunders, PPG custom blend Pearl White By Johnny Martin and Emmett Flowers at Santa Fe Paint Company

INTERIOR: ididit chrome tilt steering column; Billet Specialties 14-inch Stiletto half-wrap white steering wheel; Classic Instruments white face gauges; Billet Specialties Profile Street Rod pedal assembly; center waterfall console and upholstery by Johnny Martin at Johnny’s Auto Trim and Rod Shop; custom-made, red leather reupholstered bucket seats by Johnny Martin; dark red carpet

AUDIO: Alpine head unit, amp and speakers



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