FOR many Australian car enthusiasts, the idea of winning awards at American car shows is the ultimate gearhead achievement. But this became the reality for Queensland’s Kees Weel when his 1935 Chevrolet Businessman’s Coupe took home the hyper-prestigious GM Design Award at the 2019 SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
Now, for the first and only time, this amazing feat of engineering and craftsmanship will be on display in Australia at Meguiar’s Motorex, from April 30 to May 1 at Melbourne Showgrounds.
“I’m pretty sure this will be the only big show the car goes to in Australia,” explains the man behind the machine, six-time Summernats Grand Champion, Peter “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick. “To see the car in real life is completely different to looking at a photo, and I think people will be blown away by how much work there is in it.”
The ’35 is believed to be just one of 17 right-hook two-door Businessman models originally made for the Argentine market, though the coupe’s history is actually a mystery up ‘til Kees spotted it in a wrecking yard in Gunnedah, NSW back in the early 2000s.
“The idea of a car was to make it look like a ’35 Chev, but updated,” explains Fitzy. “It had to look like the original car, but better.”
The body had to retain the overall style of the original, though the roof was chopped 50mm and the transition to the new, hand-made boot lid reprofiled for a smoother flow. With the bumpers shaved it creates a beautifully classy look, enhanced by the updated take on the original blue-over-black two-tone paint.
One of Fitzy’s contingencies for taking the build on was he wanted access to the five-axis CNC machine Kees has at his work, PWR Performance Products. The coupe’s wheels, hubcaps, headlight buckets and stalks, tail light housings, and that huge grille are just some of the components made on the CNC machine, with the grille taking 68-hours to complete!
While it is beautiful to look at, the Chev isn’t just a pretty face, though. It is fully engineered and road-legal, and it goes as good as it looks.
“It’s unbelievable to drive, it is so smooth,” explains Fitzy. “It handles like a dream and just sits on the ground.”
Based around sixth-generation Corvette suspension, engine and drivetrain, the coupe rolls on a custom chassis from Pro Flo Performance in Sydney. The extra track width of the late-model ‘Vette meant custom aluminium guards had to be hand-fabricated to cover the huge 18×8-inch and 18×10-inch wheels.
“It was unbelievable to win the GM award at SEMA,” says Fitzy, who only scored an entry into the highly respected award after a chance meeting while setting the Chev up on the PWR stand. “A guy from HP Tuners came over, got chatting with us and he loved the car so much he rang his girlfriend who worked in marketing for Chevy Performance. Entries for this award had closed a few weeks earlier but she came over and was so gobsmacked she rang the five guys judging to get them to come to see the Chev first. To meet the five top designers from Chevrolet was incredible, and they were all really good guys. They told me they showed the CEO of Chevrolet the car after the show closed one night, too.”