This year’s crop of SEMA specials are showing a polarizing split from the recent trend of high-tech, highly-detailed custom builds. While we’re always trying to squeeze classic ideas into contemporary boxes, we’ve seen some builders push back to something of an OEM-concept look that works hard to intertwine the original design language while upscaling the look and materials along with the slew of performance upgrades below the floor pan. Steve Strope — of Pure Vision Design — is known for just that. He’s built several of our favorites over the years, like his Martini T-5R Mustang and Black Ops Fairlane.
His “Halo Cars” are exercises in what-ifs; in Thumper’s case — a 1957 Ford Ranch Wagon — it’s about the executive’s shooting brake. “What if a 1957 Ford exec goes over to Europe and meets some pals who have a shooting brake, like an Aston-Martin DB4? He goes to himself, ‘Hey, we’ve got a two-door but it’s kind of frumpy. You know what, I want an executive version,’” Strope explains. “So he goes back and orders up some of these changes.” Shooting brakes were popular two-door wagons aimed at European sportsmen, usually wealthy hunters, that provided just enough space for a hunter, a dog, their weapons, and their kill.
The first change that catches the eye is the reworked B-pillar of Ford’s original two-door wagon body. From the factory, the two- and four-doors share the same front doors. This was cost-effective for Ford, but it creates an odd B-pillar with the upright cut of the front doors against the parallelogram-shaped side-glass. Additionally, it’s common practice to lengthen the front doors of a two-door variant for ease of access to the rear seats while also providing better proportions with the door cut. So first the door were extended five inches to give them that coupe-like length while reshaping the door frame to match the quarter-windows’ angle. This moved the door cut into the finned body line, so Strope used the same forward fin-line from a ’57 Thunderbird to bring it into the longer doors.
Beyond that, a ’58 T-bird hood scoop and inner structure were skinned onto the Ranch Wagon’s hood, giving it the sportier attitude of the coupe. The eyebrows were extended and curve downward more, getting rid of the “welder’s goggles” appearance of the stock headlights. The bumpers were narrowed and tucked; and the rear bumper uses the outer edges of another stock front bumper to give it a tighter, more substantial profile.
Given that this was built for Bob Florine, the big-exec (President) of ARP Bolts, the interior had to not only match the expectations of this theoretical ’57 Ford boss, but also one driving cross-country in today’s times. With that, the changes were subtle; the gauges now use upright needles that were inspired by old school voltage gauges and VU meters while the custom wood trim reshape the cluster from the original ellipsis-like slits to a larger half-moon gauge pod that fills out the dash’s real estate.
Underneath the speaker cover is an iPad which handles all the music and nav duties while riding on a motorized lift motor. The ash tray was centered and one-off A/C vents were created by slicing a 48-spline steering shaft into quarter inch discs and welding in three slats to create period-looking pieces with heft. Up top is a rare factory option; the defroster vents that run below the windshield were rarely ordered and this one required exhaustive hunting and a few custom replacement parts to complete. Throughout the interior, you’ll find modified OEM and one-off Ford badging that brings just the right level of ornamentation to the ordeal without going overboard on self-promotion or bling.
Under the hood, the subtly erodes with the Jon Kaase-built 512ci “Boss 9” which is topped by a Borla Inductions eight-stack intake and throttle bodies while FAST EFI conducts the horn section. Strope used a needler gun (an air-gun that hammers several needles against your work material, typically to remove scale) to give parts a toned down, cast-appearing surface finish — and we’re particular fans of the insulation-and-wire wrap on the spark plug wires to bring them around and under the valve cover.
If you visit SEMA this year, stop by ARP’s booth to take a look at this bourbon-colored cruiser.