Jon Mannila’s 1972 Stepside Chevy

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Imagine if you could travel back in time to 1972 and order a brand new truck assembled exactly how you wanted!

For Jon Mannila of Eugene, Oregon that perfect combo would have been a black, big block, 4×4, Cheyenne Super 10 with a red houndstooth interior. Well, they haven’t invented a time machine yet, and Chevrolet never built such a combo. So Jon figured he was just going to have to build it himself.

A bare bones, original paint, one owner, step side ‘72 was traded in at Romania Chevrolet in Eugene in 1996 that Jon caught wind of. The well cared for truck had a severe motor knock after it was taken out by the owner’s grandson for a joy ride, so it was traded in for a new truck. Once in Jon’s possession he immediately began working on it, but as soon as his good friend Tony laid eyes on the unmolested truck, he was in love. So Jon agreed to sell it to him. Tony continued to make steady progress on the truck until Jon decided to part ways with his wicked ‘55 Chevy post car. As much as Tony loved the ‘72 truck project, he also had a deep affection for Jon’s 55, and it was a driver.  So another deal was struck between the friends, and Jon was once again the owner of the truck project.

At this point in Jon’s life his hobby of classic cars had grown into a successful business known as MetalWorks Classic Auto Restoration, so he had the shop take over the truck’s restoration. Tony had come to work for Jon, so the pair were both able to be involved in the balance of the truck’s build. The goal was to make the truck look totally factory, so great strides were taken to achieve that vision. A 402 was utilized, but pushed forward to ensure factory mounting locations for the transfer case. The big block was fully dressed with stock A/C, shroud, powering steering, etc, and backed by a turbo 400 transmission adapted to the factory 205 transfer case with an Advanced Adaptors kit. The truck’s factory wooden bed was replaced with a steel floor from a ¾ ton long box, but in a fashion that appears factory. It was then Line-X coated.

Once the entire truck was mocked up, it was blown apart and its body work tackled. As you can see in the photos, this is one amazingly arrow straight paint job, and the red houndstooth interior looks unbelievable paired against the deep black.

The truck was completed and ran as good as it looked, for a short while. You have to remember this was the early 2000s and engine oil was going through a transition period and it didn’t take long for the big block’s non roller cam to go flat with the lack of zinc protecting it. So with an expensive lesson learned that builders around the nation faced, Jon pulled the 402 and swapped it for a 454 that was once again detailed to factory perfection. In the end the truck was everything Jon dreamed it would be, and other than the 6” lift and WELD wheels this ‘72 appears bone stock—as the only factory example of a big block, 4×4, Cheyenne Super, stepside to leave the factory in 1972—or is it? Ha ha, Jon will never tell.

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Jon Mannila’s 1969 Datsun 510

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Datsun 510s have had a long cult following—loyal enthusiasts who have loved these cars long before their recent upswing in the collector car market.

One such 510 loyalist is Tim Bridges, who makes his living as a body man and painter at MetalWorks Classic Auto Restoration in Eugene, Oregon. Tim’s dedication and excitement towards 510s spread to Jon Mannila, owner and founder of MetalWorks. So it was not a big surprise when Jon decided he’d like to try his hand at building a 510 for the street.
Through an unfortunate divorce situation of a 510 fanatic, Jon was able to buy out a collection that consisted of a semi-driver 510 sedan, along with a parts car and a garage full of parts. Once all the pieces and parts were back at Jon’s place a plan was laid out of what they had, and what they still needed to perform the build that Jon had running around in his head.

Now here is where the build takes a bit of a turn from most traditional 510 builds. You see, Jon was not a hardcore 510 guy prior to this, so he did not have any real preconceptions as to how people tend to build them. Instead, Jon took the route that he knew, which is hot rods and muscle cars, resulting in the build you see before you. I can tell you now Jon’s version of a 510 has been embraced by as many people as it has been shunned, but hey, variety is the spice of life, and if we all built our cars the same—wouldn’t life get boring real quick? Let’s dig into some of the details of the 510’s transformation.
Jon maintained the same L18 that limped the Datsun onto the trailer the day he purchased the car, but had it completely freshened. A set of flattop pistons were dropped into place to up the compression, then an A87 peanut head that was sent off to Rebello so that they could work their machining magic on it. Other notable goodies utilized on the engine include: a D.A.M.B. cam, 45 Weber side draft carbs, an electric distributor, MSD ignition, and an AFCO racing radiator. Some shine appeal comes from chroming the header, and a polished valve cover. This finished package was estimated to put out around 200hp.

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With the engine dialed in, Jon focused on an equally impressive gear box. As luck would have it a NOS 280Z 5 speed gear box was located from a collector who had bought out a dealership. The pristine gearbox was paired up with Subaru STI limited slip differential, as well as STI CVs.

Now it was time to focus on the 510’s suspension, which naturally had to equal the driveline. Just of few of the mentionable components include:  Adjustable camber plates, T3 coil overs, KYB inserts and shocks, Suspension Technique sway bars, shortened Dodge D50 springs out back, MD Machine bump steer spacers, a steering box brace, and a Pnultimate slotted rear cross member. Aiding in the 510’s road performance is a set of Rota RB wheels wrapped in Yokohama 195/50/R15 tires.
The Datsun’s body was worked to perfection, and its trade mark rear vents removed before being shot with coats of red and creme BASF urethane base and clear. The paint was then wet sanded and buffed to a mirror finish.

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Moving inside the 510 we find full custom leather interior, including wrapped Pro Car seats. Billetspecialties components abound in the form of window and door cranks as well as the steering wheel. Vitals are monitored on Dakota Digital gauges, and a HURST shift knob keeps gear changes comfy. The interior is tied together by an integrate roll cage that eliminates the rear seat. A Painless brand wiring kit brings everything to life including the massive, but cleverly hidden Rockford Fosagate stereo system.

In the end Jon’s 510 became a mix of some traditional touches mixed with a heavy dose of hot rod and muscle car influence. Love it or hate it, you will not pass yourself driving down the road in this 510, and I believe that is always a good thing. The car world can certainly survive without another cookie cutter build. Keep an eye out for this hot little 510 tearing up the streets of the Willamette Valley.

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Meltdown Drags 2014

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“Where the guys who get it go”… that is the driving thought behind the Meltdown Drags.

The crew behind the Meltdown Drags goes all out to recreate a 1966 and earlier racing weekend at Byron Dragway, and in just their 5th year they have created what many consider the top vintage drag racing event in the world. The guys putting on this amazing event have an incredible vision of what they have created, and the world who also “gets it” is responding with open arms.

At the Meltdown event you will find no bracket racing, no breakouts, no trophies, no egos, just pure sixties match racing for fun and bragging rights. What you will find is a mind blowing gathering of authentic, REAL, vintage drag cars putting on one hell of a show…not just sitting around looking pretty… racing! This year’s event featured over 500 vintage drag cars along with some amazing era correct built nostalgia cars from both Coasts and 38 States in between. Spectators poured in from the US, Canada, the U.K., New Zealand, and the list goes on. Ed Iskenderian and Bones Balogh flew in from California, and several gasser race teams showed up in force to battle it out against each other including: The Nostalgia Gasser Racing Association, The Great Lakes Gassers, The Southeast Gassers, The Ohio Outlaw A/A gassers, and many more.

Unlike many events, no one was paid to appear, and there are no payouts, or prize money, and no profit for the MDA. All fees paid at the Meltdown go directly to support the track and keep it open for people to enjoy all year. One of the major goals of the Meltdown Drags is to relive and teach the past, so if you want to take in a drag racing event that will convince you that you have stepped back in time…get on down to 2015 Meltdown Drags on July 17th -19th at Byron Dragway in Byron, Illinois See you there! meltdowndrags.com

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Jon Maninila’s 1968 GTO

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Photos by John Jackson of NotStockPhotography

The beauty you see gracing these pages was built by MetalWorks Classic Auto Restoration in Eugene, Oregon as their personal “shop car.” Not a bad shop vehicle huh? Before shop owner Jon Mannila and the talented crew at MetalWorks got their hands on the 68, it was an illegal daily driver… ha ha, but we’ll get into that in a bit.

The first recorded history of the GTO dates back to the early 80s when Rick, a customer of MetalWorks, purchased it for $2500. After about 3 years of ownership Rick had a blue velour interior installed in the Pontiac, as at the time blue velour was extremely cool, and it matched the GTO’s blue and white exterior. Rick’s wife became the primary driver of the 68 and would take their two children to visit Rick at the video arcade that he owned and operated (note video arcades were also very popular at the same time that blue velour was considered cool). The only problem with Rick’s wife driving herself and their children the 7 miles from Canyonville to Riddle, Oregon was that she has never gotten a driver’s license. Oh well, that’s what back roads are for.

The GTO was sold to a guy, then to another guy, until Rick lost contact with it. Then one day, Rick heard of a GTO for sale in the area, so he went and checked it out. Rick positively identified the 68 as being his old car by, you guessed it, the blue velour interior. As fate would have it with the GTO back in Rick’s posession, very little happened with it. After some time of collecting dust, Rick convinced Jon Manilla that he needed another GTO, as he knew Jon had one GTO already, and as we all know, cars are like potato chips—you can’t have just one. So a deal was struck and Jon became the owner of a 2nd GTO. Jon had just finished the restoration of his first GTO in a stock manner, and was discovering that stock was just not his style. So, with a blank canvas in front of him Jon decided to build his new 68 in more of a hot rod /pro-touring fashion with the thought that the GTO would become a promo piece for the shop. This new direction would also allow MetalWorks to build a car the way they wanted to build one, and to show people what is possible.

An Art Morrison chassis and a new GM Performance LS1 were ordered through MetalWorks’ own “in house” Speed Shop, but soon the build began to snowball as many builds tend to. The LS1 was used as a mock up engine, but a custom build LS3 by Wegner Motorsports had already been ordered running a stage 2 cam, and pushing nearly 600 hp. Then, before the LS3 was nestled inside the rails of the Morrison chassis it was topped with an MSD Atomic LS fuel injection system and coils. Initial thoughts of an automatic were replaced with a TREMEC 6 speed manual that is linked to a Ford 9” with a 4.10 Trutrac posi rear end hosting 31 spline axles. With all “go” the GTO needed some serious “whoa,” so 14” Wilwood vented rotors with 6 & 4 piston calipers were ordered. A couple wheel and tire combinations were scratched until Jon found the perfect combo in a set of Budnik “Platnium” series. Thoughts of autocross racing resulted in a Ridetech TIGER cage for an A-body being ordered, then, modifications were performed to work with the Art Morrison chassis. Ridetech 5 point harness seatbelts were also installed to keep driver and passenger secure in the corners.

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While the crew was hard at work on the chassis and drive line, the body was striped, then sent to MetalWorks acid dipping  facility. Once the body was at ground zero in bare metal the guys in the body shop got busy massaging the body to perfection, then they applied several coats of “MetalWorks Red” paint. The final step was to wet sand and buff the body to mirrored perfection.  Once the body was ready it was sat on the chassis, and the assembly process began.  The hidden headlights were converted from vacuum to electric to do anyway with any more “lazy eyed” driving.  The factory gauges were replaced with OEM styled Dakota Digital replacements, as well as an electronic climate controller from DD.  An Alpine head unit controls 2000 watts worth of stereo that are masterfully hidden throughout the GTO’s interior.  Speaking of interiors, sadly the blue velour was past its prime and had to be replaced with a custom OEM styled leather interior that was stitched together by Jon Lind Interiors.

When all the dust had settled the crew at MetalWorks had created one wild pro-touring GTO. A comment often heard by admirers is that they have never seen a GTO taken to this level.  Another common statement is that it is nice to see a less common GM model get the royal treatment, instead of yet another camaro.  The GTO is definitely not just for customers to admire from a distance at the shop.  If a customer is looking to have a high end pro-touring car built, or is curious about an LS conversion, Jon will take them out for a white knuckle rip in the 68, which tends to leave customers in a state of perma-grin and reaching for their wallets with still shaking hands.

Above and beyond being an excellent promotion and sales tool, the GTO is a point of pride for the talented crew at MetalWorks who built it.  If you spot this red hot 68 cruising the streets of the Pacific Northwest, don’t be afraid to flag them down as you will meet some of the most down to earth and talented builders in the industry…but if you’re looking to race, you may find yourself admiring the GTO’s freshly restored taillights!!!

Bob Austin’s 1965 Mustang Fastback

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There is no bitter of a rivalry between auto enthusiasts than that of Ford vs Chevy… both sides have dug in their heels and rarely allow the other an ounce of give or take. When the team at MetalWorks finished the fastback you see before you they had several of their most hardcore Chevy clients stop by, bow their heads and admit that it was one amazing looking Mustang.  Ha ha, yes, hard words to speak I’m sure for guys who bleed Chevrolet, but true words none-the-less… and what better assurance that MetalWorks had accomplished a great build than to have a Chevy guy compliment a Ford.
Unlike most vehicles that come into MetalWorks for restoration, Bob Austin’s 65 was a really nice looking car, but Bob was not thrilled with its paint work. So he decided to start at ground zero and acid dip the body. When the body shell came out of the tanks it was virtually rust free. Now, knowing exactly what he was starting with, Bob gave the crew at MetalWorks the green light to work their magic.

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Although the body was rust free, and overall in great condition, the rear quarter panels had some old damage, so it was decided to replace them.  Though not necessary, the decision to replace the rear quarters worked out nicely as it was decided to run a set of Detroit Speed mini-tubs, along with a custom gas tank that essentially replaced the truck floor. Other Detroit Speed components included their front alloy cradle and suspension, along with a four link set-up out back, with frame connectors tying it all together.

With the extra room from the mini-tubs, massive Bridgestone 305/30ZR19 tires was utilized out back with a 225/40ZR18 up front. BOZE “Autocross” series rims were a perfect choice and are accented by the 14” Wilwood vented rotors and 4 piston calipers. A 408 stroker was supplied by Performance Unlimited which MetalWorks topped off with a MSD Atomic EFI. Linked to the nasty mill is a Tremec TKO600 tranny mated to a Ford 9” with a Detroit Tru-Trac posi unit.
Moving inside the Mustang we find a very unique dash layout. The dash padding was removed leaving the bare metal components exposed.  MetalWorks molded and shaped the dash to resemble a stock padded dash, then frenched in functional components. The rest of the Mustang’s amazing interior was tackled by Jon Lind Interiors and includes red french stitched seams and a fully wrapped roll cage.

In the end MetalWorks accomplished exactly what Bob wanted: a Mustang that still looks like it should but with all the modern performance built into it that will allow him to drive fast, all day and anywhere he wants to go. Sounds like a Ford a Chevy guy could love… ha ha.

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MetalWorks Built 1966 Pro-Touring Nova

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E-bay has become a powerful tool for both buying and selling classics cars over the years. The vast majority of transactions done via on-line sales are successful for both parties involved, but I’m sure we have all heard of a horror story or two. Such is the case with the gorgeous Chevy II you see gracing these pages.

To coin the saying of “a picture is worth a thousand words” I feel we can alter that popular statement to “a photo can hide a thousand flaws” when it comes to online car purchasing. This Nova looked gorgeous online, and sold for some pretty good coin. When the Nova arrived at its new home, it even looked pretty good in person, but when the crew at MetalWorks began working out a few flaws for the new owner… the rabbit hole only got deeper and deeper. We won’t dwell on what all was found wrong, but focus instead on what MetalWorks did right on this now amazing Chevy II.

The Nova proudly runs a brand new GM Performance 525 hp LS3 engine with FAST fuel injection after its original engine was found to be bad. Tied to the LS is a TREMEC 5 speed manual transmission that is mated to a Ford 9” rear end with a Detroit Truetrac posi. Handling duties are carried out by the install of HEIDTs front and rear suspensions. Wilwood brakes keep things safe in the stopping department, and look sweet tucked inside the Billet Specialties wheels. Tons of other goodies are hidden behind the fresh coats of mile deep blue paint, and the full custom leather interior… but it’s hard not to mention features such as air ride by Ridetech & Accuair, Dakota Digital gauges and electronic climate control, and a Pioneer touch screen with 1100 watts of stereo, and even a back up camera.

In the end the Nova became everything, and much more than what it appeared to be on the E-bay auction. Chevy IIs are extremely popular and very stylish cars… and this example ranks with the elite that I have ever encountered. The crew at MetalWorks through their extensive building knowledge and flow of components that work properly together built a car that performs every bit as well as it looks… and it looks incredible!

MetalWorks Built 1955 Chevy

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Tri-five Chevys are a corner stone in the world of classic cars, and most enthusiasts have found themselves drooling over one at some point. Now, we could argue until we are blue in the face about which of the three has the best lines…but when it came to Shaun Schroeder’s first classic car…he knew he wanted a 55.

With a very successful year under his belt for his business “Wireless Alchemy”, Shaun set out to find the ideal shop to build his future 55. Shaun did a good amount of internet research and honed in on MetalWorks Classic Auto Restoration in Eugene, Oregon due to their impressive worked displayed on their website, and especially due to their success with Tri-five builds. Shaun contacted MetalWorks and spoke with owner Jon Manilla, and really liked what Jon had in mind for the direction of the 55’s build, so a plan was put into motion.

The first step was to actually locate a 55 Chevy, and luckily Jon knew of one that had already been acid metal dipped by MetalWorks a couple of years prior, and was available for purchase. Shaun admits he is not a huge classic car guy, but he does recognize and appreciate quality craftsmanship… so for that reason he gave Jon and the team at MetalWorks the green light to build him the best 55 possible… and the end result blew Shaun away.

The Chevy’s paint work is a gorgeous combo of laser straight orange and white, colors that Shaun said helped win his wife over on the build as they are both huge Giants fans. Underneath the 55’s amazing exterior is a precisely chosen platform of components that create a driving experience that keeps Shaun grinning and filled with excitement every time he gets behind the wheel. One of the 55’s key components is the Art Morrison chassis… and a special one at that as the 55 sits on the 1000th Art Morrison Tri-five chassis built. Nestled into the Chevy’s frame rails is a GM Performance supercharged LS9 engine connected to a TREMEC 6 speed transmission.

The guys at MetalWorks are extremely knowledgeable in LS platforms, and the Chevy’s LS9 delivers a performance that is smooth as silk…well, silky smooth that is until Shaun decides to drop the hammer, then all hell breaks loose.  When things do get out of hand Wilwood brakes help stop the double nickel on a dime, and luxury amenities like leather interior, 8” touch screen navigation, and electronic dual climate control keep Shaun and his wife extremely comfortable while cruising any distance.

In the end Shaun wanted the best, and MetalWorks delivered on that goal.  Shaun is not a car show type of guy, but he loves putting miles on the 55, so watch for this wicked 55 on the streets of Winters, CA… Shaun will be the guy with the smile on his face.

Dale’s Metalworks Built 1952 Chevy Panel

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The desire for many people to own a classic car is derived from memories of their youth.  Often this memory is a high school car, a first car, or a special connection to a vehicle owned by a family member.  The owner of this gorgeous 1952 panel truck is Dale, and he has many wonderful memories of riding in his father’s 1952 GMC pickup truck with a factory canvas canopy.  In addition to the memories of his father’s 52 Dale recalls his fondest memory of a wild ride in his cousins father’s 1950 Chevy pickup down a rough & muddy road as he and his cousin tried to hang on without seat belts!!

Over the years Dale has dreamed of owning a classic because of their unique design compared to the styling of trucks today.  As fate would have it Dale located his future pride and joy in Grants Pass, Oregon…though the panel was a former long term resident of sunny Arizona.  Once the panel was located Dale set out to find a restoration shop to entrust his dream car to, and settled on MetalWorks Classics out of Eugene, Oregon.  The goal was to keep the panel stock appearing, but make it as effortless to drive as a modern vehicle…and equally as reliable.  It was decided the panel would receive an LS conversion, something MetalWorks is very versed in.  The panel’s LS driveline came in the form a 2000 Camaro LS1 engine and 4L60E transmission combo which the team at MetalWorks nestled into the original frame rails.  Other drivability upgrades for the panel included a Heidts front suspension, and a Ford 9” rear end tied to a 4 link out back.  The end result is a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing as the overall stock appearing 52 will set you back hard in the factory seats when Dale mashes the throttle!!

In the end Dale has a great looking and performing truck that his family can enjoy for many years to come.  Dale is also pleased that he can pass along the fond memories of his youth onto his children and grandchildren when he takes them for a cruise in his dream car…but this time with seat belts!!