Big Al's Featured Car's
The Kool One
1957 Plymouth owned by Paul Mathes
Pictures and Text by John Carollo

It takes more than big ass tail fins and wads of chrome to make a Killer Kustom. Yet when these two Kulture essentials are used properly, it makes the difference between custom and Kustom. A good case in point is the 1957 Plymouth Savoy of Paul Mathes from Hammond, Illinois. Yeah, it’s got some big ‘ol fins and yeah, plenty of sparkly chrome but, as usual, it’s all about the execution that makes the “Kool One” oh so very Kool. Paul’s been into cars since he was 15 and considering he’s now a retired mechanic – well, you do the math. He’s had his share of rides and he says they’ve all been customized. His Savoy came from El Paso, Texas where it was still registered as of 1998. It was definitely driven and had its share of dings and dents but the body was almost rust free. When Paul got it home and started taking it apart, he says he “ran into three spiders the size of ’49 Buicks in the core support.” After telling his wife, Dianna, about his new friends, she wouldn’t go near the garage for two months.

Depending on which way you approach the Kool One, you first notice the gold ‘flake roof or the tailfins that seem to be on steroids. And if it looks like those fins are a bit bigger than when they came from Detroit, that’s because Paul added two inches to the height and four inches to the length of them. The bigger rudders allowed him to sneak in a set of custom made tail light lenses. To balance it out, he extended and peaked the front fenders and filled them with ’58 Plymouth headlights. Other body mods include shaved door handles, rounded door and trunk corners, a rolled rear pan, custom front lower pan, relocating the gas filler into the trunk and adding custom made Lake pipes and fender shirts. The front bumper received a fastener removal treatment and was mated to a tube grille. All of that is downplayed by the flattened DuPont Centari white paint Paul used on the body and it contrasts perfectly with his eye searing House of Kolor gold flake. The pinstriping was done by Daren of Lexington Kentucky. Yep, we’re talking pure Kustom here and we haven’t even gotten to the mostly chrome engine room. 

Once you adjust your shades to actually see the engine, you may notice it’s a ’57 Plymouth 318 Polysphere. And yes, the same gold flake that was used on the roof liberally coats the block, heads and other areas. Those not painted white or gold are mostly chrome. From the three Rochesters with progressive linkage to just about every nut and bolt, it’s a virtual Chrome-a-paluzza. Yet it comes off as just right. Elsewhere under the hood, the balanced 318 has been bored out .060, has solid lifters, an Edelbrock intake, original ceramic coated exhaust manifolds and uses the stock oil pan – chromed, of course. If you look closely, you can see the gold and white pinstriping on the air cleaners, stock chrome valve covers, battery box and other components. Van Senus Auto did the motor work and Paul ground down the block in prep for the ‘flake. Behind the Poly is a ’57 Plymouth manual three speed with overdrive. Paul worked over a Chevy Hurst shifter and linkage to fit the tranny as well as move it to the floor. Surge Friction built the 10 inch clutch set up.

 In the 50s, Dodge and Plymouth were still using real frames and the Kool One utilizes the stock version with numerous modifications. From the outside you can see a neat six inch drop all the way around that was done by Fatman two inch dropped spindles in the front and leaf springs that had four leafs removed in the rear. Paul likes to drop the Kool One when parked so he snuck in a set of Air Ride Technology Shock Waves on all four corners. To get the most out of the new travel, he C cut the frame above the front and rear as well as modified the front control arms. The rear end is a classic Ford Niner that’s been narrowed three inches and sports 3:70 gears. Braking is done by Ford station wagon drums on the rear and ’76 Chrysler LeBaron discs on the font. Steering comes via a ’59 Plymouth Fury power steering box. Paul says, “I built this with air ride so I can raise the car and drive it on the highway without tearing the oil pan off.” Rolling stock includes 14 inch American Smoothies shod with 205-14s all around. One added note about fitting air to the rear of the Savoy includes Paul making his own brackets.

Paul did most of the work on Kool One himself yet credits help from his wife and his friends who kept asking, ‘Why a Plymouth?’ Paul, a member of the Metalflake Misfits of Denver, Colorado hits as many show as he can and has won a number of neat awards with it. When we asked him how much it cost to build the four year project, he said, “Too much.”  We guess it’s the price to pay for being a Kool One.