The year was 1931 and carmakers were fighting the effects of the Great Depression. In that era, Ford had managed to attract customers by bringing prices down, but Chevrolet bet on the upmarket card instead, 1931 range reinvention included. Chevy beat its rival for that year, albeit with Ford eventually dominating the decade. And, in a way, this all-custom ’31 Chevrolet Independence five-window coupe, which recently grabbed the Ridler Award at the 2022 Detroit Autorama show, builds on the refinement Chevy injected into its cars back in the day. Meet “Sho Bird”.
Following last year’s health crisis-canceled edition, the Detroit Autorama reopened its gates for 2022, with no less than 800 hot rods and eccentric custom cars gracing its floor for the past weekend.
Sure, some iconic builders attended the show and virtually chose their own winners, but the event officially selects 8 finalists for the coveted Ridler Award, which borrows the name of Don Ridler, one of the enthusiasts who created the event over six decades ago. And, as mentioned above, you are now gazing at the vehicle the judges selected as the very best for 2022.
While both shows host all types of machines, it can be argued that November’s SEMA is a custom car celebration based on function and hooning, while the late February/early March Autorama tips the balance towards highlighting the show car aura of participating rides.
And this Chevy seems to feature your typically impressive Autorama prep, having sucked in over 20,000 man-hours to build over the past 2.5 years. The figures and details we’ll be mentioning here come from builder Bruce Harvey of Pennsylvania-based Pro Comp Customs and car owner Rick Bird, who were interviewed on the show floor by Youtuber Reese Capone (you’ll find the result in the first clip below).
“Sho Bird” throws typical hot-rodding rules out the window
Given the kind of work that went into this project, which, not unlike other Autorama machines, required north of $500,000 to create, it might’ve been difficult to single out a certain feature that grabs attention.
However, the powertrain makes it easy: the front end is dominated by a pair of Nelson Racing turbos that are larger than the headlights. Together with their plumbing, these define the look of the nose, while feeding the monstrous 509 ci (8.34 L) V8 behind them with boost.
Returning to the Autorama-SEMA comparo made above, we’ll reiterate the fact that the show hosting this Chevy rewards functional beasts. So, while the beastly motor could deliver up to 1,400 horsepower, it’s been downtuned to about 800 ponies for drivability.
And, in case you’re wondering how the vehicle can lose speed with those chrome brake discs, you should know the hardware was mounted specifically for display, while the car features separate rotors, probably the traditional iron kind.
Another element that strays from the old-school hot rodding narrative is the hydraulic suspension, which also integrates a set of coil overs, allowing the ride height to be adjusted on the spot.
The bodywork customization is otherworldly
At the bottom of the page, you’ll find a video of a 1931 Chevrolet Independence five-window coupe that has been restored without custom intentions, which only makes it easier to notice just how far Pro Comp Customs has gone when working on the body of the vehicle.
The five-inch top chop is just the icing on the cake, with the said chief builder stating that “pretty much all the panel on the car has been changed, modified, or hand-built,“
The said description also covers the interior, as well as the posterior of the vehicle, which is where the radiator was relocated.
Before changing its identity to “Sho Bird”, this ’31 Chevy spent around three decades in a barn, and seeing how far it has come (there are some pictures in the first clip below) is a special type of mind game.