To a lot of people, an automobile can be just that: just an automobile. But for some, there is an attachment immediately with a car; more so with vintage cars.
Roger Castillo knew the moment he got his ’38 Ford that that would the case with this particular car.
Time passed and Roger was ready for a new project when he caught up with car builder Mike Bello from Bello’s Kustoms in San Diego. Mike had already done a ’52 Chevy Fleetline for Roger, and Roger was a huge fan of Mike’s style. He told Mike he was looking for a ’40 Ford because he’d always loved the prewar style cars.
The car was in good shape, running the original flathead motor and manual transmission it was built with in the factory. The paint was just primer, and having been outside, had started to bleed with surface rust. It wasn’t long before the car was brought to Mike, and right away plans were made to start the build. Roger wanted to do things one at a time, working through the project in steps. The chop was the first to talk about, but would wait as the first actual step was to modernize the car.The factory mill was pulled and a refreshed Chevy 327 was installed with a Turbo 350 transmission behind it. That, matched with a new Mustang II front end, new brakes, and rear-end out of a 77 Granada, made this car the driver it was meant to be. The car was air-bagged all around with Bello’s custom four-link in the rear. Roger drove it like that for about a year, cruising all the way to the Grand National Roadster Show in its rusty form. It wasn’t long after that it was ready for the next step.
When it came time for the chop, something that really determines the new look of a car, Roger said, “I want it done Bello’s Custom style,” complimenting Mike’s unique style of top chops and elegant body mods. With that, he let Mike make the decision, and five inches was cut out of the roof, and the back split-window frame laid down. After that was finished up, the skirts were flush mounted and blended into the body.
After the bodywork was finished and primer done and ready, the idea of colors was the next conversation. Once again, being a fan of Mike’s work, Roger really wanted to know his suggestions. The sheen would be satin to show off the flowing curves of the Art Deco body, and two colors were suggested. Mike offered Gold or Champagne Satin from Kustom Shop. Roger picked Champagne, to Mike’s approval, the irony being that Mike already knew what color he was going to paint the car. An artist knows his canvas. Like everything when it comes to project, it’s always evolving and sometimes it can snowball. Noting how well the car had come along and with the fresh chop and paint, Mike suggested they should go ahead and do the interior. They both loved how the original rusty and chipped dash looked over decades, so they felt that should stay. A deep red tuck and roll leather interior was installed, brightening up the inside of the car. The contrast with the satin gold of the body makes a beautiful blend, and was the final touch for this part of Roger’s build. It only took Mike about seven months to get the chop done, the paint ready, and the interior done, making a radical change from the car Roger handed over. The final result is a beautiful pre-war car with enough subtle custom touches to make it stand out, but yet still remain elegant and classy. Roger trusted Mike’s skills and got exactly what he wanted; a unique Bello’s Kustom that seriously stands out from the crowd at any show. Only time will tell how the car will keep evolving, because as we know, no project is truly ever done.