Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The David Mann / Rod Powell connection......

I was bored, so I was cruising the blogs the other night, and on Nao's The World/Psycho Wheels blog from Japan, he has a couple posts featuring David Mann centerfolds from Easyriders. One in particular is the one shown below, from the Nov. 1979 issue of EZ.

It depicts a chance meeting of two "different but the same" worlds, in more than one respect. Both the chopped top '56 Chevy Sedan Delivery, and the chopper sport the same style black/yellow flamed paintjobs, and both of their respective owners are giving the "thumbs up" to each other in mutual respect for the others work.

I thought you'd like to know a little background on the centerfold, because David Mann was the actual owner of this particular '56 Chevy Sedan Delivery at the time he painted this centerfold. Read on.....

This particular '56 Sedan Delivery was originally built by who many consider the "master painter of flames", Rod Powell. According to Rod, in his book Rod Powell's Flame Painting Techniques, he states he built this car for himself, but he doesn't specify when it was chopped, built, or painted after he opened his own shop in '69. He does say that the car was painted by his painter Jack Bradford in black lacquer, and that Powell did the flames.

Powell is also sketchy about how long he owned the SD, only saying that he eventually sold the car to Boyd Coddington. Powell goes on to say it changed hands "a number of times" after Coddington, and that "...artist David Mann owned it for a while. He did a painting of it for Easyriders magazine".

Powell isn't real good on providing dates in this part of his book, probably owing to the fact that he couldn't recall them, or felt that they weren't really relevant in this section of his book. One can guess that David Mann owned it pretty close to the same time period that he did his centerfold painting, again, the painting was the centerfold in the Nov. '79 issue of Easyriders.

Here's a B&W photo of the '56, taken at 2:00am, masked off and ready to shoot the flames. Powell, like a lot of us, was working after hours on his own stuff, trying to get the flames shot before he had to open the shop later on in the morning to complete the paying jobs for customers. Yeah, those of us with shops have all been there.....

Here's the only color picture that I can find right now , but I'm positive that either Car Craft, or Hot Rod did a full feature on the '56 back then. In this photo, you can clearly see the top chop, and you'll note that Powell's original Cali yellow-on-blue license plate is the same number that Mann used in his painting - 154 DHP. What a fantastic job of color blending and fades on the flame's "licks".

You'll also notice that in the Mann painting, the original chrome reversed wheels with the baby moons capped with a bullet are replaced with a set of Tru Spokes and spinners, and the lake pipes are gone. Whether Coddington, another owner, or Mann did these mods is anybody's guess.

Sadly, one of the later owners after David Mann had the sedan delivery repainted in a "monochrome" paint scheme (Powell didn't specify the color), probably owing to the age of the original lacquer paint, and "refined to perfection", according to Powell. But, it has "disappeared" as of late. Wonder where it is now, and if the present owner is aware of its history?

A page from the 1955 Chevy "Light Duty" truck sales brochure, showing the standard and optional equipment for the Sedan Delivery . The SD is shown painted in Adobe Beige here. The Sedan Deliveries were always shown in the light truck brochures, not the car brochures.

I thought you'd like to know a little about the sedan delivery style of vehicles. Chevy (along with Ford, and Chrysler) offered the sedan delivery-style of vehicle for just about as long as they offered sedans and station wagons. The sedan delivery was your basic automotive (not truck) bare-bones sedan or wagon body and chassis, with the side windows replaced by a solid body panel, the rear seating deleted, and in lieu of a trunk lid (or in the case of a station wagon, its split liftgate/drop down tailgate), the body received a solid 1 pc. door with window, that was usually hinged to the L/H side, with the latch/door handle on the right.

The benefits in the delivery "market" for a sedan delivery-style vehicle were many. They were the ideal size for "light" home and office delivery businesses - like flower shops, meat markets, office supplies, dry cleaners, florists, etc. They were easy to maneuver through city traffic, parked where a car could, cost less than a full-sized truck to own, and were economical to run every day. Plus, they were also favored by people who offered "home services" like service station mobile repairs, carpenters, plumbers, and electricians. And, as an added bonus, it gave a company a little "prestige and class" when their delivery person arrived to do his job in the 'burbs.

Rear view of a restored '56 Sedan Delivery, also in Adobe Beige, showing the unique "clamshell" rear lift gate, which began with the '55 model, and continued thru '60.

In '55, when Chevy changed body styles, they came up with a feature that helped the delivery person's access to the rear of the vehicle, with Ford following suit in '57. Instead of hinging the rear door to the left, Chevy (and Ford) made the rear door to hinge from the top, supported in the open position by the same locking struts that the station wagons used on their upper liftgates. This allowed the driver even more access to load and unload the vehicles. They also offered a single bucket seat as standard vs. the bench seat, that allowed longer items to fit from the firewall to the tailgate on the R/H side of the interior. A R/H bucket seat was an option, and both seats hinged forward to access cargo behind them.

Chevy continued the Sedan Delivery line thru the '60 model year, when it was dropped, and it's niche in the light delivery market was filled in '61 by its replacement, the new Corvair Greenbriar van model, which itself was replaced in '64 by the "first generation" G-10 1/2 series of delivery vans.

Here's a tip on ID'ing a real GM-built sedan delivery. There are quite a few station wagons out there that have had the side windows filled, and the SD's tailgate added to it (the recesses for the top hinges are stamped into every wagon tailgate surround). It's an easy conversion, but if you look at the VIN ID tag (not the cowl tag on the firewall) on the left door pillar, you'll see a code similar to this:
D 57 K 01234.

The "D" in the ID # is the designation for the sedan delivery body, "57" is the year, "K" is the final assembly plant (in this case Kansas City, MO.), and the "012345" is the serial #. The "D" ONLY shows on this tag for a real sedan delivery.

Here's an ancient photo (only one I can find) of the '57 Chevy sedan delivery I owned, taken around '79 or so. Originally when I got it, it was painted that ugly Chevy "Surf Green", and had the original New Blue Flame 123 6, and "three on a tree" transmission. I replaced that with a SB 327/Powerglide combo shortly after. I drove it around like that for about two years, and then I came across a deal on a BB 454/TH 400 combo from a wrecked '70 SS Chevelle, and an all chrome '58 Olds rear end with 4:11 gears to go with it.

It was raggedy, the interior was loud and smelled like old gear oil, and that fucker would MOVE when you mashed the loud pedal. I loved it! I finished up the bodywork on it - including an all-steel tilt front end I did (that could be raised and lowered via two convertible top rams with a flip of a switch on the dash) , but never got it past the primer stage in the 6 years I owned it. As is the case, somebody made me "an offer I couldn't refuse...." on it, for a trade of a '64 Pan and cash for it. I wish I still had that sedan delivery today. Oh, and the Pan, too!


Gnar Jen said...

This whole post is too fuckin awesome. Who knew how much history could be found in one sick old centerfold.

mindpill said...


teapartyvideos said...

i found the 56 powell flamed car in a set of car show pics from a 76 tulsa rod show. i searched the license plate number!