What’s it like to drive a 500hp Pro Street ’57 CHEVY…

In my job, I get to meet some really incredible car people — people whose passion transcends above the norm and into the AutoSphere. When you talk with someone like that, you can’t help but get inspired to new levels. And this is the whole point of loving cars.

But every now and then you meet someone who not only loves cars, but who you can tell is simply an extraordinary person overall. Kind, warm, attentive and very, very serious about their rides. Oh sure, they’ll have fun at the shows and all that. But when it’s time to get the work done, it can only be done one way — the right way.

This week’s Ride of the Week goes out the burly Ken Vela and his insane cherry Pro Street 1957 Chevrolet 210.

Ken designed the motor, transmission and rear end combos resulting in a ridiculous 11.57 quarter mile time. 

“Rat DNA launches out of the hole at 5000 RPM,” Ken said. “The best part with this combo is that you can also get on the freeway doing 80 mph and cruising at 2,800 RPM at half throttle.” 

It’s just plain nuts. 

The body is all original — custom retrofitted ‘57 Corvette grille with chrome Dag Mars; Corvette 2 stage dark red metallic paint; period correct Burgundy and white tuck and roll interior; bench seat notched for the B&M hammer shifter; front disc brake conversion; dropped spindles and springs; Speed-O Motive assembled with engine room dyno. West Tech Performance Group, along with myself, did the installation. This list goes on forever and since my article is limited to a billion words, I’m going to let you imagine the rest. But it eventually leads to sweet Colorado Custom 15-inch by 10-inch rear wheels with Mickey Thompson ET radials 30-inch by 14-inch and 15-inch by 8-inch fronts with Goodyear Eagle GTs.

Ken has owned this car for 12 year,s resulting in three motors, two transmissions and two rear ends. He found it at a classic car dealership owned by a friend of Boyd Coddington. 

“It was in rough shape, sitting in a warehouse located in Huntington Beach,” he said. 

Why this car? 

“It reminded me of my first classic car, which was a 1963 SS Impala… and I also spent five years as a DJ behind a ‘57 Chevy at a club called Blue Suede Shoes in Chicago…It reminded me of happier times. I needed a project car to get my mind off of my divorce at the time.”

“When I am building and designing I have no concept of time, food or pee breaks for that matter…I am in the zone. Perfect therapy! So I traded in my fully optioned original, numbers matching 1970 Big Block Corvette and let the good times begin. One of the best things I have ever done.” 

See what I mean?

Ken heads to cruise nights and car shows, and does wedding rentals and weekend drives up and down the coast, stopping at this favorite spots. But his best story? 

“I was sitting beside my car at a local car show when I noticed this very cute elderly couple that came to admire my car. They were looking at  exterior of the car commenting how it brought back so many memories of when they used to date…at that same moment they looked inside the car to see the interior and they both looked in the back seat, then turned to each other at the same time with the biggest smile on their faces giggling like kids. That’s when it hit me…many children must have been conceived in the back seat of these cool classic cars. It makes me happy to share my passion for custom cars, and bring memories of a simpler time.”

On top of all that, Ken loves movie and television history and culture. Growing up in a small town in Indiana, his only escape was through TV and the silver screen. He knew at 10 years old that he wanted to move to California and go surfing; summer all year round, custom cars, beautiful girls and Malibu. It’s been 30 years and it is still magic.     

I’m proud to call Ken a friend regarding cars. But he’s just great people, reminding us that the key to all success is to give love to all things. Cars, Malibu, people and work. He’s a champion for all things good. Just don’t let the ‘57’s growl fool you.


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