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Copyright 2018
Dallas Area Classic Chevys


January
Feature Truck!



Steven & Ginger Mensik's
1957 Custom Panel Truck
Bristol, Texas
by Ginger Mensik
 

“Hey, Ging! Look what I found!”
 

It was 1992. I don’t remember the date, the day or the weather, but I do remember being angry. Seriously angry. Another rusty, old project vehicle was just not something I thought we needed. Steve was so excited. He was telling me all about finding this giant piece of junk yard filler in Hutchins, just right there by the highway, that all the stuff crammed in the back was “good stuff” and, after all, it’s a panel. Someone had stripped the paint and never done anything to protect the metal so the whole thing looked like a pile of rust on the trailer. It had plenty of holes and dings and nasty – but my husband had a huge smile and, well, yeah –  panel. A 1957 Chevy panel, at that.

We had plenty of project vehicles around. Steve has always had a phobia of running out of something to work on. By the time this panel came to live with us, he had completed a few trucks and gained a lot of skill, but a panel is a huge project, especially for a guy whose shop is dirt floored space shared with his wife’s horses. I didn’t think we needed another project, but I was wrong.

It didn’t take me long to see his vision and even start adding a few ideas of my own. The trucks he had built to that point had been intended to sell. This vehicle we planned to build for us and to keep. Steve encouraged my input – not that he actually acted on much of it! He said this could be my daily driver someday. He said it would take a long time before we got to drive this truck, and I knew it would, but I don’t think either of us expected it to take most of 20 years to get it on the road.

Steve doesn’t “restore” vehicles. He “rebuilds” them. He had a vision for The Panel from the start and it included a LOT of fabrication – because that’s what he likes to do – but he also planned a comfortable vehicle we would enjoy driving. The subframe was donated by Steve’s sister Kathy’s “retired” ‘78 Nova, contributing the power steering. He installed an 8.8 Ford rear axle from a Lincoln. A 305 small block Chevy motor and 700R4 overdrive transmission provide the go, power disc brakes all the way around provide the whoa and a custom 29 gallon fuel tank provides plenty of range to roam.

The list of body modifications Steve did to The Panel is impressive and (admitting to a huge amount of prejudice) the workmanship in their application is even more impressive. The entire floor was replaced, along with a lot more sheet metal, and there were months of hard work invested before he got to even start on the things you can see. The fire wall is completely smooth. The roof was replaced with a ribbed roof from a Dodge Caravan.  He chopped 3 inches from above the drip rail and cut in custom side windows. He set in a retractable sun roof from a Cadillac and ‘89 Cadillac tail lights. He smoothed the cowl vent, reshaped the lower rocker panel, reshaped the doors, and – one of my favorite details – set ‘57 Chevy car rockets in the hood.  He flush fit the rear door hinges and shaved the door handles - because, of course, Steve planned on a keyless remote entry system from the beginning. He fit ‘57 station wagon bumperettes to the rear bumper, cut in a flip down license plate to access the hidden hitch, and added 57 car dagmars to the front bumper. The fuse box is located under the step on the driver’s side and the battery is on the passenger side in the same location. The dash is from a ’57 car using Classic Instruments gauges and the interior is totally custom, including the console that Steve fabricated from scratch because he couldn’t find one he liked that would fit.

I lost the battle to have him reshape the drip rail. He did it on another vehicle and I really liked it – but The Panel does have a LOT of drip rail. I did win the sun roof, which actually surprised me. It took a lot of head-and-butt-scratching for him to figure out how to set it in, but getting it wired and working was a real challenge. Steve imported his friend John Givens from Oklahoma and they had a fun weekend getting that done.

The attention to detail and pursuit of perfection is visible in every detail. Seams are smooth and even. The doors and hood fit and close perfectly. There are hours and hours of work, sweat, energy and love poured into every square inch of this vehicle.

And of course, if a vehicle is going to be comfortable and fun to drive, it must have power windows and a remote control Kenwood stereo system. The steering wheel is a 15 incher from a ’57 Chevy car on a tilt column and the Vintage Air AC is housed in the custom console Steve fabricated.

Steve would work on The Panel for months and then push it aside and do something else. During this time, we finally got a concrete floor in the barn and then added on a real shop to create the building we lovingly call The Sharn. And yes, Steve did the majority of that work, along with a few great friends. He built a ’56 Chevy pickup for our daughter Alaina’s 16th birthday, a total frame-off rebuild that resulted in a purple (Plum Crazy!) truck known as Grimace (for McDonald’s purple monster) that our daughter drove for years, serves us now as a “truck of all trades,” and our grandson plans to drive himself a few years in the future. Other vehicles he built and sold include a 1950 Studebaker truck (a masterpiece itself with widened fenders, a totally smooth body, and lowered stance), 2 1955 Chevy trucks (one built from a Lincoln Continental donor car that was simply incredible – but that’s another story!), a ’59 Chevy truck that belongs to Steve’s cousin Danny, and even two Ford Mustangs. All of this between spurts of working on The Panel.

Each of these projects had a name.  Alaina’s truck Grimace, the Lincoln truck we called Abraham, the white w/cherry pearl truck that turned out a bit pink was Mary Kay. When The Panel first came to live here, we called him Moby because we planned to paint him white. Long before anything was ready for paint, Steve had come up with the silver/green color scheme – which I wholeheartedly supported – so that name was discarded. I suggested we call him Puck, but Steve didn’t really like that and it never stuck so this poor nameless beauty is simply known as The Panel.

Not long after Steve started driving him, he learned the sun roof wasn’t happy in its new home, resulting in cracks in the roof paint. That problem has long been solved, but the roof is still in primer. Matching a custom paint color is a huge challenge. Which we proved when I backed my truck into The Panel’s door.

Yes, I did. The day before Christmas Eve, 2011. I was hurrying to go pick up our grandson from day care and backed right into it - the hitch on my Chevy Silverado 4X4 centered right in the passenger door. I don’t think anything I’ve ever done has devastated me as much as that careless move. And it is absolute proof my husband loves me that I am sitting here writing this instead of rotted in the tank out behind The Sharn. I am so grateful I hit the door and not the side under the under the inset windows, but I still felt like a horrible person and seriously bad wife. All those hours of work, and now more hours to fix that door and a not completely successful attempt to match the paint. The silver lining there is now we’re discussing repainting the entire thing slightly differently. I’m sure there will be more additions and subtle changes as time goes on and Steve tweaks his ideas.

Even with the primer roof and off-color passenger door, The Panel is a head turning machine. Steve has won several awards with it, but the ultimate – so far – was the Best Truck at the Menards Chevy show in May of ’17. Steve was interviewed for their TV show and The Panel was featured in the opening credits of the show for that season – from the front and not showing the roof, of course.

The Panel is driven often and always enjoyed. We get waves, honks, and thumbs up everywhere we go. I love watching people’s faces as they walk around it and see the fabrications Steve did. “But it looks like it belongs that way” is a common reaction. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

Steve will just grin and tell you “Every bit of it is a vision I had that became reality.”

I say Steven Mensik is an artist and this 1957 Chevrolet Panel is a work of art. Maybe someday he’ll even let me drive it.

Editor’s Note – Several months before this feature was published, Steven was approached about doing a “Feature” on his fabulous ’57 Panel.  “No problem” he said, just as he had done a year or so earlier when asked the same about his ’57 Bel Air Convertible.  “I’ll get Ginger on it right away” he said.  You see his wife of 36 years, Ginger is the wordsmith of the family and she can write a story!  So not long after the feature was slotted in for January’s Feature for the club as you see it here.  Little did we know, that at the young age of 61, Ginger would suffer an aortic aneurysm on December 8th and we would sadly and unexpectedly lose her just a few days later on December 18th.  She left us with this fantastic story in her own words about their beautiful 1957 Chevy Panel truck built with Steve’s own hands with lots of love and input from Ginger.  She will be missed…..


 

2018 Feature Cars


January
Duffy Oyster
1957 Convertible

 


February
Andy Kuchta
1955 Pickup

 

March
Steven Mensik
1957 Convertible

April
Duffy Oyster
1957 Bel Air Hardtop

May
Bobby Bonds
1955 210 Sedan

June
Kevin Sears
1955 Bel Air Sedan

July
Matt Heit
1956 Bel Air Sedan

August
Ken Horton
1957 Bel Air Hardtop

September
David Graves
1956 Corvette

October
Don Beck
1955 Bel Air Hardtop

November
Robin Collord
1955 Nomad

December
Clint Davis
1955 2nd Series Pickup

 

2017 Feature Cars

January
Larry Myers

'57 Nomad

February
David Hudson
'55 Bel Air Hardtop

March
Diane Bray
'55 Bel Air Hardtop

April
Dale Maddox
'56 Nomad

May
Terry Adams
'57 Bel Air Hardtop

June
Al Burgess
'56 Bel Air Hardtop

July
Joey Truelove
'56 Bel Air Hardtop

August
Duffy Oyster
'55 Bel Air Convertible

September
Roy Bilberry
'55 Bel Air Hardtop

October
Dale Maddox
'56 Nomad

November
Johnny Gentry
'57 Pickup

December
Dennis Fletcher
'55 210 Sedan

 

2016 Feature Cars

January
John Green

'55 Bel Air Sedan

February
Dennis Gormley
'56 Nomad

March
Ken Burton
'56 Bel Air Sedan

April
Joe Angelini
'55 Bel Air Sedan

May
John Gibson
'56 Bel Air Sedan

June
Keith Brogdon
'55 Bel Air Sedan

July
No Feature Car

August
Mike D'Uva
'55 Nomad

September
Charles Haley
'57 Bel Air Sedan

October
John Yoby
'55 210 Sedan

November
Duffy Oyster
'55 Convertible

December
Ed Giolma
'57 Nomad

 

2015 Feature Cars

January
Al Thomson

'57 Convertible

February
Gunnar Grove
'55 Handyman Wagon

March
Carl Mitcham
'57 Convertible

April
Rico Padilla
'57 Bel Air

May
Bobby Wallace
'56 Bel Air

June
Donna Johnson
'57 Convertible

July
Jody Stiff
'55 Bel Air

August
Bill Preston
'57 Corvette

September
Ronnie Ruyle
'56 210 2dr Sedan

October
Patrick Briney
'55 Bel Air 2dr Sedan

November
Marvin Johnson
'55 Bel Air 2dr Hardtop

December
James Lair
'57 150 Sedan

 

2014 Feature Cars

January
Marvin Johnson

'57 Nomad

February
Gina Cammarata
'57 Be Air

March
Joe Angelini
'55 Handyman

April
Jack Stewart
'55 Convertible

May
Marvin Johnson
'57 Bel Air

June
Jac Broussard
'57 Bel Air

July
Terry Sealock
'57 Nomad

August
Bill Lewis
'56 Deluxe Pickup

September
Tom Entrekin
'56 Corvette

October
Donna Thomson
'56 Convertible

November
Mike Reeves
'56 Nomad

December
Jim Baughan
'55 Convertible

 
2013 Feature Cars

January
Don Andre
'57 Bel Air 2dr Hardtop

February
Don Sebert
'56 Corvette

March
Mike Dodson
'56 210 2dr Sedan

April
Dennis Gormley
'55 210 Sedan Drag Racer

May
Sharkey Nelson
'55 Bel Air Hardtop

June
AJ Pilie
'55 Bel Air Hardtop

July
Joe Harrington
'56 Pickup

August
Jim Gary
'55 Bel Air Hardtop

September
Kenneth Taylor
'55 Bel Air Hardtop

October
Don Howard
'56 210 2dr Sedan

November
Tommy Sims
'55 210 2 Dr Sedan

December
Leroyce Jones
'55 Bel Air Hardtop

 

2012 Feature Cars

January
Tom Walker
'56 Sedan Delivery

February
Don Mullins
'57 150 2dr Sedan

March
John Rogers
'56 Nomad

April
Jim Leinart
'55 210 Sedan

May
James Carter
'57 Bel Air

June
Rob Bryngelson
'57 210 Sedan

July
Mike Jones
'55 Bel Air Sedan

August
Jon Ellison
'57 Pickup

September
Jim Leinart
'55 210 Sedan

October
Ken Dobbs
'57 Bel Air Hardtop

November
Rich Purvis
'55 Nomad

December
Philip Romo
'55 Bel Air Sedan

 

2011 Feature Cars

January
Andy Salinas
'56 Bel Air

February
Scott Hengemuhle
'57 Bel Air

March
Joe Mason
'57 210

April
Mike Reeves
'57 Convertible

May
Josh Hart
'55 Bel Air

June
Ed Robertson
'55 Nomad

July
James Sparrow
'56 Bel Air

August
Mike Russell
'56 210

September
Top 5 Lone Star Picks

October
Jim Leinart
'55 Bel Air

November
David Sherman
'55 Nomad

December
Michael Brown
'57 Convertible

 

2010 Feature Cars

January
Larry Freeman

'56 Convertible

February
Michael Brown
'55 Bel Air Hardtop

March
Ray Langford
'57 Bel Air Hardtop

April
Billy Walker
'55 Drag Racer

May
Terry Sealock
'57 Convertbile

June
Carl Soeffker
'55 Pedal Car

July
Tom McGee
'55 Bel Air Sedan

August
Scott Hengemuhle
'55 Bel Air Hardtop

September
Bryan Greenfield
'56 210 Sedan

October
Larry Rogers
'57 210 Sedan

November
Mike Bresler
'55 210 Sedan

December
Terry Hitch
'57 Nomad

 

2009 Feature Cars

January
Doug Pedersen

'55 Bel Air Hardtop

February
Bennie Zimmerman

'57 Cameo Pickup

March
Ralph Sandlin

'57 210 Wagon

April
Bob Caruth

'56 Bel Air Hardtop

May
Glen South
'57 210 Sedan

June
Brian Sherwood
'55 1st Series 3100 Pickup

July
James Carson
'57 Bel Air Hardtop

August
Marvin Cowden
'55 Bel Air Sedan

September
Loren Baxter
'56 Bel Air Hardtop

October
Mark Baker
'55 210 Sedan

November
Michael Brown
'57 Corvette

December
Geoff Clark
'55 Handyman Wagon

 

2008 Feature Cars

January
Debbie Guido

'57 Bel Air Sedan

February
Tim Page

'57 Bel Air Station Wagon

March
Greg Strader

'55 Bel Air Sedan

April
Stu Jacobs

'55 Bel Air Hardtop

May
Terry Box

'55 Bel Air Sedan

June
Rex Buzan

'55 Bel Air Hardtop

July
Joe Sanders

'57 Bel Air Hardtop

August
Mike Dodson

'56 Nomad

September
Irv Engelbrecht

'55 210 Sedan

October
Bill Raley

'56 Pickup

November
Bob Brandenburg

'57 Bel Air Sedan

December
Tommy Simmons

'57 210 9 Pass Beauville Wagon

 

2007 Feature Cars

January
Lorenzo Castillo
'55 210 Sedan

February
Phil Haynes

'57 150 Sedan

March
Joe Ortega

'57 Bel Air Hardtop

April
Robert Black

'55 Sedan

May
Ben Weehunt

'57 Bel Air Hardtop

June
Jim Sellstrom

'55 Bel Air Sedan

July
Bob Smolik

'57 Bel Air Hardtop

August
Mike Reeves

'55 Bel Air Hardtop

September
Larry Epperson

'57 Bel Air 4dr Hdtp

October
Mike Cook

'55 Convertible

November
Don Clark

'56 Nomad

December
James Carter

'57 Bel Air Hardtop

 

2006 Feature Cars

January
Jim Conkle
'55 Bel Air Sedan

February
Nick Roppollo
'56 Bel Air Sedan

March
Dennis Gormley
'55 210 Sedan

April
George Caruth

'57 Sedan Delivery

May
Bob Vaughan

'57 Bel Air Hardtop

June
Doyle Irick

'57 Cameo Pickup

July
Mark Lamkin

'55 Bel Air Hardtop

August
Ralph Ellis

'57 Convertible

September
Chuck Rader

'57 Bel Air Hardtop

October
Dan Bunch

'57 Bel Air Sedan

November
Frank Makarauskas

'57 210 Sedan

December
Carl Mitcham

'57 Bel Air Hardtop

 

2005 Feature Cars
January
John Rush
'56 210 Sedan
February
Sharkey Nelson
'57 Limo
March
Joe Gaikoski
'56 Convertible
April
Dean Schmidt
'57 Bel Air Hardtop
May
Lewis Reynolds
'55 210 Sedan
June
Tom Walker
'57 Bel Air Hardtop
July
George Johnson
'56 Nomad
August
Sonny Poteet
'55 Bel Air Hardtop
September
Alan Strong
'57 150 Sedan
October
Rodney Nevils
'56 Corvette
November
Tom Blackburn
'57 Bel Air Hardtop
December
Dennis Lind
'57 Bel Air Hardtop

 

2004 Feature Cars
January - none February - none March - none April
Steve Pratt
'55 Bel Air Sedan
May
Larry Rollow
'57 210 Sedan
June
Marvin Johnson
'56 Bel Air Hardtop
July
Kevin Brown
'56 210 Sedan
August
David Graves
'55 Bel Air Hardtop
September
BJ Bucher
'57 150 Sedan
October
Greg Hedum
'55 Bel Air Hardtop
November
Bill Preston
56 Nomad
December
Ron Davis
'55 Bel Air Hardtop

 

 


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