Beauty and the Beast

By Jeff Barnes

Among the 150 rare finds and collectibles of the Father’s Day Car Show at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum are two gems from Speedway Motors’ Museum of American Speed, one sparing color and the other exploding with it.

The 1957 Chevy “Black Widow” and 1937 Studebaker “Extremeliner” are both extremes on the automotive spectrum meant to wow anyone who sees them, says Dylan Schwarzenbach, restoration shop manager for Speedway which is co-sponsoring the event.

DSC_0252The Black Widow is really a beast, says Schwarzenbach, built in 1997 as a stripped-down, street-legal race car. “It’s REALLY stripped down – no radio, no AC, manual locks, no heater, Pontiac Grand Prix seats,” he said. It was built by noted car builder Dale Boesch of Humphrey, Neb., wanting to create a modern version of one that Chevy put out in ’57. Once finished, the owner of Speedway Motors, the late Bill “Speedy” Smith, immediately bought it for his collection.

Exterior- and interior-wise, this car is BLACK; there is a moss-green tinge to it which mostly shows in sunlight. The only break from the color comes when you pop the hood to see the fuel-injected, 502 crate engine and find chrome EVERYWHERE. “The intake, valve covers, everything is chrome,” Schwarzenbach says. “It’s kind of like a jewelry box.”

The SAC Car Show is also somewhat of a coming-out party for the ’37 Studebaker Extremeliner. This build is also from the ‘90s, completed by Ken Fenical of the famed Posies Rods and Customs and its one-off art-deco cars.

Typical of much of Fenical’s work, the finished car looks little like the original. Indeed, the Extremeliner looks like a butterfly that could have emerged from a caterpillar’s chrysalis. The most obvious feature of the car is its shimmering paint job of “Luminescent Gold Razzleberry,” a special paint made by PPG made for the car at about $2,000 a gallon. But the effect is worth it – the car flip-flops its colors, going from an extreme gold to bright pink to yellow in the sunlight.

Even under museum lighting the car shines, but it’s there that the styling truly speaks for itself. The car has elements of a ’30 Cord 810/812 and a Lincoln Zephyr. It’s built on a one-off tubular steel frame, with coil-over-shocks front suspension. The car rides incredibly low, Schwarzenbach says, “but it drives right along and doesn’t rub anywhere – it drives like a Civic.

He said the neat part of the car is that the wood frame is simulated. “It’s fiberglass, airbrushed and hand-painted, right down to the knotholes,” he said.

Speedway Motors was a longtime supplier of Posies’ shop and the owners of both businesses were friends. “Bill Smith was there when the car was unveiled at SEMA in 1999 and was always a fan,” Schwarzenbach said. “The car was sold in 2006 at auction and then again in 2010 and that’s when Bill bought it.”

The museum hadn’t done much with the car since Smith’s passing in 2014, but then came an invite to display it at this year’s annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance for a Posies retrospective. “We won the Corporate Award for the Most Audacious Exterior at the Concours,” Schwarzenbach said. “The Concours show sort of breathed new life into the car and we really want to show it off more.”

The auto show will be at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum on Saturday, June 15 and Sunday, June 16, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. General admission applies but the show is included in admission.

Originally published in the Omaha World-Herald, June 1, 2019.

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