“Could you paint a mural on the deck lid of a 55, friend?”
It was the height of the automotive show car circuit and I had entered The Mothership into the local show at Centre 200 when an unassuming man with a kind look on his face asked that question. I make it a point to have all my artwork on display at some of these shows, because what is the automotive hobby but one fine-art sculpture fest!? Well, that day the art did seem to captivate the fancy of a gentleman named Steve Burns.
Steve loves his Chevys but has a special appreciation for the first year of the Tri-five body style. “I have got three of them,” he says, “but the current one that I am building is the one that I want the mural on.” And boy-o-boy the one that he’s been tinkering with is an era-correct ‘Gasser’! Now, I know that all the automotive aficionados who read these musings must be leaping up and down with barely restrained glee at the mention of a ‘Gasser Chevy,’ but for those who aren’t familiar, a history lesson is in order.
So in them heady days of the mid to late ‘50s and all the way up until the psychedelic ‘70s, stock-appearing cars were stripped down to their bare essentials, and their front ends were jacked up with a straight solid axle for the sake of better weight distribution. This created some of the most interesting-looking automobiles to ever hit the drag racing track. The style has all but disappeared in the modern hot rod community and today barely a handful of original gassers are seen on the global show circuit. This makes Steves Gasser rarer than hen’s teeth on this car-crazy island of ours.
“My brother has been racing on the drag circuit since the early ‘70s and I was instrumental in laying down the tarmac at Bud Speedway when it first started off.” The Burns have been an automotive family for a long time now and folks like Steve are why I am proud to call the Third a Hot Rodders’ Paradise. “I sold my 1969 Camaro drag car to be able to build this Gasser,” Steve says. He once invited me down to the drag strip to check out his old Camaro and I was absolutely blown away by the meticulously built race car. Indeed, Steve knows how to build the best-looking vehicles in the business and has forgotten a lot more information about these machines than the current generation of Hot Rodders shall ever know. “It’s been our racing motto for ages now: ‘If its Burn’s, it's Hot!’” and ‘hot’ definitely describes the quality of the automobiles that Steve builds.
The ’55 is going to look a lot more put together then the Gassers of yesteryear and is supposed to look like a sister car to Steve’s blue and white Chevy. I am still working on the mural for the deck lid which is proving to be quite the artistic challenge due to its curvy bodywork. But I am sure it will look absolutely stellar when the car is all done up.
Steve, a full-time firefighter, must sneak in the work to finish this awesome machine, which he plans to have on display at the shows next summer. “Your profession definitely adds a new dimension to your racing motto” I once told him.
So, the next time you see a fire engine blazing away to the aid a Thirder, remember, on board could be an absolutely badass and kind-hearted automotive fanatic who also happens to be in the business of saving lives. It is indeed Burns if it’s hot.