What do you get for the man that has everything? If you’re the scion of a century-old family business that has dominated the car care world for decades, an icon of “car guy” culture and a friendly face known around the world as a business leader and television personality, you can basically drive anything you want, but how do you make your dream car handle like a dream?
Barry Meguiar, CEO of Meguiar’s Inc., took over the surface care business started by his grandfather and expanded by his father and uncles, and steered the company to unparalleled international success by recognizing one simple fact: car guys buy the most car wax. That simple idea blossomed into a successful television program, a weekly radio show, thousands of magazine articles and millions of bottles of car wax sold around the globe. So when Barry Meguiar goes out to his garage to drive his “weekend car”, he doesn’t grab the keys to a 220mph Italian exotic or a rare 1930’s British touring car. Meguiar slides behind the wheel of his very first car: a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, black on black with a hopped-up small block and four on the floor.
The problem: This lovingly restored and cosmetically flawless ’57 was restored to factory showroom stock, making it a dynamic performer in the 1950’s but a less than stellar handling machine by today’s standards. The car needed to be more stable during cornering and at 21st century freeway speeds, but without sacrificing its showroom stock looks. A bolt-in Mustang II suspension system wouldn’t fly on this car, it has to look like it did in the high school parking lot, but drive like a modern machine. To solve the problem, Meguiar had his right hand man Mike Pennington bring the car to Hotchkis.
After driving the Bel Air, assessing its handling characteristics and putting it on the rack for a full inspection, we determined that a new Sport Sway Bar Set and a performance alignment would make it handle like a new car. The suspension and steering were rebuilt during the restoration. If it needed new steering components, we also would have installed a Premium Steering Rebuild Kit.
We pulled off the stock front bar, bolted on the new Sport bar, added the rear bar, and performed an alignment with our factory laser-guided alignment machine. Less than two hours later the car was back on the road, and it handled like a completely different machine. Pennington’s one-word reaction sums it up best: “Wow!”
At Hotchkis, we recognize that some people don’t want to tear apart a finished car and replace the entire suspension system, especially if it means swapping out factory GM parts with hardware engineered for a ‘70s Mustang or a street rod. If your main goal is hitting the road and enjoying the drive in your muscle car, shoebox Chevy or other hot rod, sometimes all you need is a few bolt-on parts that preserve your car’s original soul but provide a grin-inducing modern driving experience. It’s that simple.
So what does the “Ultimate Car Guy” think of his first car’s new moves? We haven’t had a chance to ask him yet, but judging by the smile on his face when he pulled out of the last local cruise-in, he seems to be enjoying it.