DUANE STECK THE MOONGLOW part 2
Duane Steck has created a Classic Custom Car out of his 1954 Chevy Bel Air, he named it the Moonglow. Over a period of 5 years the car underwent several changes before Duane lost interest in Customizing.
Special thanks go out to Steve Steck for sharing many of the photos and stories about his brother Duane Steck and the Moonglow Chevy with us.
This is part TWO of a two part article on the Duane Steck’s 1954 Chevy Moonglow.
Part ONE can be seen HERE.
Moonglow version Two
In mid 1957, perhaps half a year after the car was finished, Duane already had new ideas to improve on the looks of the Moonglow. New ideas called for a more molded-in look of the front and a lowered bumper in the rear. The new position of the rear bumper made it necessary to route the exhaust thru the bumper. Custom made pods were welded to the rear bumper and the new exhaust tips routed true them. The bumper guards with the custom parking lights were removed for this version for an extra clean look. The exhaust work was done at Lindy’s Muffler on Lakewood Blvd. The license plate was mounted on the bottom of the trunk and a license plate light was recessed into the lowered splash pan. With the new grille surround Duane removed the stock 1954 Chevy parking light grille bar ends and replaced them with new parking lights mounted closer to the first grille bar fitting inside the new grill opening.
The top lip of the grille opening was molded to the body, and the bottom of the hood was welded to the new lip, creating a longer hood. In the photo on the left Duane on the left is getting the shape right on the new hood lip. The photo on the right shows Steve Steck on the left and Duane on the right with the new body work in a fresh coat of primer. Work was done as before, in the drive way.
To get the lower line of the bumper level with the lowest point of the rear fenders, the rear bumper mounts were lowered. With the bumper in the lower position the exhaust was now routed thru custom outlets added to the bumper.
Photo on the left shows the lowered splash-pan and how the gap was filled in with sheet metal. The photo on the right shows the former Custom Classic in far from attractive white with dark gray primer… ready for all new paint.
For the second time Duane had a friend done the paint job in white enamel, again using the Earl Scheib shop. The photo on the left shows Duane again stenciling his little naked lady figures on the car, to be later covered again in light blue pin-striping by Larry Watson.
Very few photos remain of this second version of the Moonglow, most likely because this version was very short lived. This front 3/4 photo was taken in front of the house the Steck’s lived in at the time, late 1957, early 1958.
As far as we have been able to find out this second version of the Moonglow has never been featured in print back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Most likely because this version of the car was only very short lived. Greg sharp was the first one to use two photos from the Moonglow Photo album showing this version in print, that was in the June 1991 issue of Rod & Custom magazine.
Moonglow version Three
Some time later in 1957 Duane had the urge to do another update on the Chevy. Together with his friend and fellow Renegade member Darol Jorgensen Duane they sanded down the paint on the body for an all new fresh paint job. Some fine tuning was done on the previous performed bodywork and then the two set out and repainted the car in metallic silver, right outside in the driveway. One of the reasons why the car was redone again, was because Duane wanted to detail the engine a bit more, most likely to earn more points at the car shows. He removed the engine and cleaned up the engine bay before painting it silver.
The car all sanded, with added primer spots after fine tuning some of the old body worked section, all ready for a new paint-job. On the right is Duane painting the car silver outside in the drive way.
Duane and Darol Jorgensen working on the silver paint-job. The photo on the right shows that the engine had been removed to be able to fully detail the engine bay. Something not done a lot back in 1957.
Duane later dressed up the 235 engine with dual carbs on a Sharp intake manifold, split manifold and had every part he could remove chrome plated. With the car finished in brilliant silver Duane once again asked Larry Watson to add some paint details. Duane had designed a set of swoopy scallops and asked Larry to do them in pearl white with candy blue fades. When the scallops where done Larry outlined them in imitation gold, and added the name “Moonglow” on the rear fenders towards the taillights.
The finished result photographed at night at the Los Altos Shopping Center. New brilliant silver paint with pearl white scallops tipped in candy blue changed the looks of the car completely. New for this version are the blue tinted vent windows. And once again the Moonglow was trend-setting in 1957.
Andy Southard took this photo of the Moonglow at an 1958 Indoor Car show. Shown with some of the many trophies the car had already won by then.
The Moonglow at an outdoor car show. The blue-tinted vent windows can be seen good here.
In early 1959 Duane made another update to this version of the car. He replaced the rear bumper that had the molded in exhaust tips with another stock Chevy rear bumper of which he removed the bumper guards for an even smoother look. Duane also added Buick portholes to the rear quarters between the wheel opening and the bumper ends. At this time he also added four – two on each side – Buick portholes to the hood. All this was done while the car was painted silver with white scallops. After the Portholes were added the silver paint was touched up. The car would remain like this till early summer that year.
The moonglow now with a new rear bumper with the bumper guards removed and the license plate moved to the lower portion of the trunk. A single Buick porthole was added on each side on the rear fender placed low, just in front of the rear bumper.
Moonglow version Four
A bit later in 1959, around May, june, Duane was ready for yet another update. It would be the last update for the car. The headlights were modified with added peaked covers at the top. Possebly shaped to mimic the shape of the rear fenders over the Chrysler taillights. And once again Duane went to Larry Watson, this time to have Larry o the complete car. Larry Watson had evolved from this kid who striped cars in his parents drive way to the guy who did the most fantastic paint jobs on all the famous customs in So Cal. Duane asked Larry to paint the Moonglow in a nice and brilliant candy blue and pearl white in the insert on the rear fenders. This version would not see any scallops, nor pin-striping, except for the dash, and candy blue scallops on the spotlights. Duane changed the hubcaps once more, now using four bar lancer units, with candy blue painted centers. The Candy blue painted Moonglow was finished in early summer of 1959, and once again made it to the cover of a well known Custom Car publication, the March 1960 issue of Custom Cars Magazine.
In this photo, from the Larry Watson Collection, we can see the freshly painted Moonglow in Candy blue on the far right. The work by Watson was done while he was at his Rosecrans Blvd shop, the most famous of them all.
Not the best quality photos, but these were taken at the Watson Museum at one time framed on the wall. They are to interesting not to share. It shows the Moonglow getting worked on at the Watson Shop, it looks like some Candy Blue touch up work is needed.
By now Duane had decided to not drive the Moonglow to the car shows anymore. The car was very low, and always a bit of a hassle to drive, and after driving it to and from car shows all the time Duane decided he wanted to tow the car from then on. He had installed towbar mounts underneath the front bumper indicating the car was now just for show… and no more go. Duane did still take it to many car shows around LA.
Duane is loosing interest in the Moonglow
In 1960 Duane lost interest in the Moonglow. He raised the suspension and actually put it on a slight rake the so called “California Rake”. By now the four bar hubcaps have been replaced with 1957 Plymouth caps, or similar styled aftermarket pieces. The car had a completely different look – with the high stance and no skirts – then how we know the Moonglow. He even modified the exhaust at this point to make the car just more practical. Duane did drive it around from time to time, just for transportation. The car was a lot easier to use with the higher suspension.
This photo hows Duane’s brother’s Steve 1941 Chevy they were working on. The ’41 is in primer and we can can see the Moonglow parked across the street on the right of the photo. The Moonglow still had the Lancer hubcaps at that time, but Duane already had removed the skirts, and raised the suspension.
Here is the Moonglow after Duane lost interest in it and decided to raise it up so it would be easier to drive. The exhaust was changed and a new set of cone shaped hubcaps was added. The photo was taken sometime in 1960.
But it was too late. Duane had totally lost interest. Not to long after this the car was gone. Duane had lost interest in custom cars and had bought a little Austin Healy bug-eyed Sprite in 1960. He started bugging his brother Steve to buy one as well. Steve told him he couldn’t buy a car (he had just graduated from high school), he didn’t even have any money for a down payment. So Duane told Steve he could have the Moonglow to trade it in. Steve took his brothers offer and bought a brand new 1961 Austin Healy Sprite for $2,400. Steve got $450.- trade-in for the Moonglow. Can you only imagine how much this car would be worth today.
Both Steve and Duane have no idea what happened to the Chevy after Steve traded it in for the Austin Healy Sprite. Steve did see the Moonglow one more time after that. He saw the car completely stripped in the Los Angels Harbor about to getting crushed. Steve managed to save one of the blue tinted vent windows. That was the last anybody ever saw of the MOONGLOW… it was gone forever.
Duane’s Austin Healy bug-eyed Sprite which he bought in 1960.
Steve Steck on driving the Moonglow
“Yes, driving the Moonglow in its show car shape took some real driving skill and awareness of all the dips and potholes in the road. It just took hitting one without slowing and angling the car over it and the driveshaft tips would have a flat bottom in no time. I remember when the brakes went out on the car once and I had to drive it to the brake shop using just the emergency brake to stop it when I needed to. I look back now and realize only young kids did things like that without any awareness of fear or possible consequences. It was like towing a vehicle with a chain or cable (I did this many times) and the guy in the car being towed had to do all the stopping for both cars to avoid any slack in the chain that would cause it to jerk when you took off again. I got very good at stopping the car towing me right at the stop lights and intersections while being towed. You have to have good depth perception for that.”
The Moonglow Custom Car Milestone
The fact that Duane was an artist and had the whole car visualized in his head most likely has something to do with how well the car was proportioned. I have always been intrigued by how the first unfinished version of the car, when it was still un-chopped had modern 1955 style Chevy headlight covers. Which fitted perfectly in the whole Custom Car theme of making your car look never that it was. But after chopping the top Duane must have not liked the looks of the hooded headlights and went with 1952 Ford headlights – back in time – that would give the car the looks he was after. And he was so right for making this change, since the molded in frenched headlights on the Moonglow are just so right for this car. The later added peaks on the fourth version do look good with the shape of the taillights, and I guess work well with the over the top Buick Portholes he had added, but the over all looks just did not have the same impact as the original version had.
With the Moonglow Duane had created one of the Milestone Custom Cars, a Custom that has influenced many Custom Car since it was first shown and appeared in the magazines. A Custom that still inspired people to day. A Custom Car that has been cloned and semi-cloned several times. And all this was built by Duane in his spare time, outside in the drive way. It is also often said that the Moonglow and Duane Steck have helped launching the career of Larry Watson. Duane has helped Larry with many of the paint designs on other cars. And the Moonglow is a really great sample of how the career of Larry evolved in just a few years, from adding the pin-striping and cartoons on the first version of the Moonglow, to doing the complete paint job on the last version.
The Moonglow Chevy had a lasting impact on those who were lucky enough to have seen the car in its short life. The Moonglow was just perfect in shape and proportions, some say it was a bit rough around the edges, but that did not mater for the impact it made then, and still does today.
John Atyim remembers the Moonglow from a 1959 Renegades car show in the Long Beach Municiple Auditorium. “The very first car you saw when you walked in to the building was the Moonglow, it had just been painted Candy Blue and there was the smell of the fresh unrubbed laquer paint and also wax which was Harly Wax. Harly Wax came in a small jar and it had a certain smell and they were giving a jar for free to each person. I had my model cars in that show on display so I was there for all three days.”
Reference and more info
- Car Craft magazine January 1957
- Custom Cars magazine January 1958
- Custom Cars magazine March 1960
- Rod & Custom magazine June 1991
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