57 Chevy Hint of Mint

57 CHEVY HINT OF MINT

Originally customized in the early 1960, this 1957 Chevy Bel Air became famous in the mid 1960’s when it was redone as a show car named “Hint of Mint”

 
 By Roger Jetter

THE HISTORY:

(As brothers Roger and Dan Jetter know it. We are the current owners.)

This 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air is a true 1960’s survivor kustom… its original home was Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The car was owned and built by a man named Don Gajdosz (Gah-dish), who was an auto interior upholsterer by trade.

Initially the ‘57 was called the “Black Rose,” and did the Midwest car shows as a mild kustom, it appeared as a single small photo in the “Showtime” section on the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, show coverage in Car Craft magazine, March, 1964 issue. A full feature appeared in the May, 1964 issue of Car Craft titled “Covered Wagon.” The top had already been chopped and covered in black vinyl and had a smaller rear window reminiscent of a convertible-type window, the headlights had been ‘tunneled’ three inches and ’56 Plymouth taillights were installed in the stock ’57 Chevy fins, other than the typical nosing and decking, the balance of the outside appeared stock. The interior sported four ’63/’64 Chevy Super Sport (or Corvair) bucket seats and were upholstered in white & black tuck n’ roll. A’61 Chevy dash had been installed along with a ’59 Impala steering wheel.
 
CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-00The first version of the car as full Custom. The Black Rose.
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Sometime around 1965/’66, the ‘57 was changed/modified with major bodywork. It’s been reported the owner did most of the body work on the car. The hood was shortened and pancaked, the ‘gunsights’ removed and a pair of early Corvette hood releases were installed. A pair of Studebaker pans formed the grille with a single chromed bar placed inside and Lucite park lights were positioned on the ends. The side trim was removed, a scoop formed below the Chevy’s side dip and a pair of front wheel openings replaced the stock rear wheel openings. The iconic ’57 Chevy fins were rounded off and the rear of the car highly modified by removing the rear bumper and forming a ‘V’ shaped taillight opening. A double hand formed covering ‘bar’ was built, chromed and installed over painted steel mesh in the ‘V’. One single taillight was positioned in each lower ‘corner’ The license plate was simply centered on the bar. Shortly after major body work was done, it was painted a very light Mint Green Pearl lacquer, the interior redone in all white Tuck ‘n Roll with a small console below the’61 Chevy dash containing a phone and a tape recorder. The wheel wells, the area below the radiator and parts of the undercarriage were upholstered in white T n’ R and the top was redone in white vinyl.
 
CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-07In 1966-67 the 1957 Chevy had transformed to a full Custom Show Car with major body work and lots of chrome plating and tuck & roll upholstery.
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-01The rear fenders and rear pan were complete reshaped and mostly hand made. The trunk was fully upholstered in white tuck & roll and detailed with a set of chromed tools. The first version of the Hint of Mint was painted a light mint green pearl with very subtile dark green scallops.
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In 1966 the car debuted on the ISCA show circuit as the “Hint of Mint.” During the show season years of 1966/’67, the car was shown on the Midwest ISCA show circuit. The “Hint of Mint” 1957 Chevrolet finished fifth place overall in the Top Ten standings nationwide in points earned at ISCA shows. The car dropped to eighth place overall in the Top Ten standings nationwide in ISCA points in the 1968/’69 season. You can see the car in its “show form” in the ISCA book “Showtime” on page 60. It appears the car continued to do the show circuit for several more years.
 
CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-02Two Studebaker pans were used to create the new grille opening, the hood was shortened and front section welded to the body creating a very smooth front end. The engine compartment was also detailed with tuck & roll upholstery and many chrome details.
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-19Photos by Jerry Eich shows the car in 1968 and gives a better look at the fully detailed trunk with the wonderful upholstered panels.
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-20Jerry Eich took this photo of the luxurious interior of “Hint of mint”.
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-21Another Jerry Eich photo shows the fully detailed engine bay.
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Early 1972, the car came to the Denver, Colorado, ISCA show, probably as a result of ISCA points rule changes making it a requirement that each ‘show car’ had to show in a certain amount of huge shows, a certain number of medium shows and a certain number of small shows to qualify for those points. Apparently, and this is speculation, the car was not doing well on the circuit as the modifications to the car didn’t earn enough points. We assume the car was shown in its ‘third’ or ‘fourth’ season as a “show car” in various shows with some modifications. We have pictures of dark green “lace” on the sides (the original build/ paint job had no lace or pinstriping) and a ‘blower’ and six carbs added to the engine. The “lace” had been added to the sides and the “Corvette” engine now sported the fake blower with six side-draft type carbs.
 
CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-03By now the body has been updated with a leaf pattern lace paint job. This photo shows the really spectacular interior in the Chevy.
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-05This photo was found at an ended internet auction, hence the watermark, sorry about that. However the photo gives us a great feel how spectacular this car must have been at the shows.
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-06The leaf pattern laced panels make the plain sides look very attractive.
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A new owner in 1972

While in the Denver show, the car was sold to the owner of a carpet store in Pueblo, Colorado, to be used as a promotional tool. It was parked in front of the store daily although we don’t know for how many years. Apparently, the owner of the carpet store had made some enemies over the course of his life or business life. Late one evening, a ’48 Buick was driven into the passenger’s side of the “Hint of Mint” car as it set in front of the store, caving in the door and front pillar. The car was reported as “destroyed,” or totaled. However, some unknown enterprising soul decided the car wasn’t that badly damaged and rebuilt it.

The car went thru at least 4 owners since that time… each owner removed some part of the show car for their own personal use. The 283” Corvette engine was still in the car when it was sold, but the ‘blower and carbs’ are still in the possession of a former owner in Pueblo who refuses to sell it. Apparently the car was sold after those parts were removed and the next owner removed the balance of the chromed parts (A-arms, brake housings, drive-shaft, etc.) including the original 283” and replaced it with stock stuff and a worn out 283” engine. All the chromed items were used to enhance someone’s personal ’57 Chevy. It is not known if that second owner repainted the car or left it in its original color.
 

Tom Jones

All throughout our research into where the car had come from, who built it and etc., we kept running into people that remembered the car. They told us the popular 1960’s/’70’s singer Tom Jones once owned this car, but we could never verify it. We even contacted his fan club and no one there knew anything about him ‘owning’ the car. The ‘57 was never titled in his name and the titles we’ve found were only Colorado titles, other than the original owner of the car in Wisconsin. Speculation is it was used as a ‘stage prop’ for a Tom Jones concert one night, or nights, or he posed with it at a show somewhere in the Midwest, nothing more. As far as we know, the ’57 never did any of the west coast ISCA shows.
 
CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-22This photo was taken somewhere between 1978 and 1981, when the car was painted red with airbrushed graphics with a black top.
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Somewhere in its life in Colorado, the car was repainted red with black fades plus it was shown with huge blackwall slicks on the rear and the suspension was jacked up to clear the tires. Later, the car was changed to a copper color that we learned was supposed to be Candy Tahitian Orange. The white vinyl top was never changed after it was sold many times. Apparently the four Super Sport buckets made their way into the interior of another car and four “new” buckets were built by a previous owner…these resembled nothing more than wooden barrels cut down and set on furniture “Lazy Susan” swivels. There were no provisions to ‘lock’ the seats in place while driving and they actually swiveled when the car turned a corner. The interior was also changed to white button-tufted vinyl and gold velvet, ala an early low-rider look. Carpet was also gold. The original ’61 Chevy dash had a small television added to the passenger’s side of the dash, padded and covered in gold velvet – the TV was merely held in with wire and metal screws and it’s doubtful the original builder would have done it that way (more low-rider ‘customizing’). The dash was refitted with the stock ’61 gauges and was covered in white vinyl and gold velvet. The tape recorder and phone were sitting on the new lower console between the buckets and they had been painted white.
 

Roger and Dan Jetter find the car

In April of 1984 the copper colored car was found on a used car lot in Englewood, Colorado. Despite it being near junk status, it was purchased by us, Roger and Dan Jetter of Aurora, Colorado. The original body work was in a sad state of disrepair, nearly all the ‘60’s concrete hard bondo was completely cracked everywhere and anywhere a modification had been made… it appeared no one had even tried to ‘patch’ it before the last paint job. Of course the last paint job didn’t have a bit of shine left. The driver’s side swivel bucket was held up with a brick. The steering column was lacking turn signal mechanisms so the brake lights didn’t work at all. The ‘TV’ had a regular house current plug on it, it didn’t work of course, and bounced when the car was driven. The 283” was tired, smoked and only had a two barrel carb on it. The three-speed was floor shifted thru a large hole in the floor by an after-market shifter and the car rolled on chromed wire basket wheels. The trunk had some remnants of the gold carpet, but the fuel filler in the trunk floor had stained what was left of it, the filler neck leaked profusely. There was no spare tire well (it had been removed and galvanized metal was screwed down to cover the hole) and the trunk walls were gold carpeted. The white vinyl top was very dirty and pulling loose at the windshield and around the rear window. The front windshield was cracked and the rear window was scratched-up clear plexiglas. The car lot owner had no idea where the car came from… or its history. The previous owner had traded the car for a late ‘70’s Lincoln Continental and had no idea the car was known as the “Hint of Mint” in a previous life nor was its past history evident.
 
CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-08This is as we found the car on a used car lot in 1984. Painted copper with long flames and the addition of a set of lake pipes.
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-25Copper paint with pin-striped flames and a new upholstery in white and gold, this is how we bought the car. 
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-18Rear view of the Copper and flames version in 1985 or 86.
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It took over 6 years to completely re-do the old kustom. The car was researched thru various magazines and people that remembered the car – who built it, where it came from and the honors it held became apparent when we attended several KKOA events in the mid-1980’s with the car. From April of 1984 to June of 1990, the car underwent a total re-do while we drove it. The car was eventually stripped to bare metal one winter and totally repaired/re-done. The ’57 Oldsmobile three piece rear window had to be welded in (it was merely pop-riveted onto the top), the top chop was bad – it had been ‘lengthened’ six inches in the middle of the roof and when welded back on – sunk, and then filled with over 1 ½ inches of 1960’s concrete-hard bondo. It’s no wonder it had a vinyl covering. My brother and I did all the re-work on the car including the rear wheel wells which had to be re-done because the metal-work had fatigued badly to the point of cracking. Roger and Dan lowered them 2 inches to match the fronts. The extended rocker panels on the car were nearly folded under as they were nothing more than sheet metal with no reinforcement, done many years ago simply for show. Those rockers were rebuilt and reinforced with 1/8” steel so they wouldn’t give or move. The taillight area was modified and became ‘full width.’ New lenses were made from ‘77’/78 Pontiac Firebird lenses and there are now 12 bulbs illuminating the lenses, the entire rear of the car now lights up.
 
CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-26This shows the area above the drivers door. Note how cracked the body is, this was around 1985.
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-27Note how uneven the top is… major surgery is needed!
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-28Rear window surround pop-riveted into stock 1957 opening. Aluminum added to either side and pop-riveted into place!
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-29The car  in its final white basecoat, just prior to paint -1989. Note the car STILL has the ugly gold carpet in it and the new locking swivel seats have been installed and the car has been ‘jambed’ already in its final color. The hood is atop the car and the trunk is attached and both have been painted final color on the inside.
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The original taillight area had not been modified for a license plate… apparently a bolt-on license plate light was used all those years ago. The trunk didn’t fit when closed and a ¾” gap needed to be filled with metal to make it appear correct. Around front, the tunneled headlights had white vinyl sewn over screen door material to hide the depth of the tunneling. Stainless steel was trimmed and polished and put in place of the vinyl. The grille area was straightened and redone and a plastic late model ‘pan’ was initially added below the grille area to hide the “A-arms.” A year or so later during the rebuild, that was later changed to a metal air dam. A shortened ’54 Chevy grille was added to the grille and on the interior the ’61 dash was welded solid. The television was removed and half a stock ’57 Chevy dash was pulled from a junker and added to the passenger’s side. Both were welded together to form one solid dash and painted Mint Green. The cracked windshield was replaced with a new one…it took two to get it right and all the flat glass was replaced with smoked safety plate.
 
CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-09The car after Roger and Dan Jetter had restored the car. The reshaped rear wheel openings look better than before the change.
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-10A 1954 Chevy grille was narrowed and installed in the Studebaker pan grille opening. The dummy spotlights were removed.
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-11The car has a great look with the wire wheels, new lower rear wheel openings and panted top. The lower pan below the grille opening is new for this version.
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Once the body was semi-finished, the tired 283” engine/3-speed was removed and the compartment was cleaned and painted Mint Green and a new crate 350” Chevy engine was set in place. The front suspension was completely rebuilt and a Muncie 4-speed was added and the drive-shaft and rear end were rebuilt. The entire undercarriage was cleaned and painted black, while the frame was painted a urethane Mint Green. A ‘rolled pan’ was built under the taillights to give it a more ‘finished’ look and a mounting place for the license plate and light, openings for the dual exhausts were formed and hand built exhaust tips were added. The car was painted urethane BC/CC Mint Green which was matched to a PMS printing ink color. The paint was/is a bit more on the ‘green’ side than the original color but is close.
 
CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-13In the mid 1990’s the lower body panels were modified with an added lip to make the car look lower. The wheels were changed and the paint was enhanced with magenta scallops and pin-striping.
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-14The mid 1990’s changes can also be seen at the back where the section below the taillights was modified to house the exhaust tips and license plate. The lip on the rear quarter behind the wheel opening is also new.
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-15The narrowed 1954 Chevy grille was painted body color.
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In early 1990, the interior was completely re-done. 1975 Oldsmobile swivel bucket seats were installed…and these lock into place so they don’t turn when the car does. Two more Olds swivel seats were used in the rear (although they don’t swivel). A full length console now runs from the dash to the rear package tray. A headliner was sculpted and covered in green tweed and magenta vinyl. The rest of the interior was done in two tones of green tweed with magenta vinyl accents and the cut pile carpet is a light green. In the early ‘90’s, tweed interiors were all the rage and kustoms had all but died out and were just a very small part of the car scene, hence the tweed interior. In order to place it back in the 1960’s as a true ‘survivor kustom,’ the car needs a full Tuck & Roll interior.
 
CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-16The interior was redone in gray/green tweed with accents of magenta vinyl accents in a typical early 1990’s street rod style.
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CCC-hint-of-mint-57-chevy-17The 1961 Chevy Impala instrument panel is still in place, but the seats are now replaced with ’75 Oldsmobile units.
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After enjoying the Hint of Mint for 3 decades we have decided it is time for a new caretaker for the Chevy. We have documentation on the previous owners, photos and the various colors the car was during its lifetime. We also still have the original ‘60’s single bar chromed grille and the chromed double taillight surround that will go with the car should someone decide to purchase the car, and want to bring it back to its mid 1960’s show version.
 
Roger and Dan Jetter
 
 

More info and resources

  • Car Craft, magazine, March, 1964
  • Car Craft, magazine, May, 1964
  • Custom Rodder, magazine Summer, 1993
  • Rod & Custommagazine, June 1994

 
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Rik Hoving

Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)

2 thoughts on “57 Chevy Hint of Mint

  • January 9, 2015 at 06:38
    Permalink

    man i love that car , that car is faaar out, i remember seeing this car way back in one of the old car mags,, im sure glad you guys redone it an its still around, sure like it with the majents scallops looks killer, wish it still had the appletons just me thinking, nice job roger an dan memo,

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