Belhaven man builds rare, show-quality street rods

Published 1:16 pm Thursday, March 8, 2007

By Staff
Latest project featured in Street Rod Builder magazine
Staff Writer
Shelton Williams of Belhaven has been building street rods since 1975, but his most recent project was to create a car that had never been made. A 1934 Chrysler became a 1934 Chrysler sedan delivery.
Building a street rod is different than restoring a antique car,” said Williams. “Subtle modifications can be made to the body and modern conveniences are placed inside the car,” he said.
A sedan delivery is a two-door car with solid panels in place of rear side windows and a rear door.
Williams started with a rusty 1934 Chrysler that had four doors, rear side windows and no rear door. He said he had to fill in the doors and rear side windows as well as cut four inches off the top of the car. He also created a door in the back of the car. “I used a magic marker to mark where I wanted to cut out the back door,” he said.
Williams said he first put a handle on the rear door, but then ordered a Chrysler latch to stay with the car’s curve. “It looked like it was meant to go there.”
Williams said, “Usually these cars had a split hood, but I made it one piece that opens from either side.”
Williams constructed the inside of the car like a new 1934 Chrysler, but included a CD player, air conditioner and power windows. The armrests were made out of wood and he put the Chrysler emblem on all the door panels. “I did all the interior, except for sewing the seats,” he said.
Williams retired from the U.S. Postal Service two years ago, using his free time to make the sedan delivery. He put around $25,000 into the car, but he valued it at $50,000 to $70,000.
When asked if he plans to sell the car Williams said, “I didn’t build it to sell, unless someone got really crazy with the money. I enjoy doing it.”
Williams has built several street rods over the years including a 1933 Plymouth that was featured in Rodders Digest in 1983 and Rod Action in 1988. It was picked as one of the top five vehicles out of 10,000 cars. Williams has also built 1931 and 1935 Fords, and 1932 and 1935 Chevrolets.
During a flood in 1995, Williams was working on a 1932 Plymouth for a friend. The water came up to the middle of the car, and he had to start over, Williams said. Once the car was finished, his friend loved it so much he asked to have it as part of his funeral. When the friend died, Williams drove the red Plymouth in the funeral procession.
Williams said, “Street-rod building is in your blood.”
His son, Tony, was never interested in building street rods, until recently. They worked together on the sedan delivery. His son does custom paint jobs in Belhaven. “I told him I would step back and he could do the paint,” the elder Williams said.
Williams and his son entered the delivery in the 2005 Richmond Nationals, a show sponsored by the National Street Rod Association. The delivery was selected in the top 40 out of 1,600 cars.
The editor of Street Rod Builder magazine approached Williams and his son at the Richmond Nationals and asked to do a photo shoot of them with the car. It appears in the January 2007 edition
The photo shoot, titled “Two Men and a Garage,” shows father and son constructing the car .
His son said building a street rod “was time consuming.” He said, “You’ve got to have patience, but seeing the end product is rewarding.”