There is a collective memory that a good many of us share of childhood. A warm summer afternoon, easing into evening as the lights of the county fair take to filling the sky. The clang, clang, clang of the rides and games explode in our ear drums as we run through the penny arcade, past the churro stands and the taffy machines. Mom yells “slow down!” as we skid to a halt and huddle around the caramel apple stand. One by one the painted carny dips the deep red apples in warm, gooey caramel and stoops to hand them out. With each apple, the carny offers a smile and a wink, assuring that he’s picked out the best, most special apple just for you.

Daniel Payne was fortunate enough to have his candy-coated treat a second time in life. His immaculate ’57 Bel Air convertible in Candy Apple Red looks dark and sweet, especially with the warm drizzling of tan upholstery hinting of a caramel coating. It wasn’t always as tasty and tantalizing as it looks today. For several years he had this ’57 and used it for everything from going to the grocery store to having the dogs hop in and make a run to Home Depot. But one day when his son showed up driving a ’41 Ford sporting 610 hp, Dan knew he couldn’t let his boy get the best of him. “I figured if my son had something with 610 hp, I had to have 620!” With the seed now planted but no time to tend it, thanks to a bustling contracting business, he brought the ride to a shop that claimed they could get the job done. Well, for five years it sat in shop purgatory before Dan got anxious enough to pick it up and bring it to resto/custom/rod builder Phil Leatherman of Extreme Automotive in Corona, California.

Dan wasn’t exactly sure what the final vision for the project was: "I just know that I wanted it to be Candy Apple Red, and unique." He followed the gentle coaxing of Phil at Extreme though, and brought it in for its transformation. “When we got it, it was a basket case” Phil says, but what the other guys couldn’t do in five years, the Extreme crew did in 18 months. Every single body panel was removed and reinstalled just to give them a good starting place. “It took two and a half months just to get it to ground zero, so we could actually continue on. Every panel on it was on wrong, and bad. Bodywork wasn’t right. Every panel on the inside of the car from the door pillars back we had to cut out and completely replace.” They paid special attention to setting up the panels and doors. “We did internal bodywork to get rid of any windlacing. All your internal gaps on the doors we had to tighten up.” It wasn’t just the body that was in bad shape, though. Phil said that even with nothing at all in the car, you couldn’t get your finger between the top of the wheel and the wheelwell. The tires would just about rub while rolling it around empty.

Not wanting to corrupt the beautiful lines that GM gave her, Leatherman kept the body shape pure, but renewed. They adjusted only minor trim to keep the outside look tight and tidy. Dan definitely wanted to use the convertible top, but once again he had to dig deep as all of the convertible top mechanisms were gone, as in “cut out.” Using a mixture of original and new parts, Extreme was once again able to raise the roof off the sucker.

I figured if my son had something with 610 hp, I had to have 620! —Dan Payne

A long way from the stock 283, the 572-cube GMPP crate engine motivates the steel shoebox with haste. Big-block conversions are not uncommon, but using the 572 meant they’d be stuffing a tall-deck block in there, and that added extra dimension to the project. Custom headers built by Extreme Automotive took into account the added deck height and made sure chassis clearance was adequate. Under the custom air cleaner lives a Demon 850 carb and an Edelbrock dual-plane intake correctly mounted with intake spacers.