They say that, in life, only certain things are guaranteed – death, taxes and tri-five Chevys at classic car events. Of course, that list is a little unfair to tri-fives. Unlike the other two, they’re a lot of fun. Unfortunately, their popularity has made finding a truly balanced example a bit of challenge. It’s easy to turn the dials too far and end up with a car that’s either so radical it can’t be driven or so nice that driving it at all seems unimaginable. It’s why we love seeing cars like this 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air. With a fuel-injected LS1, modern mechanicals, a genuinely usable custom leather interior, and a look that can’t be argued with, this road-ready Chevy mixes custom and driver-friendly features into a package anyone could enjoy.
Sure, the attention-grabbing shade of yellow wasn’t on the Chevy color chart in 1955, but it certainly looks the part on this Bel Air. These cars lend themselves to the two-tone look and a remarkably glossy coat of white works alongside the yellow to replicate that classic paint scheme. The bodywork shows well all around on this car, with straight panels, even gaps, and doors that snap closed with precision. There doesn’t appear to be any pearl or flake here, but the car still has a glow to it that most colors simply aren’t capable of. Nothing has been shaved, chopped, channeled, or frenched, which is always a smart choice on these cars. Instead, the builder allowed the original design to speak for itself. Thanks to its quality restoration, this car stands apart simply by being well executed rather than radically altered.
Like the body itself, almost all of the finish pieces on this bowtie were designed by GM. The front end consists of a chrome bumper which sits below a new stainless steel grille and a pair of round sealed beam headlights. A lot of owners scrap the bowtie logo and hood ornament in favor of a cleaner look, but this car wears those pieces well. Behind the cowl, stainless wipers maintain the front glass which is matched by equally nice side and rear pieces which remain crystal clear. From either side, you’ll find all the classic ’55 pieces in place. From the looks of things, the trim is all new and, with the glossy yellow background, that was definitely the right call. Follow the slope of the decklid back to a nicely finished rear view flanked by new taillights. The bowtie emblem remains in its place above the license plate bracket and another clean chrome bumper.
Lift the hood to find a 2001-vintage LS1 Gen III V8 providing plenty of modern power. This fully-sorted package combines a sturdy aluminum block with lightweight aluminum heads, coil-near-plug ignition and aluminum flat top pistons to create razor sharp throttle response and lightning quick acceleration. At the front of the engine, a wide-set serpentine system from Street & Performance spins a full set of polished pulleys and brackets, a chrome alternator, and a polished Vintage Air compressor across from a dual electric fan setup. On the other side of the painted core support, an impressive Griffin aluminum radiator makes sure this modern mill stays cool in all conditions. Modern updates aside, the bay is a pretty great sight to behold. The inner fender wells and smoothed firewall both wear the same electrifying yellow as the outside, while the fuel rail covers are painted to match. Other bright spots include the bright hood hinges and the chrome brake booster with matching master cylinder cap. The battery has been relocated to free up some space and all lines are routed neatly through the bay. Turn the key and the LS1 fires to life, bellowing through headers that connect to a stainless dual exhaust system with Magnaflow mufflers.
We’ve seen tri-fives too nice to drive and others that were built for nothing but the road, but this ’55 strikes a nice balance between those worlds. The floors wear a coat of satin black, accented by the glimmer of new hardware and lines throughout. In the center, a 4L60E 4-speed automatic overdrive transmission puts LSX power to the ground through a late-model 10-bolt rear with limited slip. These were factory pieces in 4th generation Camaros, so you can rest assured they will get along with the LS1 just fine. Around the drivetrain, a mostly stock suspension has been updated with a few nice aftermarket pieces. Up front, tubular A-arms replace the factory units, working alongside a new front sway bar. Out back, a pocket kit brings the leaf springs inside the frame rails while lowering blocks take care of the stance. When the roads get twisty, four-wheel power disc brakes combine with GM power steering for a fully modernized driving experience. At the corners, familiar 17-inch American Racing Torque Thrust II’s are wrapped in 245/45R17 and 315/35R17 Sumitomo tires for a widened contact patch.
There are no shortage of tri-fives with custom leather interiors, but one this comfortable is always a stand out. With air conditioning, power locks, and power windows, all the modern conveniences are here. One of the best additions to the cabin is a pair of bucket seats borrowed from the Porsche parts bin. Not only are they great looking and fully adjustable, they feel like a seat should: firm, supportive, and ready for even the longest road trip. The stereo system is another highlight. Over $3,600 was invested into making this tri-five rock and roll and you can literally feel the results. The head unit is a Clarion CD/MP3/DVD/NAV unit with a 7-inch touch screen and Sirius compatibility. Signal gets sent to Earthquake VTEK speakers throughout the cabin complete with tweeters in the doors, and a 3,000 watt amp mounted to a sub enclosure in the trunk. Naturally, all the details are right as well. The carpet is extra plush and topped with custom matching floor mats and an attractive custom center console. There’s also a polished tilt column topped by a leather-wrapped billet wheel and electronic Classic Instruments gauges with a sleek Art Deco font. Custom tan leather covers everything from the door panels to the headliner, even extending to the custom panels that line the trunk. Peek behind those and you’ll find heavy duty sound deadener as well as an Optima yellow top battery parked. Everything is first rate inside this Bel Air.
As mentioned, there are $58k in restoration receipts without counting the aforementioned $3,600 for the stereo system. Those receipts are included in the sale as well as component manuals for some of the modern additions.
Ed Cole, former Chevrolet Chief Engineer once said of the ’55, “We got a big kick out of designing this new Chevrolet, and you will get an even bigger one out of driving it.” Fun was an inherent part of the ’55 Chevy and, with its modern power plant, comfortable interior, and relentless style this Bel Air stays true to that idea. If you’re ready for a classic that can truly do it all, clear out a space in your garage for this awesome Chevrolet!