At RK Motors Charlotte, we’ve sold more tri-five Chevrolets than just about any classic car dealer on the planet. The design is timeless and they’re a killer platform for all types of builds. While the OEM-style restorations always get attention, we get just as many requests for cars like this 1955 Bel Air. It takes those classic good looks and wraps them around a stout big block and a custom leather interior with amenities like Vintage Air A/C and a modern stereo system. The finished product is something you can comfortably cruise on sunny weekends and show with pride any chance you get. If you’re looking for a tri-five as versatile as the platform itself, take some time and get to know this ’55.
The rebirth of this Chevrolet really got moving in 2003 when the car was purchased at a car show and swap meet. At that point it was little more than a rolling shell in primer with a long road ahead. New pans, door skins, and quarters were sourced and welded before the exterior was massaged into a near-perfect canvas for paint. If you have any questions about how the body work turned out, just take a look down the side of the car today. The body now features a black and white two-tone selected from the DuPont catalog. The paintwork presents well from all angles and really underscores the quality work below. Take a closer look and admire the even gaps between all panels. They definitely didn’t leave the factory looking like this!
Despite its custom appearance, almost all of the finish pieces on this bowtie were designed by GM. The front end consists of a show-quality 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, RainGear wipers maintain the front glass which is matched by equally nice side and rear pieces which have been lightly tinted. 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 black background, that was definitely the right call. Follow the slope of the decklid back to a nicely finished rear view flanked by new LED taillights. The bowtie emblem remains in its place above the license plate bracket and another near-perfect bumper.
Underneath the hood, there is plenty of brightwork to match the exterior. The bay is framed by a polished radiator support, a smoothed firewall, polished hood hinges, and even more gloss black paint. The star of the show is a rebuilt 454ci V8 which pumps out an estimated 400hp. The block is dressed in black paint and topped with cast iron heads, a polished Weiand intake manifold, and a single Demon 750 CFM carburetor. The wide-set billet accessory drive is a Street & Performance piece which makes room for a polished air conditioning compressor, alternator, and power steering pump opposite of the Griffin aluminum radiator and dual electric fan setup. At the rear of the engine, an HEI distributor sends spark through MSD wires. Finish was obviously a priority in this bay and it shows across the board. A triangular air cleaner assembly is topped with finned chrome while GM Performance Parts valve covers proudly display the bowtie logo and 454ci displacement. Even the fender bolts and A/C lines are chrome for some extra points on the show field.
Shine a light underneath the car to find a road-ready stock chassis with all the right hardware. Behind the big block, a TH350 3-speed automatic has been rebuilt to handle the extra power. At either side, Street & Performance shorty headers connect to a stainless dual exhaust system with Flowmaster mufflers. Power meets the pavement through a Ford 9-inch differential with highway-friendly 3.00 gears inside. While the suspension isn’t radically different than stock, the changes go a long way. Lowering springs bring the front down while a sway bar tightens up handling. To the rear, a pocket kit brings the leaf springs within the frame rails to accommodate the bigger wheel and tire package. Steering feels great thanks to a power steering setup with utilizes the tried-and-true quick-ratio Saginaw 605 gearbox. Braking is equally confident thanks to power-assisted brakes that clamp down on GM-style front discs and rear drums. The nicely updated chassis meets the road through a combination of 17 and 18-inch Coys five-spoke wheels wrapped in 235/45ZR17 and 255/45ZR18 Nexen tires.
While this Bel Air offers plenty of impressive updates throughout, the interior takes a huge step up. Work began with the installation of sound deadening material to keep the passenger compartment quiet at cruising speeds. A layer of fresh black carpet was installed, then came the full-length custom console. Aside from looking amazing, the console conceals a Sony AM/FM/CD head unit that sends power to a mix of Kicker and Infinity speakers. At either side, custom bucket seats were reshaped and wrapped in rich black leather finished by custom buttons. The door panels and headliner received the leather treatment as well. The work is first rate and shows especially well thanks to the sculpted interior lights from Clayton Machine. A lot of custom interiors look great but simply don’t function that well. This one provides a nearly-perfect seating position for the driver which is further aided by a variety of seat adjustments and a polished tilt-steering that allows almost anyone to dial in their own preferred settings. The dash is a stock piece, dressed in black paint with new bowtie-cut stainless and Clayton Machine vents. The gauge cluster features Classic Instruments gauges alongside HVAC controls, a gold Bel Air logo, and a clock on the passenger side. From the door handles to the accessory pulls, every detail shines. Behind the rear seats, the trunk shows equally well thanks to custom leather panels and black carpet.
This tri-five build is backed by a stack of receipts and component manuals that cover some of the restoration highlights. Should you decide to take on any of your own projects with the car, the included shop manual and assembly manual will definitely come in handy.
Whether you''re looking for something to bring home trophies or carry you to car shows a few states over, this 1955 Bel Air is ready to deliver on all fronts. Stylish, comfortable, and sure to draw a crowd anywhere you park, this is a great take on an iconic car. If a big block tri-five sounds like your kind of ride, put your name on the title and get ready to see the U.S.A in your Chevrolet.