A concours restored ’55 Chevrolet is a great car to admire but, with white walls and all that chrome, it’s easy to forget that these cars were once feared stoplight warriors. They ushered in the mighty small block Chevrolet V8, surpassing Ford and creating the foundation for a lasting performance legacy. This ’55 pays tribute to its heritage by taking a small block, expanding it to 427 cubic inches, and wrapping it with a bright two-tone to set off those iconic lines. The subject of a thorough frame-off restoration, the car is chock full of upgraded hardware and modern conveniences, making sure this 2-door sedan is double the fun of its OEM siblings at nearly half the cost. If you’re ready to see the USA in a well-rounded Chevrolet, take a closer look at this ’55.
With their distinctive side trim, ’55 Chevrolets were basically born to be two-toned. This car follows that formula but turns up the ‘wow’ factor with a mix of bright orange and glossy white. In low light the car looks sleek and simple but let the sunlight in and the paint comes to life with mirror-like reflections all around. Below the top coat, the sheet metal is as straight as ever thanks to quality body work. The quarter panels, lower front fenders, and floors have all received some metal aid but, looking at the finished product, everything flows as it did from the factory. Panel gaps are consistent and the car presents well from virtually any angle.
Step in for a closer look to find plenty of subtle changes that combine to form a Bel Air that’s both sleeker and lighter in appearance. Up front, a smoothed chrome bumper serves as the foundation while clear turn signals and round headlights in pristine chrome bezels frame the Ferrari-inspired grille. There’s no Chevrolet badge or jet-bird ornament on the hood and the antenna keeps a low profile on the passenger fender making for a clean front view. The greenhouse gets started with a spotless windshield kept clean by stainless wipers and surrounded by show-ready stainless. The rest of the glass has a layer of tint on it to keep the UV rays out and add some modern style. The side profile offers 210-style trim with only the distinctive quarter trim splitting the two-tone. Follow the C-pillar back to a smooth badge-free decklid framed by dark taillights and a second smooth chrome bumper.
The car’s breezy looks are backed by some serious firepower between the frame rails. Carolina Machine Engines in Johnston, SC whipped together a stout 427 cubic inch small block that combines hardware from a number of top-shelf manufacturers. The foundation is an iron Dart “Little M” block that’s been bored, stroked, and filled with new pieces like Eagle rods and a flat tappet hydraulic Comp cam. On top, Edelbrock Performer series aluminum heads frame a Barry Grant Triple D setup that pairs an aluminum intake with three two-barrel Demon carbs. Up front, a wide billet accessory drive turns a chrome air conditioning compressor, a chrome alternator, a billet water pump by Meziere, and a power steering pump opposite a polished Griffin aluminum radiator that works with a pair of electric fans to keep the bay cool. A full MSD ignition system with a 6A box, Blast coil, and bright red wires brings the beast to life while ceramic coated headers carry spent gases out through a true dual exhaust system tempered by a pair of throaty mufflers. From the timing cover to the chrome valve covers and air cleaner assembly, there is no shortage of flash and pieces like the tubular core support keep the car''s performance ideals visible at every level.
Slide underneath this Chevy to find the original chassis in place, rounded out by plenty of modern hardware. The frame rails and pans are dressed in black, allowing updates like a CPP transmission cross member to blend in a little easier. Lines are routed neatly along the frame rails and, at the back, a new stainless tank delivers fuel in style. In the center, a 700R4 4-speed automatic has been rebuilt and upgraded by the good folks at Power Torque Converters in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It features Corvette servos and a 2,800 rpm stall for quick shifts and strong launches. The rear is equally beefy thanks to a Moser 9-inch with a billet aluminum pinion bearing housing. Around the drivetrain, the factory suspension is bested by a front setup that consists of tubular control arms and adjustable coilovers while, out back, a pocket kit moves the leaf springs inward while lowering blocks and fresh KYB shocks round out the hardware. When the roads twist, thick front and rear sway bars pair with power steering and CPP-powered brakes that clamp down on GM style disc brakes with braided lines all around. The chassis meets the road though the combination of 17 and 18-inch Coys C-5 wheels finished in chrome and wrapped in Nitto 235/45ZR17 front and 285/40ZR18 rear tires.
The interior is as thoroughly revised as the rest of the car and provides a great spot to log the miles from. Swing the doors open to find smooth door panels wrapped in tan leather with perfectly placed armrests and billet hardware. On the other side of the Fisher Body door sills, clean tan carpet is protected by matching floor mats trimmed in leather, while aluminum-trimmed pedals add an often overlooked detail. The transmission tunnel is topped by a mini-console that hosts a B&M QuickSilver shifter alongside controls for the power windows. There are also controls for the Secret Audio sound system which utilizes a trunk-mounted 6-disc CD changer and Polk Audio speakers placed in the kick panels and package tray. At either side, contemporary bucket seats offer adjustable lumbar support and tan leather that shows no signs of wear whatsoever. The rear seats makes room for two more occupants and looks equally untouched. Slide into the driver seat for a closer look at the reworked Bel Air dash. The gauge cluster keeps it shape but holds Classic Instruments gauges in place of the stock unit. A two-spoke billet wheel wrapped in leather tops a tilt column just beyond the gauges. Controls for the air conditioning system are easily within reach, blowing cooled air through round stainless vents reminiscent of vintage microphones. A microsuede headliner extends over the entire space, completed by compact dome light and matching visors. The trunk is equally well finished with matching carpet and custom leather panels.
Documentation includes a stack of component manuals that cover everything from wiring to the slick Triple D induction. There is also a spec sheet for the engine so you won’t be in the dark about what’s going on under the hood.
There are a lot of great tri-fives out there but this one manages to find a middle ground most fail to. The 427 makes sure there is plenty of power on tap, the built 700R4 keeps the shifts crisp, the leather interior will become a friend to anyone lucky enough to sit in it, and the color scheme guarantees you’ll never lose this Chevrolet in a crowded parking lot. Factor in those smaller details like a great sound system and power windows and you’ve got a long-distance cruiser that can still beat anything at the local shows. Don’t waste your next $125k trying to build a tri-five this nice. Bring this ‘55 home today and make the rest of summer one to remember!