1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air - True Grip

Pro Touring Progenitors Newman Car Creations Builds a World-Class Shoebox.

Ro McGonegal Jul 9, 2012 0 Comment(s)
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Truth be known, the Northern California Newman confab has been building Pro Touring cars before Pro Touring was invented. They were among the very first, if not the first, outfit to mate the hellacious capability of lightweight, geometrically sound C4 Corvette underpinnings with a purpose-built, secular frame under-seasoned envelope and feel good about it long after the metal turned cold.

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If there was a problem with this venture back then (more than two decades!), it’s that no one knew what it was really for. Suffice that an advertising bankroll wasn’t in the picture then. Word spread by mouth and from the endorsement found on pages of magazines like Hot Rod, but elevated handling and big front tires on a muscle car was still something out of the Weird Closet.

Though the recipients of Newman’s largesse were Chevrolet originals, they were certainly not mainstream material and refreshingly, there wasn’t a Camaro, Nova, Chevelle, or B-body among them. No, the roster was (and still is) composed of pointed remedial changes for the C1, C2, and C3 Corvette, ’55-57 Chevrolet, and ’55-59 1/4-ton pickups. Newman has had the ’55 for many years, as well as the funky green ’57 wagon that preceded it. For the record, the 210 “belongs” to Kyle Newman.

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Kyle: “This car was meant to be a shop car for Newman Car Creations so that we could run events and use it as a marketing tool. The shop built the chassis. Paul Newman [his dad and company founder] did most of the fab work for the exhaust and rollcage. James Arredondo did all the mechanical work on the suspension, motor install, wiring, and body assembly. Dave Wheeler did the interior and underhood paintwork, sheetmetal/aluminum work, and a lot of the little styling cues, like the exhaust outlets and the radiator top tank.”

Arredondo clearly excelled in this realm. He came up with the idea of nesting all of the exhaust system in the front fenders, which saves weight over a full system that runs to the rear bumper. Obviously, this was a feat unknown to most. Everyone was certain that the heat would bubble a tire or melt the paint off the fender at the very least.

The chassis and suspension were built as an illustrative showpiece for the shop in 2007. It stayed that way until 2009, when the select sheetmetal was finally married to it. From the onset, the credo was “go fast on a budget.” As such, the wish list was often accommodated with stuff trying to hide in a corner of the shop.

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Kyle: “It had to be light, which meant no fluff and nothing extra. Creature comforts were thrown out the manual windows, along with most of the interior. At this point, the car started to get its name: Bad Idea. When we would explain to people what we wanted—no heater, no A/C, no interior—all we would hear was ‘that might not be a good idea’. At the time, the LS3 376/480 hot cam [Chevrolet Performance crate] motor was the obvious choice. We also decided that dropping the motor 4 inches and moving it back into the firewall about 6 inches would put it all behind the rack steering, helping to achieve that 50/50 weight bias.




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