It seemed almost too good to be true. Steve Haley, looking for a change from his 1934 Ford sedan, went searching for a 1955 Chevy. As if the ’55 he found didn’t come across as a nice enough driver, its owner just so happened to be in the market for a ’34 Ford. “So we ended up trading,” Haley says.
But like a Volkswagen diesel’s emissions standards, the ’55 wasn’t quite what it seemed. “I think I only drove the car twice before deciding it needed work,” he admits. A consultation with Jason Walroth at Gearhead Garage in Sacramento, California, yielded the following game plan.
The body came off the original frame and went back on one of Art Morrison’s MaxG chassis. For those not familiar with the MaxG, it’s a true mandrel-bent (as in a mandrel inside the tube to maintain the shape) frame with the company’s hallmark front suspension and a four-link with Panhard rod out back. This one sports Strange Engineering coilover dampers and antiroll bars front and rear.
The justification for such a chassis actually came with the car – a 454 block filled with a Callies rotating assembly that pumped the displacement to 468 cubic inches. The Gearhead crew reassembled it for good measure, buttoning it back up with a COMP hydraulic roller cam and the company’s rockers in a pair of Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads. Those wear a set of PML rocker covers. A Vintage Air Front Runner houses one of the company’s compressors among other things. Plans at the time dictated a carburetor on a conventional manifold, which the engine got, but more on that later.
Due to the advanced configuration of the MaxG chassis a custom exhaust needed to be fabricated so the 210 was sent off to SPD Exhaust in nearby Rancho Cordova. They fabricated the entire exhaust system from the 2-inch primary headers to the 2 1/2-inch tips. Between the two are an X-pipe and MagnaFlow mufflers.
A Quick Time scattershield and a Ram clutch couple the engine to a Tremec TKO 600 five-speed transmission. A Driveline Specialties aluminum driveshaft directs power to a 3.73:1 screw. A limited-slip carrier transmits the torque to 31-spline axleshafts.
A Hydratech Braking Systems hydroboost multiplies leg force to a Wilwood master cylinder. The 15x8 and 15x12 American Rebel Sprint-style wheels at once reflect history and Haley’s hot rod interests, and their big brake vents offer the occasional peek at the Wilwood calipers and 12.19-inch rotors. Those wheels wear BFGoodrich hides, 215/60 front and 325/50 g-Force drag radials rear.
As any racer will attest, money saved on fancy bodywork can be better spent going faster. This car’s body remains pretty much stock; the only significant change being a coat of PPG’s version of Viper Red and Graphite Gray applied by Stewart Customs and Collision. Mert Perkins mini-tubbed the rear wells to accommodate the bigger hides. Legendary chrome shop Sherm’s Plating restored the trim and bumpers but not before the Gearhead crew flipped the front one. Auto City Classic Glass cut the tinted glass for the occasion, and Eddie Motorsports hood hinges add some tasty garnish to the engine bay.
The chassis may be the biggest change, but the interior wins the award for the most elaborate. Perkins completely reshaped the floors rather than build risers to accommodate the Pontiac GTO front seats. An ididit column boasts a Budnik Stratos wheel. A Dakota Digital VHX cluster replaces the stock assembly and a Vintage Air climate control system lives behind a lower dashpanel of Haley’s design. In-house trimmer Shawn Katt fabricated the interior panels, including enclosures for the ARC Audio system, before cladding everything in gray leather and square-weave carpet.
“Steve’s a great guy to work with,” Walroth reveals. “He owns a machine shop that makes medical hardware, and he made a bunch of stuff in the car.” Among those items are the shift lever and nacelle and the garnish on the rear package tray. “He also made the battery box, and it’s a shame that you can’t see it,” Walroth laments.
Remember the thing about the carburetor and conventional manifold? “Steve ultimately wanted to run injection on the car,” Walroth continues. “He had us do things like run the return line and get a (Rick’s) tank set up for injection. But we had to modify the firewall to fit the stacks, which he didn’t want us to do at the time.” So after the car reached the end of the line, the Gearhead crew yarded out the engine and cut back into the car. “Mert had to recess the firewall, which meant that Silver Sport clutch master cylinder setup wouldn’t fit.” The solution: mount it to the steering column. “We also had to modify the electric wiper conversion because the recess was right in the way.” The injection is another piece from the hot rod world: a Hilborn. This one commanded by a Holley Dominator ECU that also controls the spark curve. Haley contributed to the project once again by machining stack filters.
It’s foolish to call any car fully done — much less perfect — but it’s pretty safe to say Steve Haley came pretty damn close to building the ideal comfortable, hot car. At the very least, it’s safe to assume he won’t be trading this one off any time soon.
|Owner:||Steve Haley, Sacramento, California|
|Vehicle:||1955 210 sedan|
|Cylinder Heads:||Edelbrock Victor Jr.|
|Rotating Assembly:||Callies crank and rods|
|Valvetrain:||COMP Cams hydraulic roller and roller rockers|
|Induction:||Hilborn stack injection with Holley Dominator ECU|
|Ignition:||MSD housing and wires, Dominator-controlled spark curve|
|Exhaust:||SPD stainless 2-inch-primary headers and 2 1/2-inch exhaust, MagnaFlow mufflers|
|Output:||503 hp, 489 lb-ft|
|Transmission:||Tremec TKO 600|
|Rear Axle:||9-inch, 3.73:1 gears, limited-slip carrier, 31-spline axleshafts|
|Frame:||Art Morrison Enterprises MaxG|
|Front Suspension:||Art Morrison Enterprises, Wilwood knuckles, Strange Engineering coilover dampers, antiroll bar|
|Rear Suspension:||Art Morrison Enterprises four-bar with Panhard rod, Strange Engineering coilover dampers, antiroll bar|
|Steering:||20:1 DSE power rack|
|Brakes:||Wilwood H-D Pro Series with 12.19-inch rotors and four-piston calipers|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||American Rebel 15x8 front, 15x12 rear|
|Tires:||BFGoodrich 215/60 front, g-Force drag radial 325/50 rear|
|Audio:||Pioneer double-din head unit with navigation; ARC Audio XDI805 five-channel amplifier, 6 1/2-inch component sets front and rear, and single 12-inch subwoofer in trunk enclosure|
|Upholsterer:||Shawn Katt (Gearhead Garage)|
|Instrumentation:||Dakota Digital VHX cluster|
|Steering Wheel:||Budnik Stratos|
|Built By:||Gearhead Garage|
|Body Prep and Paint:||Gearhead Garage|
|Paint:||Stewart Customs and Collision (Sacramento, CA); PPG DBC Viper Red and Graphite Gray|