Sometimes you look at a Chevy and think, Man, that looks good. But you don’t exactly know why. Is it the color combo, wheel and tire package, or maybe the stance? It looks mostly original ... but something’s off. You’re perplexed and can’t figure it out. A true sign of a good builder is subtle execution of a design.
At the Charlotte Motor Speedway AutoFair, in Concord, North Carolina, we scanned a sea of Tri-Five Chevys and immediately spotted Jerry Hoine’s ’55 210. In mid-head scratch we asked Jerry what made his ’55 unique: a 1 1/4-inch chop with no vent windows or driprails, and shaved hood ornament and door handles. And don’t forget the killer PPG Oh-So-Orange pearl paint. We weren’t the only ones who liked Jerry’s Chevy, as it won Best of Show at the AutoFair a few years back, among almost 2,000 other cars, scoring 99 out of 100 with the judges.
Jerry, a Louisville, Kentucky, native, who founded a junk mail business in the basement of a friend’s house—“you can curse my name right before you throw that stuff away,” said Jerry—fell in love with the car when he first saw it at his hangout spot: Rodger’s Body Shop in Louisville (owned by Rodger Weihe). “Just the quality of the build, it was very unusual. That interior, I’ve never seen another like it.” Rodger sold it before Jerry could acquire the money and the room to buy it—he had to sell his ’57 Chevy. The car traveled to Missouri, then Georgia where Jerry found it and brought it back to Louisville.
You’d think everyone in Louisville drove a Tri-Five Chevy after talking with Rodger, who’s lost count of how many he’s built in his 41 years in business, “But none has nice as this one.” It’s worth mentioning that Jerry owns another orange ’55 with a supercharged LS1, C4 suspension, and almost 100,000 miles on it.
The idea for the car started with a mistake. “I was installing the windshield with a friend on a 210 once and realized it was exactly 1 1/4 inch too short. The guy helping me said, ‘Dang, I must have bought a hardtop glass’,” said Rodger. “I realized then that the hardtop roof was that much shorter. That sat in my head for a couple years until I thought we should do just that.” The top has been chopped 1 1/4 inches and the driprails were shaved along with the door handles, hood, and trunk emblems. “The slight chop makes the 210 a lot sleeker,” recalled Rodger. He built this car to see just how far his shop could go. “We just wanted to build one the best we could. I turned around and kept it for 13 months and then sold it.”
Rewind to the very beginning of the project, Rodger found the car rotting away in a Kentucky garage. It started out as basically a shell, “I like to start that way.” His team replaced practically every piece of sheetmetal, including the inner and outer rockers and doorskins, finishing the underside just as nice as the outside. They laid the body onto an Art Morrison Tri-Five chassis, which utilizes suspension components that are said to handle better than a traditional Mustang II style. Tubular control arms and coilovers help keep the car stable with only 3 degrees of body roll under hard driving, according to Art Morrison. Out back is a Ford 9-inch with 3.42 gears and a posi unit.
With the heavy-duty chassis and rear axle underneath, it’s no surprise there’s a big-block under the hood: a 550hp 502 Ram Jet from an Arkansas speed shop. The chassis accepted the engine fine, but the firewall had to be recessed so Rodger grabbed some scrap metal and pushed the firewall back roughly 3 inches. Still not enough room though, as Rodger cut down a set of Street & Performance valve covers to help clear the firewall. They were chromed before installation.
Out front you’ll find a Danchuk Manufacturing chrome grille and one-piece smoothie chrome bumper that replaces the busy-looking stock, five-piece bumper. Unfortunately, this Tri-Five won’t see much hard driving from Jerry, who reluctantly said, “Yeah, it’s a trailer queen.” Although with paint like that we can’t blame Jerry for not wanting to thrash on his Chevy. When it rolls it does so on 18x9 front and 20x10 rear Billet Specialties wheels shod in Nitto rubber.
The leather and suede interior sets the car into another level of quality. Larry Bell with LB Custom Interiors (LBCustomInteriors.com) built the interior, including the fiberglass center console that carries from the dash into the trunk. Rodger shot the interior pieces the same time he shot the car to match the exterior perfectly. Auto Meter gauges grace the dash and a Vintage Air A/C system keeps everyone frosty.
Rodger, who just turned 71, is planning another ’55 Chevy—if you can believe it—but this one will be more driveable with rattle-can liner undercoating rather than show-quality paint underneath. He plans on shooting it blue and silver with no intention of selling it. Then again, they all say that.