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Gorgeous Big-Block-Powered 1955 Chevy Bel Air Drag Car

A First-Class ’55

Bruce Biegler Aug 8, 2017
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Hard core Chevy drag racing fans in the Northeast have plenty to enjoy when John Harper (Wiscasset, Maine) shows up at the races with his absolutely amazing 1955 Chevy Bel Air.

Harper races a top-level car he purchased three years ago from expert race car builder Bob Mandell’s Bob’s Pro-Fab shop (Culleoka, Tennessee). According to Harper, “This car is an honest to goodness barn find—an all-original taken from storage after 18 years.”

1955 Chevy Bel Air Drag Car Burnout 2/8
1955 Chevy Bel Air Drag Car Rear 3/8

Harper’s son Matt, who races very successfully in Top Sportsman with his own GM car, was also heavily involved in the project. He went completely through the car, including updating the front suspension, installing disc brakes, and rewiring it.

“This is an all-steel car with a full interior, and everything original on the car works,” Harper revealed. “Even the paint is exactly as it was found in storage, which is close to 30-years old!”

1955 Chevy Bel Air Drag Car Side 4/8
1955 Chevy Bel Air Drag Car Owner 5/8

The final product certainly speaks volumes. Since its debut, the ’55 has been awarded Best Appearing at three different NHRA events held at Harper’s home track of New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire.

The engine consists of a Steve Schmidt-prepared 555ci big-block, which Harper revealed produces just short of 1,000 hp on the dyno. Some of the engine’s important components include Dart cylinder heads, Manley rods, JE pistons, and a Jesel valvetrain.

When racing, Harper for the most part, targets the 10.90 Super Street class using a throttle stop and carburetor prepped by Dale Cubic.

1955 Chevy Bel Air Drag Car Hood 6/8
1955 Chevy Bel Air Drag Car Engine 7/8

The transmission is a Powerglide built by Gary Kaye from Kaye Racing Powerglides (Westborough, Massachusetts). Behind the Powerglide is an FTI converter.

“We occasionally run the car flat out in Super Pro, but we mostly run the 10.90 index Super Street class,” Harper confirmed. “Unleashed, the car has had a best run of 9.25 e.t. at 148 mph.”

Harper cites support for his race team comes from Jerry Porter of Jerry Porter Race Engines, but especially gives credit to his son Matt, a two-time NHRA Top Sportsman national event winner at New England Dragway.

1955 Chevy Bel Air Drag Car Taillight 8/8

Photos by Bruce Biegler

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