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1955 Chevy Gasser - High Times

Grab Some Gears In This Nostalgic Straight Axle Gasser.

Mike Harrington Dec 15, 2006
Sucp_0612_01_z 1955_chevrolet_gasser Front_driver_side_view 2/10

As the winds of change blow to and fro, styles much like the tumbling tumble weeds of the old west, roll right along with them. One year, goofy graphics and rainbow colors might be all the rage, while the following year chrome might be popular. Then the very next year, painting over that chrome might be the "next big thing."

While these stylistic gusts huff and howl, an ever-growing number of hot rodders are turning their back to the storm and anchoring themselves to the nostalgic roots of where it all began. We're not talking about goofy poodle skirts, silly sock hops or a Sha Na Na reunion either; nostalgia (or in this case "Newstalgia" is the design or rebuilding of a vehicle to a certain period correct look. At Super Chevy shows across the country these period correct nostalgia vehicles are showing up in ever increasing numbers.

Take for instance this '55 Chevy. Back in 1983, two brothers, Doug and Tom Wise, acquired this '55 from a retiree and immediately put it into action. No, it wasn't the straight axle grizzly bear you see now. It was a down-on-the-ground daily driver equipped with a 327 and a 4-speed. As the story goes, most hot rodders are never content to leave things as they are. And Doug and Tom are no different. In 1985, they worked the 327 into a 331, tossed in a 12 bolt with 4.56 gears and a Turbo 400 with a big nasty high-stall converter. Over the course of the next three years, Doug street raced the '55 nearly every weekend. I guess if you're going fast enough, your dates can't jump out of the car. But race it he did, no matter how many times the girls objected.

And just like the black car in the legendary film American Graffiti, this '55 gained a reputation as a two-lane terror. But that was then and as time marched on Doug married and with that change in life, came the eventual shift of priorities. As one can well guess, the racing days were over (for a while) and the '55 was stored under a cover in the garage for the next dozen years. Over that time, the temptation to sell the '55 nagged at Doug and twice he almost did, but both times backed out of the deal at the last minute.

In 2004, the '55 once again emerged from the garage. The engine was overhauled and Doug and Tom installed a cage in the car. This time they had plans to race it in the 10-inch tire class. While out on the strip at Indianapolis Raceway Park a friend that was driving bounced it into the guardrail and wrinkled it up like an ugly pug nose dog. Doug and Tom sat horrified as their beloved race car was towed back into the pits less of a car than it was when it had started the day's events.

Not all hope was lost; a seed had been planted in Doug's mind way back in '83 and didn't start to grow until now. Doug told his brother what he wanted to do next and one thing led to another. Only after crossing paths with local Indiana hot rod guru and traditionalist Tom Culbertson, did the plans of turning the '55 into a gasser-style rod come to fruition. Believe it or not, this incarnation took only three months to complete. Culbertson was responsible for the install of the speedway axle kit in the front and custom risers in the back. The Chevy still retains its 12-bolt, 4.56-geared rear end and re-worked 331/open Hooker headered small-block. Completing the traditional look of a '60s drag car, Cragar SS wheels were up next on the list, 15x4 in the front and 15x10 in the back, shod with Pro Trac rubber in the front and Radir/MT rubber in the back.

What was the ultimate goal and reasoning behind Doug and Tom's creation? They wanted to show the younger guys (like Doug's son) that it doesn't take $80,000 dollars to build a hot rod that you can enjoy.

Doug and Tom Wise

1955 Chevy 210 2 door.

Mid '60s Cadillac Firethorn Red.

Small-block 327 re-worked into a 331, with Hooker fenderwell headers, MSD ignition, MT valve covers and Cherry Bomb exhaust. Estimated horsepower 550 at 7500 rpm

Hurst with a Richmond T-10 4 speed

Rear End:
Moser 33 spline with 4.56 Gears

Cragar SS 15x4 front and 16x10 rear.

Custom made B-17 styled seats Tom Culbertson

GM, tinted red

Vintage 1960s Sun



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