Often we hear reader complaints about how our feature cars are too "high dollar" and unaffordable for most of the Super Chevy readership-exotic chassis, big-cube motors, beefed-up aftermarket transmissions, write-a-check type of restorations that are far beyond the reach of most Bow Tie fanatics. Well, here's a feature for those who have no air tools, do all their own work in their driveways or garages, and know the feeling of skinned and cut knuckles after a day of automotive toiling.
In 1966, Carl Askenback was looking for something to drag race. Searching for a car, he came across a Neptune Green '55 210 two-door sedan. The woman who had owned the car since it was new was getting ready to send it off to the scrap pile. She offered the running '55 to Carl for the same price the junkyard was going to give her: eight bucks. Even in 1966 terms, that was a bargain. The car had a 235-cid straight six, three-speed on the column trans, and was in good working order.
Shortly after taking possession of the 210, Carl started drag racing it at three strips around Long Island, New York. Even though the car only had the pedestrian stovebolt six, Carl raced it well enough to rack up a good collection of kill stickers at the local tracks. At one point the '55 was flat towed to the races with a '70 Corvette. In the early '70s during a pass down the 1320, the 235 committed suicide, spitting a rod out of the block to end the inline's racing career. Carl quickly yanked the 235 and replaced it with a 265 V-8, and continued to terrorize the local metro-area dragstrips.
In the early '80s, Carl decided it was time to rebuild the '55. Since he bought the car, Carl had raced it every weekend for about 20 years. Rust was starting to show up in the normal places for a '55, so the body was pulled and placed onto a rotisserie. The chassis was also in need of some refreshing, so Carl started its disassembly and overhaul at the same time. But when you have a job, wife, and six kids, it's tough to keep up continuous work on a project when you're doing everything yourself. For years the '55 sat in Carl's garage with little work being done.
In 2000, Carl and family were getting ready to move, so the time came to begin a thrash to put the '55 back together. In 2004, the dragstrip veteran emerged from mothballs, rebuilt and ready to dominate again.
During the revamping, Carl made a number of improvements and modifications. The factory rear and leaf springs were removed, and a Total Cost Involved four-link suspension was installed. Coupled to the four-link is a 9-inch rear with a 4.10 gear-equipped Currie center section with a Detroit Locker unit. Up front, the stock control arms were refurbished and Heidt's 2-inch drop spindles replaced the factory units. Heidt's A-body disc rotors, GM late-model disc brake hardware, and a factory GM power booster and master cylinder combo was installed to give the '55 better stopping ability. Askenback also added a set of Lakewood shocks to cushion the bumps going down the track. A rebuilt factory '55 steering box was installed, but the shaft was cut and modified to allow the installation of a tilt steering column.
Outside, the '55 chrome/stainless trim was refurbished or replaced, and a new egg crate grille from Danchuk supplanted the original piece. New front floor pans, trunk metal, and other patch pieces were installed to bring the body back to as-new condition. Then the car was painted two-tone '56 silver and white. Carl reinstalled the original glass minus the two passenger side windows, which fell victim to a vandal before the car's rebuild. Inside, the interior was revitalized, with new seat covers from Cars Inc. in a '56 Chevy pattern, as well as new door panels, carpets, etc. Auto Meter Designer Black-series gauges were installed to keep tabs on the motor, and a Grant steering wheel keeps the car straight down the track.
To motivate the shoebox down the track, Carl went with good old big-block muscle. From the local Chevy dealership, Carl bought one of the last produced LS-6 factory replacement engines. The 450-horse, solid lifter-cammed Rat was mated to a TCI TH400 transmission with a 3200-rpm stall Street Fighter torque converter, and installed using Classic Chevy International motor mounts, moving the mounting location of the 454 forward two inches so the distributor could clear the firewall. On top of the 454 is the stock LS6 manifold, with a Holley 850 double-pumper handling fuel delivery, fed by a Mallory electric fuel pump. On the bottom, a Moroso 7-quart oil pan keeps the moving parts inside the big-block well lubricated during trips down the strip. Keeping the motor cool is a Griffin aluminum radiator mounted in the six-cylinder factory position to give the 454 more room in the engine compartment.
Carl did all this work himself. From the paint to body repairs to installing the engine, no shops were used, no money spent on paying someone to install parts. The only thing Carl didn't do was make the new seat covers for the '55 bench seat. To finish off the car's rebirth, Carl installed a set of 15-inch Corvette Rally wheels with Mickey Thompson rubber to carry the shoebox.
When the 210 returned to the track, it picked right up where it left off. Since Carl started racing the '55 again, he's amassed more kill stickers for the windows, including Track Champion for 2006 at Esta Dragway in Cicero, New York. Even though the car looks stock, it runs fast, with a best e.t. of 12.22 at 111 mph with the 454 pulling the '55.
For all those who complain about high-dollar, high-tech, unrealistic cars that get featured, here's one just as nice, but with the low-tech spice that everyone can use on their own project cars.
Carl has amassed a flying-ace quality collection of kill stickers over the 40 years he's owned/raced the '55. Some of his '60s stickers were lost when some mindless dirtbag decided to smash in the passenger side windows of the '55 back in the '70s.