The classic flavor of the Tri-Five Chevrolet is an unmistakable presence anywhere in America. A massive front bumper, stretched fenders, headlamp eyebrows, and swept-back fins are just a few of the unique features of perhaps the most sought-after automobile of the '50s. Michael Mahan purchased this beauty 30 years ago at the age of 14 for the hefty sum of 145 greenies.
Young and full of ambition, he wanted to overhaul the 210 and have it ready for his 16th birthday, and the first drive to school. Unfortunately, as with many builds, life got in the way. The '57 sat on the back burner till 1998 when the horsepower bug reared its head once again. Michael's life slowed enough to allow him to indulge in his lifetime project and the result is this beauty we picked up at Super Chevy Maple Grove.
The dream? Retain a scheme and overall feel of the '50s in a machine that can plant some fat 12-inch rubbers upon demand. "I wanted to build a hot rod that looks stock at first glance, but at 20 feet away, you see the monster rear skins, and at two feet away, you peer in the engine bay and see the F1 Procharger and know I mean business," said Michael. The process? Starting in 1998, Michael and a laundry list of friends started cutting, welding, painting, and sculpting his vision.
A low-compression 383 small-block built by American Speed Racing Engines provides the ideal base to let the F1 Procharger breathe, complete with a 0.544-inch intake/0.553-inch exhaust Comp camshaft, hydraulic roller lifters, AFR 195cc aluminum cylinder heads, Edelbrock RPM intake manifold, and a blow-through Holley 750cfm carburetor. Running at 11 pounds of boost, the F1 supercharger kit complete with three-core air-to-air intercooler produces 580 hp and over 600 lb-ft of torque on 93 octane gasoline and with decent mileage to boot.
Michael assembled the Richmond five-speed that backs the rubber-band small-block, as well as the McLeod composite twin-disc clutch. Working through the drivetrain, a Strange Engineering driveshaft turns a Dana 60 93/4-inch rear end stuffed with 4.11:1 gears and Strange axles. Tube Chassis Designz fabricated and tubbed the rear suspension.
Stockton Wheels Services is responsible for the most unusual and essential piece of the puzzle with a set of the Smoothies 51 Series wheels sprayed to match the exterior. Out back sit massive 15x12 wheels wrapped in 18.5 Hoosiers and up front are 15x5s to match. When we first saw the '57, we were drawn to its subtle appearance, but almost dismissed it as a stocker. It was probably the fourth glance when we spotted the wide rear wheels tucked up in the bodywork.
In the cockpit, CARS Inc supplied the ivory vinyl seats, as well as the door panels and 80/20 loop carpet. Chick's Custom Upholstery in Marshfield, Massachusetts, took care of all the interior installation, including tilt steering wheel, and Bob's Classic Chevy gauge cluster. "I wanted to have both the interior and exterior appear as factory as possible with a few touches here and there. Also, I wanted to have a great sound system and went with Custom Auto Sound for that."
On the outside, Michael went with PPG two-stage Dusk Pearl and Imperial Ivory paint. James Ash from Ash's Auto Body applied the non-factory color choice but stressed the ability of the scheme to appear as if it came right off the showroom floor. In a world of classic restorations and Pro Street rocketships, its refreshing to see an automobile that goes outside the box and merges the two.
All in all, Mahan and company spent six years trying to get back that the 14-year-old kid that just wanted to drive his 210. Now, he and his daughters can enjoy a beautiful piece of Chevrolet history that cannot be overlooked. The unique vision of a Pro Street dog dish appeals on many levels and that attraction boiled up with a Procharged small block make this Tri-Five one bad hot rod. Look for Michael and company in the Boston area ringing this puppy out on the highway.