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1955 Chevrolet Bel Air 150 - Three-Mile Tri-Five

This '55 150 has an atomic history

Jim Campisano Feb 3, 2012
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The headline on this story does not relate to the mileage of the car, nor does it have anything to do with the distance it gets driven or its miles per gallon. It does refer to the most infamous nuclear powerplant in the United States. Not only does the pink slip holder work there, but so did its previous three owners.

"I've worked there for 33 years. I bought the car from a maintenance foreman in December of 2003. He owned it for about 15 years and used to drive it off and on to work. We agreed on a price based off of the shape it was in at the time," according to Joe Sheehan, whose name is currently on the title. "He bought the car from a control room operator, who owned the car for about 11 years, who bought it from a chemistry technician."

When Joe and his wife, Vicki, bought the sedan it was driveable, but it was nothing to write home about. It was primered and in need of a complete refurbishing. Still, as Vicki recalls, Joe wanted it for a long time and had a serious case of Tri-Five lust. "I finally told him just get the dog-gone thing. Make him an offer and just get it," she told us.

What else would you expect from the woman Joe met at the dragstrip when he was racing a '69 Z/28 in F/Stock and she was campaigning a '69 Chevelle convertible in Heavy Eliminator?

While it wouldn't win any shows in as-purchased condition (see the photo at the top of this page), the plan fwas to fix some body damage, put some cool rolling stock on it, and drive it. Well, the next thing you know, the body was off the frame and the Sheehans were up to their elbows in vintage Chevy.

First, Joe filled in the holes in the frame for a smoother look. Out came the engine and in went a Chevy Performance ZZ383. The engine is as delivered, with the exception of a Barry Grant intake and Triple D Six-Shooter carb setup. A set of Hedman headers (1-3/4-inch) carries the exhaust through 2.5-inch Flowmaster mufflers. An old-school Muncie M22/Hays clutch combo handles the transfer of power, but Joe thinks there could be a Tremec five-speed in the shoebox's future.

When the car was apart, Joe added A/C from Vintage Air, smoothed out the firewall, and narrowed the rear (he mini-tubbed the car himself). Also on his to-do list--everything was done with Vicki's help--was rewiring the '55, adding power disc brakes, power steering, new glass, and customized door and kick panels.

The biggest hassle they had was finding a reputable body shop that would do the work, do it right, and get it to happen in a timely fashion. Two others had it before Carlevale Custom Cars (Annville, Pennsylvania) was discovered. That shop did the work to the Sheehans satisfaction. Isn't that always the way?

"Before we found Carlevale Custom Cars, we had the car at two other body shops. All the car did was get dusty and sit and sit and sit. After numerous phone calls and dropping by to see if any progress was being done, we finally pulled the car from the last shop," Joe notes.

Carlevale did an excellent job straightening the two-door sedan before applying PPG tri-stage Candy Apple Red paint with ghost flames on the front fenders and hood.

Inside, passengers are treated to a tan and white custom leather interior done up by Gruber Upholstery (Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania), with COOKN'55 embroidered in red on the door and side panels. Vitals are monitored by Auto Meter dials, and a LaCarra steering wheel mounted to an ididit column directs the front wheels.

For the front suspension, Joe and Vicki raided the CPP catalog for tubular A-arms, 2-inch drop spindles, and 11-inch disc brakes. Two-inch lowering springs bring the total drop to 4 inches, according to Joe. Two-inch lowering springs were added to the rear. The rear springs were installed inside the frame after Joe mini-tubbed it.

Rolling stock consists of Cragar 15x10 ST390s in the rear surrounded by Mickey Thompson Sportsman S-R radials (28x12 inches) and matching 15x7 Cragars in front with 26x8-inch Mickeys in the front. There's a 4.11-gear-equipped 12-bolt holding the back tires on. Bucking the latest trend in four-corner discs, braking in the rear comes from a set of Speedway drums.

At this time, the car mostly gets trailered to different events. Joe has not taken it back to Three Mile Island to show to the guys at work, though he has taunted the previous owner with photos of it: "The guy I bought it from is totally amazed, and the pictures don't really do it justice."

"The guy I bought it from is totally amazed, and the pictures don't really do it justice."



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