My mother always said that beauty is only skin-deep. (So did your mom.) She was also quick to say that real beauty is on the inside, and I always heard the other cliché that you never judge a book by its cover. Those phrases fit Dave Sherer's '55 Chevy to the utmost--its rusty, faded, scratched, and even has some dings from cruising the streets of Long Island, New York. Your initial impression of the car is that it's a diamond in the rough, lowered and rolling on a nice set of American Racing wheels that are probably worth more than the body. But that is when the motherly advice kicks-in; one peek past the tinted windows reveals a custom interior, and the rumble from the exhaust pipes certainly sounds healthier and nastier than the original straight-six. Mom is usually right and this is certainly one of those times.
Getting past the body's deformities and impurities reveals a street machine like few others--if this car had a custom paintjob, it would be a centerpiece in a SEMA Show booth for the entire world to see. But that is precisely what Dave avoided when building it. "I have a shiny and clean '69 Chevelle (Super Chevy, January 2011). This one was meant to look beat on purpose. It's great. I don't have to wax it or clean it--just get in and drive it," says Dave.
And drive it he does, racking up nearly 2,000 miles after completing the '55 before last winter's weather set in. Comfort, speed, and performance were the goals, and Dave achieved it all with glowing success.
A project like this doesn't come together without help, and he leaned on his two partners at DNA Performance for motivation, inspiration, and of course help in building this street machine. Anthony Musilli and Ralph Ciccio are the two guys that were right next to Dave as every bolt was turned and every hole was drilled. We are sad to report that the '55 was the last car that Ralph would touch as he passed away shortly after the car was finished. "He was a true hot rod guy. He was not just one of our partners at DNA, but a close friend," says Dave. He continues, "This '55 was the last car Ralph finished. He had a '56, but he loved the way this car came out, and wanted to get a '55 as his next project. He even had an awesome 409 with dual quads being built for the project."
The DNA Performance shop is a cross between a man cave, toyshop, and legitimate business. They all work regular jobs and do this as a part-time gig. The team was responsible for the '10 Camaro Rat Rod that became an Internet sensation last year, and they also produced two other Super Chevy feature cars, both Chevelles, with one making the April 2007 cover. DNA's latest creation could be it's finest due to the unique look and sick details underneath the skin.
The starting point was a car Dave found on eBay while in route to a Super Chevy Show with the infamous '10 Rat Rod Camaro. The winning bid of $8,000 garnered him the privilege of ownership, and also the responsibility of retrieving the car from a lot in the California desert. After some talks with a shipping company, the running car made its way across the country to his home just outside of New York City.
"The car ran and had the original straight-six and four drum brakes, but no power steering and no power brakes." The body was removed from the chassis using care and delicacy, because the intention was to keep it pure and original on the outside--including the surface rust, scratches and dents. Sitting opposite the '55 at the shop was a brand-new Kugel Komponents chassis. Kugel starts with an Art Morrison Tri-Five chassis, then adds its own independent suspensions, fore and aft. The front A-arms are made from 1-1/8-inch diameter tubes, and feature adjustable shocks and massive 13-inch Wilwood brakes.
Out back, the control arms are also made from 1-1/8-inch mild steel tubes. The rear brakes are sourced from GM, as Wilwood doesn't make inboard brake systems. The rear brakes are also huge in size, to help bring the vintage iron down for triple digit speeds with ease.
A unique attribute to the Kugel IRS is its use of two shocks per side for even better handling and ride characteristics. Action Powder Coating covered the frame and control arms in black for protection from the elements. The final piece to keeping the '55 glued to the asphalt are American Racing Torque Thrust wheels with BF Goodrich G-Force TA rubber. The front wheels are 18x8 with 245/40-18 tires while the back has a pair of 18x11s wrapped with 235/35-18 shoes.
The drivetrain had to be fast and reliable, so Dave turned to PCHS Racing Engines for an LS3. The shop bored and stroked its way to 427ci, then added ported LS3 heads, a Hogans sheetmetal intake manifold, and a healthy camshaft that checks in around 0.680-inch lift and 246/252 degrees of duration.
A Holley Dominator EFI system is responsible for keeping the engine running strongly. Pampena Motorsports was tapped for tuning the Holley EFI system, and the car lays down 460 rwhp through the 4L80-E transmission, which was built by CK Transmissions and has a Pro Torque torque converter inside it. The trans was built to take anything Dave could throw at it, as it is essentially a modernized TH400 with an overdrive gear. American Racing Headers built a custom set of headers and exhaust system to keep the LS3 rumbling nicely. The 460 rwhp chassis dyno reading works out to roughly 540-550 hp at the crankshaft, enough to have fun, but not get in too much trouble.
Mechanically, the car handles like it is on rails and has enough power to outrun most cars on the road. The interior is hidden behind the tinted windows and what you cannot see is the brand-new guts. It is very comfortable and combines modern amenities with the original style--after all, the car's main purpose is to cruise anywhere and everywhere so it has to be up to date and cozy. The original seats were redone by High Performance Interiors and wrapped in fresh black leather. The company also added heat to the front seats for those harsh New York winter days.
The rest of the interior was freshened up and made new thanks to a host of original and aftermarket parts and pieces. A custom sound system was hidden behind the stock doorskins and dashboard. In addition to the heated seats, there is air conditioning, and the factory levers control it all.
Don't let the outside finish fool you because what you cannot see is what matters most to Dave--the handling, comfort, power, and reliability--no wax required.