The classic styling of the ’55 Chevy will never go out of style. Just when you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to ’55s, some ingenious shop or inspired home builder puts together a shoebox Chevy that sets a new standard for building one. The canvas that Harley Earl and his design crew gave us provides almost limitless possibilities for customizing and painting. It was no wonder that sister magazine Street Rodder chose a ’55 to be its 2011 Road Tour car.
Woody’s Hot Rodz started with a ’55 210 two-door sedan shell, then threw the Danchuk catalog of ’55 sheetmetal at the car to get everything back to as-new condition structurally. Once the body was clean and straight, Woody’s laid down several coats of PPG Deltron black paint before adding the car’s signature flame job. Inside, a Wise Guys’ split back bench seat keeps front passengers comfy, while Dakota Digital’s ’55-’56 Chevy analog gauge cluster helps driver keep tabs on the big W-motor. Vintage Air climate control also adds to the comfort.
Because this ’55 was going to see extensive time being driven on the Street Rodder Road Tour, the right chassis and suspension had to be underneath the sedan. That meant a call to Art Morrison Enterprises.
AME’s GT Sport chassis for Tri-Fives is one of the most proven aftermarket full chassis systems. Continually refined since its introduction over the years, the chassis features AME’s specially designed front control arms, triangulated four-link rear suspension, rack and pinion steering, fully boxed frame construction, and the ability to accept almost any powertrain combo a builder wants to install.
For power, Shaver Specialties built a 474 ci W-motor based off an original 409 block, with a Scat four-inch stroke crank, forged I-beam rods, forged JE pistons, and Edelbrock alloy heads. The valvetrain is all Comp Cams hardware, with induction handled by an Edelbrock intake and FAST EZ-EFI fuel injection system.
On the Autocross
Mention “Art Morrison” and “suspension” in the same sentence and it’s a win-win with this cool old-school flamed ’55 Chevy showing us yet again how well a 50-plus-year-old shoebox built to cruise could corner with the best of them too. This flamed on basic black two-door sedan turned some impressive times and I felt it could have been top dog in my lineup except for one big, fat horsefly in the ointment … seats.
Powered by large displacement W-motor, and backed by a Gear Star 200R4 trans, the gearing and response was excellent with all facets of my course within the powerband. Anchored to the ground with sticky Nitto NT-01s, I really liked that the front and rear tire sizes were fairly closely matched as it gave the car needed balance. I’ve driven several other cars equipped with AME products and this one was no different. The stance was perfect and this cool Chevy looked good (and fast) just standing still.
Starting off, I immediately noticed how well it launched, as the ‘55 felt like a coiled spring, compressed and fluid, with no expendable energy lost. The steering was precise and the ratio perfect, but with a ginormous steering wheel, it felt a bit ponderous in the quick transitional sections. Once I got the feel of steering effort and turn, the wheel size wasn’t an issue and didn’t really inhibit response. The initial bend left and then right to the first crossover got the big Chevy positioned quickly and without any loss of traction. This car drove very “small” and felt nimble, “flat,” and predictable through the fast slalom.
At the end, Wilwood binders hauled the ’55 down, but I found the brakes somewhat touchy and a bit difficult to modulate giving hints of wheel lock. I discovered this on my first run and dealt with it on the remaining four by being a bit softer on my initial brake pedal application as this gave the front suspension time to absorb weight transfer.