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.
The ability to rotate from a good corner-entry trailbrake is this car’s forte and predictably it didn’t disappoint here one bit. With the good balance and set-up, getting the large ‘55 through the tight stuff was easy. This car “fit” in places that a Miata would struggle!
Impress me more, oh 55, and it did just that in the sweepers and especially the walloms. All power reached the ground and like I mentioned before, this is a rotating machine … smoothly controllable and predictably it stepped over and around each apex with absolutely no unwanted motion.
That said, there was a negative here and that was the seats. Okay, guys … bench seat with spaghetti-thin lap belts have no place at an autocross and I’m positive you dudes were laughing yourselves silly watching me flailing through corners hanging on to that bus-sized steering wheel. Be warned: I will get revenge!
What impressed me the most is there is no wasted lateral energy and motion … ever! I have yet to drive something that is so easy to position and place anywhere you want it. Drive it sane or drive it rough—either way, the suspension performs. In a nutshell and seats aside, the Art Morrison ’55 was just about perfect here and I would highly recommend this replacement chassis and corners for any Tri-Five conversion.—Mary Pozzi
On the Street
This was the first time I’d actually been behind the wheel of a Tri-Five with the AME GT Sport chassis underneath. More than a few cars have passed in front of my lens with this great platform, and I’ve heard numerous owners sing its praises. After finally experiencing the ride for myself, I can easily see why.
The healthy torque of the 474-inch W-mill meant the shoebox had no trouble getting underway, the ample power allowing for the AME chassis to be fully experienced, even on city streets. No harsh ride, no bone jarring shocks over bumps, just smooth as silk compliance. The sofa-like comfort of the Wise Guys’ bench seat was a perfect complement to this car.
Taking corners was effortless and tight, no sway, no guessing, no surprises. This is the kind of pro touring restomod anyone could climb behind the wheel of and drive without concern. It’s almost like the ’55 became a natural extension of my body. The manual Wilwood binders were great, just the right amount of pedal effort and feel to make any braking situation a non-event. Going over a rough railroad crossing on our street cruise route, the ’55 didn’t hesitate or buck a bit.
Art Morrison’s been in the business of aftermarket suspensions for decades, and while the GT Sport chassis might not be the latest and greatest thing out there, it still easily holds its own to any other competitive chassis. My only request would be an odd one: Please, put the hood bird back on!—Patrick Hill
|Car: ’55 210 Two-Door Sedan|
|Owner: Street Rodder magazine|
|Type: Shaver Specialties Racing Engines 474 W-Motor|
|Fuel Delivery: Fast EZ EFI, Edelbrock intake, Aeromotive fuel pump|
|Transmission: Gearstar 200-4R|
|Stall: Gearstar 3000 rpm|
|Rearend: Strange 9-inch, posi differential with 3.70 gears|
|Chassis: Art Morrison (AME) GT Sport Tri-5|
|Front Suspension: Tubular arms|
|Steering: DSE rack-and-pinion 20:1 ratio|
|Springs: Strange Engineering 650-lb|
|Spindles: Wilwood 2-inch drop|
|Shocks: Strange adjustable coilover|
|Sway Bar: Helwig 1-1/8-inch adjustable 903, 1114, and 1404 lbs/in|
|Brakes: Wilwood 6-piston calipers 13-inch rotors|
|Rear Suspension: AME triangulated four-bar|
|Springs: Strange Engineering 250-lb springs|
|Shocks: Strange adjustable coilover|
|Sway Bar: Helwig 3/4-inch adjustable 228, 290 and, 379lbs/in|
|Brakes: Wilwood four-piston calipers 12-inch rotors|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels: Wheel Vintiques billet cruisers with the “as-cast” powdercoated finish Front-17x8, Rear-18x10|
|Tires: NT01, front-245/45R17, rear-275/40R18|
|Cost of Suspension:|
|$16,305 includes brakes|
|Total: 3,682 (pounds, without driver)|
|LF: 987 | RF: 952 | LR: 868 | RR: 875|
|F: 50.5 | R: 49.5|
|Skid Pad: CW 0.84g, CCW 0.98g, Average 0.89g|
|Slalom: Best 47.7 mph, average of 5 runs 47.7 mph|
|Autocross: Best 50.98, average of 5 runs 51.64|
|’13 Corvette Grand Sport|
|Skid Pad: CW 0.98g, CCW 0.99g, Average 0.99g|
|Slalom: Best 48.5 mph, average of 5 runs 46.2 mph|
|Autocross: Best 50.98, average of 5 runs 51.58|
|’72 Chevelle SS396|
|Skid Pad: CW 0.69g, CCW 0.76g, Average 0.74g|
|Slalom: Best 38.7 mph, average of 3 runs,38.2 mph|
|Autocross: Best 1.03.87, average of 3 runs 1.08.64|