If time really goes faster as we age, then maybe one can understand how Tim Harper's Tri-Five is as fast as it is. For this '55 210 is not only quick, but it also blew by almost every other Super Chevy Show DOT class car in 2012—and still shows no signs of slowing down.
"A '55 Chevy has always been my favorite car, but I never wanted just a race car," Tim said. "I wanted a street car that I could drive. I bought my first '55 back in 1980 when I was just 16-years-old. I put a 409, a four-speed and a 12-bolt rear in the car and had fun with it, but sold it to get this one because the body was in so much better shape.
"I got it in 1986 for $1,500 from the second owner who was in his seventies," he continued. "He had pretty much lost interest in it. It had a 396 that wouldn't start and a Turbo 400 that wouldn't shift. It was pretty much just a rolling chassis with five boxes of leftover parts."
The first order of business was the chassis. With the help of Wayne Balch, Jr., Tim backhalved the chassis with 2x3 tubing. Rapid Motorsports provided double adjustable ladder bars, while Strange double adjustable coilovers with Hypercoil springs help with the weight transfer. Chassis Engineering got the call to provide the cross member and 60-inch long chrome moly wheelie bars which work with the Dana 60 rear that houses Moser 35-spline axles and 3.54:1 gears.
Up front, travel from the Autofab tubular control arms are modulated by QA1 adjustable coilovers. Billet Specialties wheels shod with Mickey Thompsons on the front and Hoosier DOT-approved tires on the rear. Wilwood Dynalite 11-inch rotors with four-piston calipers front and rear are used to slow the car down.
Tim used a ‘glass 3.5 inch cowl induction hood from U.S. Body Source, along with a Danchuk stock replacement grille and front bumper ,while the rear bumper was rechromed. Glen's Body Shop in Petersburg, Virginia, sprayed the entire body in PPG Bright Blue Poly. Black vinyl diamond tucked material covers both the door panels and the Jaz seats while Auto Meter gauges and an Innovate LM-1 provide advice on how the engine is faring.
When Tim first pulled the Rat motor apart, he found that it had open chambered heads with closed chambered pistons, which, needless to say, wasn't an optimum combination for power. Tim built a 454 for it, which had the car running in the low 13.20s, but later switched to a bored-over 396, which had him in the low 11s. After blowing a head gasket and spinning a bearing, Tim went back to the 454, which had been bored by 0.060-inch to provide 468 ci. This provided enough power with nitrous to put the car into the high 9s.
In 1997, he traded a 9mm pistol for a rusted 502 crate engine, which had been salvaged from a sunken boat. After Randall's Racing Engines in Chester, Virginia, machined the block and installed a new set of Dart heads with a roller cam, used Lunati rods and Wiseco pistons, Tim reinstalled the engine and had the car running in the 10s on pump gas and in the low 9s on nitrous.
Of course, innovation doesn't stand still, so Tim invested in a F3 centrifugal blower from Procharger, bored the block again to 515 cid, lowered the compression, changed cams, and hit an 8.80 on just his third pass before burning a piston. After that Tim switched to a more street friendly F2 Procharger and started looking for a new engine combination.
"The only problem was that the car ran very inconsistently," Tim explained. "I met Glenn Hunter, who was running his car in Super Chevy True Street, as I was, and he started telling me about how well E-85 would run in a boosted engine in place of pump or race gas. So, I started doing some research, bored the block out a bit more to 522 cid and had the carb recalibrated. Today, it's run a best time of 8.16 seconds at over 167 mph. I think I can get the car into the 7s with a little more boost, but I'm still using the same block, rods and heads that I bought 16 years ago, so I don't want to blow it up."
Having been to every Super Chevy Show at Virginia Motorsports Park since 1994, Tim has had phenomenal success as the car has evolved into an 8-second street machine—despite weighing over 3,700 pounds race ready. Tim has won True Street events at this track four times while picking up seven Editor's Choice awards. Even so, it's taken a budget, helpful friends like Pete Bryant, Wayne Balch, Glenn Moore, Warren Wright, and the late Wally Duncan, a supportive family and a lot of time to get to where he is today.
While some things like Tim Harper's '55 do seem to go faster with time, we're fortunate they bring with them a wealth of memories which we can enjoy over a lifetime—and that makes the journey all the more worthwhile.
"I'm still using the same block, rods and heads that I bought 16 years ago, so I don't want to blow it up."