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Tri-Five Chevys Drag Racing Legacy - Tri-Five Chevys:
The Drag Racing Legacy of the Shoebox.
Oct 11, 2009
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Tri-Five Chevys Drag Racing Legacy - Tri-Five Chevys:
What goes better with a '55 Chevy than a pretty trophy girl and winner's awards? Dave Cochrane (left) and Bill Bussart (driver) enjoy this moment with Miss Florida Drag Races 1965. The C/Modified Production '55 ran 301 Chevy power. Mod Prod classes were required to run on 7-inch wide, 2-groove rear tires, as found in the NHRA Stock class.
Scott Davis' Fort Lauderdale-based '56 210 sedan started as a backyard, 12-second bracket racer. Several re-dos later it emerged as a 7-second capable racer, as seen here at the NHRA Gatornationals, Gainesville, Florida.
Hollywood, Florida, engine builder/machinist Russ Barfield ran this '55 in B/Gas in the mid 1960s. Note the extra long traction bars, cut-out wheelwells and American mags. Also, check out the flagman starter and Russ' lack of safety helmet (not rules required!).
The '57 Bel Air Sport Coupes were prized Gasser material. Larry Hedlund's Cypress, California-based '57 "Gasser Passer" sports Cragar SS wheels, fenderwell-exit headers, and mean front-end look while making run at the now-defunct Lions Drag Strip, Long Beach, California.
Tri-Fives were always classic Gassers. The O'Connell-Hill-Bussart '57 Two-Ten ran best of 11.38 at 118 mph with a 292-inch small-block powering the 3,800-pound shoebox, It also had an F/Gas NHRA Nationals class win and Division 2 Street Eliminator Points Championship.
Tri-Fives square off at Palm Beach International Raceway in this '66 photo. Bill Bussart drove the '55 and Roger Vinci the '57 in C/Mod Production class run-off. Bussart later drove the Dan O'Connell & Jim Hill '57 Chevy F/Gasser to an NHRA Nationals win.
Butch Thuney's California '55 sedan sports the classic Tri-Five Gasser look with straight front axle, "high and mighty" stance, Halibrand mags, fiberglass front end and scoop for fuel injection inlet.
Ferd Napfel's F/Gas '55 held many NHRA class records and class wins at national events. "The Storming Bull" ran a 288-inch small-block and heavy 40-pound flywheel that saw 8,000 rpm starting line launches. Napfel is shown here making a run during NHRA Div. 2 World Championship Points Meet at Palm Beach International Raceway, 1965.
The Factory Experimental craze of mid-'60s found many Altered Wheelbase, factory-sponsored entries. Homestead, Florida's Don Dixon created this "AWB" '55 Bel Air Sport Coupe. B/Altered Chevy has injected big-block 427 power, 'glass front end and plexiglass windows.
Oops! Jim Waibel's '57 F/Stocker found out about weak stock axles when axle sheared at the flange during an NHRA event at Warner Robins, Georgia, 1967. Waibel's '57 was a rare Two-Ten Sport Coupe (most were Bel Airs). Waibel went on to win Stock Eliminator.
Shoeboxes were often treated to wild colors and graphics. Dave Ribeiro's Super Stock P-Automatic '55 even sports painted front/rear bumpers. With a new owner, the car is still racing and winning today.
New Jersey's John Dianna gained the nickname "Johnny Junior Stock" for his hard-running '56 Panel Wagon, shown at the NHRA Springnationals, Englishtown, New Jersey, 1968. Dianna's '56 had the right stuff, including Cragars, front tow bar tabs, and sponsor help from Jere Stahl and Dick Moroso.
Dave Riolo's "Temptation" evolved from mildly modified to all-out. Northern California was Riolo's territory and his '55 Bel Air Sport Coupe gained a reputation for big numbers and wheels-up launches that pleased crowds and driver too.
Lots of ballast and small-inch Chevy put this classic '57 Bel Air in NHRA G/Modified Production class. Unidentified owner wasted no cash on lettering, but wheels-up launch at NHRA Gatornationals shows money mostly went for horsepower and fresh-off-the-street appearance.
Fred Hartman's "Rapid Rodent" '55 was an NHRA Division 1 regular in G/Mod Prod and Modified Eliminator. Hartman also traveled, as shown here at Martin, Michigan's 131 Dragway. Now deceased, Hartman was well known and liked among peers.
The Hardy Brothers ran several Tri-Five Chevys in Stock and later Super Stock in Southern California. This SS/T Bel Air coupe had no trouble lifting wheels with 265 small-block power. They parlayed their parts knowledge into a successful Ontario, California-based speed equipment warehouse business.
Carroll Caudle's Amarillo, Texas-based '55 ran stock white-on-green paint and had plenty of go from its 310-inch small-block. Caudle was multiple NHRA Division 4 Street and Modified Eliminator points champion and class winner at the U.S. Nationals. Note Keystone Kustomags and near-stock appearance.
Classic gasser match-up at NHRA Nationals, 1966, featured Harry Luzader's '32 Ford and Al Maynard's '57 Chevy, in E/Gas class run-off. Maynard's '57 has the classical gasser straight axle, sturdy GM truck rear axle, and plenty of horsepower to go with slight holeshot. Maynard's '57 took home the class trophy.
Classic shoebox racers used all body styles, including plain-Jane One-Fifty sedan. Steve Hinton's SS/T '55 from Bowling Green, Kentucky, took the class trophy home from NHRA Springnationals, National Trail Raceway, Newark, Ohio.
Richard Diorio's SS/UA '55 grabbed class win at NHRA Summernationals, Englishtown, New Jersey. Several different engine options and body styles made mix-and-match to fit class easy for class-conscious SS racers.
Originally intended for utility sales, Tri-Five sedan delivery models found their way into Stock and Super Stock classes. This unidentified, unadorned '55 Sedan Delivery was photographed at the NHRA Gatornationals running SS/O with a manual transmission.
John Barkley's M/Stock Automatic '57 Chevy and a succession of Junior Stockers were always hyper-competitive in NHRA's Division 7 racing. Barkley is currently Associate Publisher of Street Rodder and Rod & Custom magazines with Source Interlink Media, parent company of Super Chevy, so he's plenty experienced with the hands-on side of the business, too.
Four door sedans can be successful too, as illustrated by Jerry Davis' SS/P Automatic '55 Two-Ten sedan. Fenderwell headers have removable collectors for tuning exhaust length to increase or decrease torque. The '55s with automatic transmissions used Powerglide two-speeds with cast-iron cases.
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