When Tri-Five enthusiast Derrick Moreira set out to acquire a classic '55 Chevrolet, probably the last place he expected to find one was in New Zealand.
"I had been talking with some of the top car builders in the country about what it would cost to build a state-of-the-art Tri-Five Chevrolet, including the likes of noted car builder Roy Brizio, and it was always the same story-a couple hundred grand. Then I spotted an ad on the internet listing this lime green and silver, 454 big-block, '55 Chevy 210 Delray for sale, and the price was right. The only problem was that it happened to be in New Zealand."
Oh, is that all?
Intrigued by all the features listed, Moreira (who owns a number of killer rides, including a pair of big-block Willys coupes-one blown, one carbureted) contacted the '55's owners, Scott and Theresa MacKenzie. The MacKenzies are noted street rod aficionados in their native country, and in 2004 had just sold their prized '56 and were looking for a new project. While attending the 2004 NZHRA Street Rod Nationals, Scott and Theresa were shown a series of photographs of a '55 210 Delrey two-door sedan that was a U.S.-built drag car, offered by Darrell Bone from well-known NZ vendor Chuck's Restoration Supplies.
The long and the short of it was that the MacKenzie's bought the '55, and arranged for delivery. When the Delrey was unloaded in the their driveway, the little girl who lived next door was prompted to ask, "What is that pile of junk in your driveway, Mr. MacKenzie?" At first glance, Scott and Theresa were thinking the exact same thing!
The term, "sows ear" would have summed it up quite nicely. Typical with an ex-race car, a lot of non-essential trim and sheetmetal parts were missing. However, the car was solid, and it just so happened to have a 454 big-block bored 0.030-inched over and a Turbo 400 already installed.
Once the body and chassis were separated from each other, MacKenzie delivered the dismantled chassis to Hamilton Sandblasters. Then, chassis master Steve Bartrum worked his magic, starting with the addition of a six-inch-narrowed 2.79:1-geared Currie Enterprises 9-inch rear riding on a set of Bartnum-fabricated and chrome-plated four-bars hooked up to QA1 coilover rear shocks.
Up front, the factory '55 Chevy independent front suspension was modified with the addition of a pair of Classic Chevy two-inch-dropped front spindles, QA1 front shocks, a Classic Performance front anti-sway bar, and '79 El Camino front disc brakes working in conjunction with a Classic Performance master cylinder and power brake booster. Steering is handled by a Classic Performance/GM power steering box.
Wheels and tires consist of a set of 18x7 front and 20x12 rear Colorado Custom billet wheels rolling on P235/40x18 front, and P335/35x20 rear Michelin high performance radial rubber. Upon reassembly, virtually every component on the chassis was either chrome-plated or coated in lime green or silver.
Getting back to the aforementioned 0.030-over Rat. Like the chassis, the block and open-chamber cylinder heads were stripped and painted silver by Tim and Leo Kerr. Internals include a set of 12:1 compression TRW pistons with Childs & Albert piston rings, a set of ARP-equipped, re-sized 454 Chevy connecting rods attached to a fully prepared 454 crank riding on Clevite engine bearings. The cam choice is unknown. Lubrication is handled by a Moroso oil pump and high- capacity Moroso oil pan. At the top end is a set of open-chamber big-block Chevrolet cylinder heads equipped with 2.5-inch stainless-steel intake 1.880-inch stainless-steel exhaust valves, Comp Cams valve springs and retainers, and Jesel roller rocker arms capped off with a set of polished Merlin big-block valve covers. The intake is an Edelbrock Performer sporting a 750 cfm Holley carburetor. The ignition is a GM HEI and the exhaust is a set of Pro Coated Performance Headers backed up with a pair of 2.5-inch mufflers. Engine cooling is handled by an Edelbrock water pump, and Griffin four-core-aluminum radiator.
Transmitting an estimated 550 hp to the rear wheels is a TH400 using a Lokar transmission kick down bracket, and 2500 stall-speed torque convertor. The final link in the drive train is a Hamilton City custom-fabricated driveshaft. And, like everything else on this car, these components have all been powdercoated silver.
While all of this was going on, Rotonua, NZ's Kiwi Metal Polishers stripped the '55 of as many years of old paint, rust and weather stripping. Back in virgin metal, the '55 was delivered to body men Rowan Marsha and Tony Skinner at Morrisonville, NZ's Panel Beaters where the Tri-Five was re-fitted with new, albeit slightly modified rear quarter panels, a set of inner wheeltubs, and a smoothed firewall. Then the body was handed over to Paul Night and Neil Buckley at Lower Hutt, NZ's Classic Auto Restorations. A total of 800 hours were spent massaging the '55's sheetmetal, and then the car was re-painted PPG Lime Green and 2K Base Coat Silver with clearcoat. The OE front and rear bumper and original grill were re-chromed by Auckland, NZ's Onehunga Bumper Replacements, and all new Danchuk outer trim and window glass was installed.
Inside, Stitches Upholstery covered the front and rear seat-the front bench seat has been converted to semi-bucket seat status, and the rear seat narrowed 2.5 inches side-to-side-in tan leather. Of course, the door panels and headliner all match, and the light tan carpet is genuine New Zealand wool. Other items include an ididit six way-tilt steering column, leather wrapped Colorado Custom billet steering wheel, smoothed dash featuring CNC trim and tan faced Classic Instruments gauges, and a Sony Ipod/16-disc CD changer, and MP 3/4-Way 100-watt speaker system with Fusion amplifier hidden in the trunk. Of course, the trunk matches the interior, and it was trimmed out to include a Genuine Chevrolet of New Zealand "spear."
A bona fide show winner in its "home country," winning practically every award in sight, this lime green and silver Tri-Five now lives on Hawaii's "Big Island." However, it has not been "put out to pasture" by any means.
"This is the best driving car I've ever had," says Derrick Moreira. "We've got plenty of great roads to discover on the Big Island of Hawaii, and I'm doing my best to find all of them."