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1955 Chevy Bel Air - You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

Until Now

By Dakota Wentz, Photography by Andrew Schear

To be honest with 'ya, I thought my room was filled to the brim with car nut paraphernalia. I mean I could've swore that I had just about every knick-knack, hot wheel, model, poster, and so on and so on packed from wall to wall. However, I guess I ain't seen nothin' yet.

When John Sadler was a teenager he had the normal books, pictures, magazines, and everything else you could think of regarding cars in his room. But to one up just about everyone he had a full on engine slash shop in his room. John's first car (well not really his first car, but his first car worth mentioning) was a '55 Bel Air convertible sporting a burly six-cylinder with three-on-the-tree. That only lasted for a short while though because it didn't take John long to realize that he was going to have to have more power.

That's when he stepped up and purchased a 283 small-block Chevy. He went down and had the 283 bored out to a 301, but after that, where was he to finish the rest of the build? Well considering there was no room in the garage, and mom and dad weren't exactly down for walking into the house and saying hello to the pet engine, there was only one place left-no, not the bathroom, his room. It was in John's room that he built his first engine with Jan's pistons, Headman headers, and two four-barrel carbs. But just like any first timer, mistakes will be made. John realized his first mistake when the engine was all finished and he went to move it. It was significantly heavier than before. No worries though. John grabbed a few buddies and moved the engine to a friend's shanty. There he spent all day and night putting in the new motor. But getting the engine in and running wasn't all that was on the line. John also had to be sure to see mom on Mother's day. And without any wheels, that could have gotten a little complicated. Key word there is "could have," needless to say he got it done.

The '55 is long gone by now, but its disappearance left a vacant spot in John. In 2002 John decided that he had to have another one. He narrowed it down to either a convertible or a hardtop, which ever came first. He found a hardtop 6 hours away, and after that day the 21-month long build was on.

The build started when John and his buddy Todd Nettles removed the chassis and gave it a custom touch. They boxed the entire frame and gave it a smooth, clean, shaved look. The two finished off the chassis with Heidt's A-arms, spindles, and coilovers. Stopping power is provided from Wilwood 11-inch disc in all four corners. Between the framerails sits a '00 LS1 packed with a handful of goodies from Street and Performance. Steve Holcomb in Knoxville, Tennessee, added his touch to the '55 when he completely made over the interior with '00 Honda Accord seats and days of custom touches here and there. The package was topped off with a set of Billet Specialties 17-inch five-spoke rims.

Although the build doesn't sound that complicated there's more than meets the eye. What makes this '55 so unique is its anal-retentive attention to detail. In fact it's first showing it was placed in the Gold Class at Super Chevy-not bad!

TECH SPECS Owner John Sadler
Vehicle '55 Bel-Air hardtop
Engine '00 Chevrolet LS-1, Street and Performance intake manifold, Street and Performance air cleaner, Street and Performance serpentine system Street and Performance 2 1/2-inch headers, thermal coated 2 1/2-inch exhaust, Magnaflow mufflers
Transmission '00 Chevrolet 4L60-E
Rearend Heidt's all stainless with 3:73 gears
Front Heidt's 2-inch drop spindles, Heidt's dropped A-arms, Heidt’s coilovers, Wilwood 11-inch disc brakes
Rear Wilwood 11-inch disc brakes, dropped 2 inches
Front Billet Specialties 5-Spoke 17x6 inches
Rear Billet Specialties 5-Spoke 17x8 inches
Front Dunlop SP-2000 245/45ZR17
Rear Dunlop SP-2000 255/45ZR17
Exterior PPG Red and White by Todd Nettles in Clinton, AR (501/745-6652)
Interior '00 Honda Accord seat covered in tan leather, tan wool carpet, custom door panels and console, all done by Steve Holcomb in Knoxville, TN, Classic Instruments, Billet Specialties steering wheel, ididit steering column
Stereo Six-disc CD changer
By Dakota Wentz
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