Standing in razor sharp contrast to the theme of this month's issue is a '55 Chevrolet like no other. If you're loaded with lucre, go gangbusters with the buildup of your dream vehicle. For Jerry and Lynn Hornbuckle, retirement was a time to play and spend their kid's inheritance. Jerry recalls youthful memories in granddad's '55 Chevy. Those memories made an indelible impression that persists to this very day. But why live in the past? Jerry and Lynn wanted their car now. Upon first sight, it is obvious to see that their '55 Chevy is not your average granddad-type cruiser.
Most project/show vehicles built on this grand scale usually take a donor car or two to complete the overall construction. Fortunately, that is not the case here. When Jerry scoured the southern California landscape, he came across a bare-metal '55 Chevy that the previous owner had chemically dipped. Like standing naked in front of a full-length mirror, it was all there and nothing was hidden. The classic American-built, saltine-box Chevy had an impeccable body with no rot or damage. Minus the engine and transmission, a $5,000 price was agreed to, and the Chevy was whisked away to start its second lease on life.
Jerry and Lynn had a choice to make: Bring the car back to the Pacific Northwest to build it up, or keep it in California for its build and eventual debut at SEMA. They chose the latter. The mantle of responsibility fell upon Fred Ingle of Fred's Custom Wiring in Ontario, California. Starting with a limited edition 2002 GM Performance Parts ZL1 aluminum 454 topped with Ram Jet injection was a solid choice, one that may make many green with envy, since only 200 of these engines were available for purchase.
The crew at Fred's took the coveted ZL1 a step further in appearance. The entire aluminum engine has been churched up with a polishing wheel and cans of elbow grease. The whole block shines brighter than any treasure Indiana Jones ever dug up. The only things that offset the shine are the fan belts, and we suspect if those could have been polished, they would have.
A 4L80E transmission sits behind the aluminum big-block and transfers power through a set of carbon-fiber halfshafts, and finally through the 3.73 gears in the back. The suspension is a witches' brew of late model Corvette A-arms, Bilstein shocks, and Baer brakes.
Lynn is largely responsible for the full custom interior. Inspiration and styling came from an unlikely source: a Mini Cooper. Even the interior door handles came out of a Mini Cooper, while the exterior door handles are from a '99 Buick Regal. The custom interior may have been the brain child of Mrs. Hornbuckle, but the execution of such radical styling was put into action by Gabe's Auto Interior. Only the finest of bovine skins were used in the interior of the green-on-green machine.
The rest of the vehicle that you see came into being from the crew at Fred's Custom Wiring. Attention to detail is the strength of this vehicle. The doors shut so perfectly that the pinky finger is all that is needed to close them up-even the glass was custom cut and tinted for this shoebox. The top color (from a 2000 Nissan) is called Gold Green Effect, while the bottom color (from a 2002 Nissan) is called Sandstone Beige. Both colors are available from DuPont's Chroma Baseline.
After three years of automotive surgery, the '55 made its debut at the 2006 SEMA show in Las Vegas. The color of money indeed.