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1955 Chevrolet Bel Air - I Swear It Was Supposed To Be A Street Car!

All Jim McDaniel wanted was a ’55 that would turn heads going down the road. In the end, an ISCA National Champion was born.

By , Photography by Dale Amy

For motivation, Lee Severt at Dixie Performance was tasked with building up a strong small-block for the '55. Using a factory 400 block, Callies crank and rods with Mahle pistons, he built up a stout 434-inch short-block that was topped with Dart 215cc aluminum heads, an Edelbrock Super Victor intake and a 750-cfm carb for a 545hp Mouse. A Tremec TKO 600 five-speed spins a Keisler Engineering custom 3-inch steel driveshaft back to the Strange 9-inch rear.

On the chassis, the stock AME front control arms were machined for Heim joints, adding extra adjustment to the car’s suspension. Also, the normal Wilwood brake calipers were replaced with custom-built four-piston units from Outlaw.

After a bit of a debacle with his first upholstery guy, Jim took the '55 to Kenny Stephens at Lamar Stephens Custom Interiors. Normally it would've been months before Stephens could've started on a new project, but when he saw the sedan and its modifications, he agreed to move the '55 to the front of the line if Jim promised to let him take the car to a show as a way for Kenny to display his work. A month later, the inside of the Chevy was decked out with new coverings that matched its exterior.

It was never intended for the '55 to be a show car, and Jim was a total novice when it came to showing a car. But with a great response to the Chevy's construction and excitement over the car, the show-touring fate was embraced. The first few events the car saw after its completion in January of 2009 were test runs. Jim listened to the judges' reactions, and afterwards asked them for input on what they found to be lacking on the car. Anything mentioned was noted and improved/redone before the next show. By the end of 2009, the '55 was pretty much ironed out and ready to compete with the big boys.

We ran into Jim and his sedan at the '10 Goodguys PPG Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. The '55 was entered in the Street Machine of the Year competition. Since then it has garnered numerous ISCA accolades, including International Class Champion in the semi-sedan class for 2010 and 2011. In the ISCA National Championship, the car placed Fourth in the Custom category, behind three Ridler award competitors. Pretty high-class company for a car never intended to see the show circuit. Along with that, it was selected as a PPG Dream Car.

The year 2011 will be the Bel Air's swan song for the hard-core show circuit. After that, Jim looks forward to driving his shoebox Chevy to more shows and events, where he'll have a less stressful and involved time showing off the work of art his '55 truly is.

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