If you are a Tri-Five enthusiast, you know two things: the name Woody’s Hot Rodz and that the inaugural Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals presented by Super Chevy and produced by Woody’s Hot Rodz is just around the corner. The ’55-’57-exclusive event will take place August 14-15, 2015, at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky; and, with over 750 cars pre-registered, is looking to be the largest gathering of ’55-’57 Chevys in history.
Fun fact: The previous record was 775 cars at the Classic Chevy Club International Convention in Dearborn, Michigan, back in 1989.
In order to make the event even more special, Woody’s Hot Rodz has teamed up with a dream team of manufacturers to build a ’55 Chevy to give away at the event. The car, which is currently in progress, is stuffed with top-shelf components and is being assembled in Woody’s own shop by their expert hands.
“I only do ’55-’57 Chevys,” said Woody’s owner, and longtime Super Chevy magazine friend, Chris Sondles. “I believe you do what you know, and I know these.” When the idea for the Tri-Five Nationals was set in motion, the team began to brainstorm ideas to make it as big as possible.
“We thought, if we are going to promote this, let’s give away a car,” said Sondles. “The Tri-Five Nationals has already taken on a life of its own.” It wasn’t a hard sell to get the crack team at Woody’s to go to work on one of their all-time favorite vehicles.
The goal of the build is to piece together a ’55 just like a guy on a budget would do in his garage. “We decided to build this like a guy at home would,” said Sondles. “The premise was to build the car for under $55,000.”
In order to keep the giveaway car, which is sponsored by Golden Star Auto, under the target budget, the team at Woody’s decided to base the build on a factory frame. In addition to fiscal friendliness, the frame is also home to the factory VIN stamping, which allows the vehicle to be titled as an original Tri-Five.
The first step of the project was to send the stock chassis out to the sandblaster. After decades worth of gunk, grime, and god-knows-what-else was stripped, the crew at Woody’s coated the bare steel in black paint and set about stiffening up the chassis with their weld-in X-member. The brace strengthens the frame and also provides a more rigid attachment point for the transmission mount.
With the frame shined up and fortified, it was time to move on to the suspension and steering components. The basis for the frontend was a set of Woody’s tubular control arms (PN WHR-10240). These, in conjunction with a set of Viking double-adjustable, aluminum-bodied coilovers (PN VIK-VTK208-450T), will handle suspension oscillations with ease. Also, the shocks feature 361 possible valving combinations, allowing the car to be perfectly dialed in to the owner’s liking.
The control arms bolt in place of the stock stamped pieces, but offer superior rigidity and incorporate increased caster into their design. Because the arms are built to accommodate stock-style shocks, their tapped shock boltholes need to be drilled oversize for the Viking shock’s through-bolt mounting style. This is a quick and painless procedure easily accomplished with a hand drill.
In between the control arms are bolted stock-style spindles that have been upgraded with modern disc brakes from Right Stuff (PN RSF-FSC554XXC). The kit Woody’s has put together includes virtually everything needed to ditch the ineffective stock drums at all four corners. It includes a booster, master cylinder, brake pads, flex lines, all brackets, hardware, and even pre-bent brake lines specific to the Tri-Five chassis at hand. The kit also includes new bearings and seals, which the guys packed full of grease and drove into the rotors before snugging down the spindle nuts.
At the back of the frame resides an original axlehousing that has been filled with a refreshed 3.55:1 gearset, bearings, and seals. “These housing are really common,” said Sondles. “Chevy made so many of them, you can still find a good core.” Again, to make the car safer and more fun to drive, the stock rear drum brakes were swapped out for a set of 11-inch disc brakes from Right Stuff Detailing. The modern one-piston calipers also feature an integrated mechanical parking brake.
Linking the Viking shocks to the frame is a Woody’s Rear Shock Crossmember (PN WHR-10236). This piece adds strength to the frame and gives the shocks a sturdier mounting point. It can also be used on cars that have had the leaf springs relocated inboard of the frame for tire clearance.
Next up was the steering system. Rather than rely on an original style steering box and drag link, Woody’s upgraded the steering to a more precise, and easier to cruise, power rack-and-pinion setup sourced from Unisteer. The kit bolts in place of the factory idler arm and steering box, and is “absolutely brainless to install,” according to Sondles. A Unisteer steering shaft adapter kit will help mate the rack to a modern steering column later down the line.
The chassis side of things is almost completely buttoned up and rides on Cragar rolling stock with Coker Tire Firestone bias-ply blackwall tires out front and whitewall Firestone Dragster Cheater Slicks in the rear. If that wheel/tire package doesn’t scream nostalgia, then nothing does.
In between the now-sprung framerails, sits a Chevrolet Performance 195-horsepower crate engine, donated by Hirlinger Chevrolet. The engine, which is topped with a Holley intake manifold and carburetor, may not win many drag races, but at $1,700 for a complete long-block, it is a tried-and-true, budget-friendly mill that will take this heavy Chevy wherever its soon-to-be-decided owner desires to go—reliably and for years to come.
Backing the small-block is a Phoenix Transmissions 700-R4. The trans, which is rated for 450 horsepower, has over 40 durability upgrades compared to a factory unit. And, with its overdrive final gear, will make for perfect cruising and great fuel economy. These transmissions are sold through Woody’s and offer a 30-month, 50,000-mile warranty.
While it may not look like a Tri-Five just yet, this car is well on its way to completion and next month you’ll see the body dropped over the framerails and the project literally start to take shape. But, before we end our first segment on the buildup, here are the specifics on how you can end up driving this beautiful car home.
In order to win, there are a few things an enthusiast has to do. One, you need to be at the Tri-Five Nationals in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on August 15, when the winner is announced. Secondly, you need to register for the drawing by noon on that same Saturday (8/15). Registration can be accomplished at www.TheTriFiveNationals.com. Get over to the site and throw your name in the hat as soon as you can; but, more importantly, make sure to come visit us at the event and see the finished car in person. Who knows, maybe it’ll be yours.
1. A slew of modern suspension goodies ready for installation to transform this 1955 frame.
2. After returning from the blaster, the team at Woody’s coated the refreshed frame in black paint.
3. This X-member from Woody’s Hot Rodz helps strengthen the original ’55 frame.
4. Here is a shot of what the finished X-member looks like when installed in the frame. Note the tubular transmission crossmember.
5. The Viking coilovers use a through-bolt mounting style. The threaded holes in the Woody’s tubular arm are easily punched out with a hand drill.
6. After packing the bearings with grease, they are installed into the rotor and a grease seal is driven in.
7. The Woody’s tubular control arms are mounted onto the ’55’s framerails.
8. The rotors are slid onto the stock-style spindles and the castle nuts are torqued and pinned into place.
9. A liberal coating of antiseize on the threads of the Viking shocks will allow the spring perches to be easily adjusted for ride height and keep the aluminum from galling.
10. With the holes in the lower arms modified, the Viking shocks, complete with springs can be installed and slotted into the upper chassis mounts.
11. The complete front suspension not only features modern shocks and stronger/lighter control arms, it has also been upgraded with a bolt-on power rack-and-pinion system from Unisteer and disc brakes from Right Stuff Detailing.
12. At the back of the car, Right Stuff Detailing disc brakes are utilized to make the car safer and more fun to drive. This style caliper features an integrated parking brake.
13. The car retains an original axle that has been refurbished with 3.55 gears, new bearings, and seals.
14. The heart of the ’55 build is this Chevrolet Performance 195-horse crate engine. Topped with a Holley intake manifold and carburetor, this combo will cruise the car anywhere its owner desires to go.
15. The complete chassis is nearly roadworthy and just waiting on a Woody’s reproduction body shell to land on its back.
16. Cragar wheels and Coker rubber complete the ’55’s nostalgic look.
Woody’s Hot Rodz Reproduction Bodies
The Tri-Five Chevy has been around long enough to cement itself as one of the most iconic Bow Ties of all time. The only downside to that long-running reign is that finding a rust-free, nearly 60-year-old body can be tough, if not impossible. Woody’s Hot Rodz has worked hard to change that and give customers an alternative to needing to repair six-decades worth of rust and damage. That solution is their reproduction bodies. Woody’s offers complete shells for ’55-’57 Chevys available in sedan, hardtop, and convertible configurations. Their ’55 and ’57 bodies are even officially licensed by General Motors.
“Our bodies are built the way Fisher built bodies,” added Chris Sondles.” They are 100 percent brand new.” The only original component that is added onto the bodies is the dashboard. “We could make new ones, but they are so plentiful and it gives the car a little bit of nostalgia,” Sondles adds.