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The Beat Goes On … - Back in the Day

Doug Marion Aug 21, 2014
1959 Chevy Impala 1961 Ss 1962 Ss 2/4

Catoosa, Oklahoma’s Linda and Doyle Groat represent the 1959-’62 time period with their trick ’59 3x2 348 Impala, stock ’61 409 SS, and ’62 409 SS. That’s Linda in the middle.

Fifty years ago it was 1964, a pivotal year in Chevrolet’s hot car history. Another important year was 1959. These years are interconnected on blazing Chevy’s performance. I began riding motorbikes in 1956, then fast motorcycles in 1959. I obtained my driver’s license in 1960. I vividly remember the older guys in nearby rural towns souping-up and customizing their machines in the late ’50s. Besides Chevy-powered street rods, the factory cars to beat were ’59-’60 3x2 348, four-speed Chevys. Corvettes also ruled, but they were in their own category. Also equally hot were highly modified ’55-’57 Chevys. They too were in a different category, as they were lighter, cost less, etc.

All of these ’55-’64 Chevys continually added to the overall “mix” of performance iron through the end of the decade, then right on up to today. If you thought these aforementioned early V-8 Chevys were the cat’s meow (I did and still do) the later Chevys, engines, and high-performance bolt-ons that came alive from 1965-’69 were actually light years ahead of the ’55-’59 and ’60-’64 model and performance times. Fact, not brag. I’m leaving 1970 all unto itself.

1955 Chevy Bel Air 3/4

If you asked what a hot ’55 street Chevy was all about in 1961-’63, we’d say many were gray-primered, with a monster 327 or 409 for power. This superb example was at the NHRA Reunion at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California. Note its very effective license plate: “DU UWANA.”

Mickey Jones Rich Smith Michael Ironside 4/4

A trio of dedicated Chevy men for ages: actor/musician Mickey Jones (’57), Cleveland’s Rich Smith (of Mr. Gasket fame), and Hollywood actor Michael Ironside (’55). They were diggin’ the three days of action at the Super Chevy Show at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1988.

Why present this analogy? I can’t put enough emphasis on the soon-to-come 1965-’69 performance era. Hey, we’re talking super Corvettes, super Chevelles, super Camaros, super Novas, insane Mark IV big-blocks, high-winding 302s, and a lot more. If you were there, then you know. Cutting-edge Chevrolet dealerships and car builders like Motion Performance, Nickey, Dana, Guldstrand Engineering, Traco Engineering, Von Essers Speed Shop, Honest Charley’s, Ray Erickson’s Speed Service, Ed Pink, and Hank the Crank (and many others) really came into their own in the late ’60s.

Guess what? The Chevy performance beat indeed goes on …



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