From the Ground Up

From the Ground Up

The thoughts and ideas around the chassis of the car are another item that has changed over time. When I first acquired the car, the thought was a simple rebuild of the stock suspension, a back-half job with a 9″ Ford and some wide meats. Along with the back-half, a 6-point roll bar would be part of the package too. A bit later, the stock front suspension build moved to a 2″ lowered spindle deal with a stocker style disc brake setup on the front. Things were making good sense, we lower the front of the car a touch and get some decent brakes on the front of it. I then found a disk brake kit for the rear for little more than the price of the caliper mounting brackets so now we had disc brakes on all four corners.

And of course this is not the end of it yet either. The next step was replacing the upper and lower A-Arms with tubular ones to lighten things up a bit. It was at this point that things really changed up a bit. I had been looking at the chassis kits that Chris Alston offers and while I wasn’t totally interested in doing the whole deal, the idea of lightening things a bit more by going to a 2×3 chassis along with improving the roll bar to a roll cage had a lot of appeal. Unfortunately the shipping cost on the kit was killing the deal – I couldn’t see spending almost the same amount for shipping as what the kit cost. I then found out that the kit Jegs sells as the Jegster is actually the Alston kit – interesting. But the problem was still the same, the shipping was crazy. That’s when I found Jegs selling Jegster chassis kits on Ebay with free shipping. But the kit I needed wasn’t listed so I called them to find out if I could get the same deal and as it turned out, it took a bit of talking but I got free shipping too. So with this we are getting closer to a full race car but part of me doesn’t really want to go there. I have a race car, a nice dragster but I do want to race the ’55 at times in the Modified class, footbrake style. So there has to be a small compromise. I have decided at this point that the car will have a combination of the back-half, the chassis rails will be 2×3 tubing, the full roll cage and I will graft the stock front clip to the rails. Now the front end will get some serious modifications but will retain the mounting for the A-Arms but the center section under the engine pan will disappear as will all of the stock steering stuff. The new steering will be a Ford Mustang manual rack and pinion mounted in front to a new crossmember. My idea and hope is that I will be able to flip the stock steering arms and tie the rack and pinion to it. If not then it’s Plan B time although I have no idea of what that one is at the moment.

Rear tires are going to be something around 32×15-15 and the fronts will be a narrow tire about 28-30 inches tall. Wheels are a basic Weld Wheel, Pro-Star type – sort of old but brand new in the box. Fuel tank is a narrowed early Mustang unit with a fuel sump added to aid fuel pickup by the pump. Most of the fuel system will be equipped with Magna Fuel items and will be capable of handling both regular fuel and methanol.

That about wraps up the chassis layout, at least until something else changes.

 

Project Introduction

Project Introduction

Roughly about 46 years ago, I purchased my first 1955 Chevy. It was a pure stock, 4 door model with a 265 cubic inch motor and automatic transmission. The purpose of the car was for my girlfriend to have something to drive back and forth to school. I think we paid $175 for the car from a used car lot, but the car had vacuum windshield wipers on it and she hated driving it whenever it rained so it didn’t stay around too long. We had some fun cleaning it up and drove it for most of that summer and there’s no doubt that it was actually a pretty decent car.

Next up was a mess of a car that was a combination of sheet-metal and attending paint colors that all combined summed up the next ‘55 Chevy we owned. This one was actually spotted by my wife who was that girlfriend in the previous paragraph, not too long after we had seen the Two Lane Blacktop movie. And of course I was just positive I could turn it into that car on the screen. This particular car had parts from just about anything and everything that you could imagine. Wood 2×4’s were used under the bucket seats that came from something unknown so that you could see out the windshield and the radio was haunted. Kind of like that Christine movie thing, it would turn itself on and off, change stations, play weird songs, all of it very strange. The motivation for this one was a 350/4 speed Muncie transmission deal. The car was actually pretty quick and we enjoyed driving it around although I am sure the seven different paint colors on it made other motorists rather nervous. My wife and I still talk about the times that we would take our baby son to the drive-in, put a blanket on the hood and set him between us. We were dead-broke most of the time, but it sure is funny how we still managed to have a good time. I enjoyed that car probably more than any other that I have ever owned. Of course sometimes those long rear views can have a touch of romantic nonsense that can make it seem better than it really was at the time but none the less, we were doing a-okay.

A bit later on I had the notion that I wanted a full time drag car and the ‘55 was going to be it. We put a hotter cam in the engine, cut two coils off the front end (no, I don’t know why!), replaced the side glass with plexiglass and that was about the extent of the modifications. I would fire up the car on Saturday morning to check it out while every lawnmower in the neighborhood was running, but within about 15 minutes I would have another visit from the local authorities, compliments of a really nice neighbor down the street. We flat towed the car to the drag strip and normally spent our day there chasing one problem or the other. Most of the time the car ran great in the driveway at home, but by the time we got it to the strip we had used up all of our luck. After about one summer of this, I had tired of the “fun” and we had also decided to sell our place and move. The real estate person suggested that we might have better luck if we ditched the weird looking car in the driveway, so I pulled the engine then towed it to a local junkyard and turned over the title. The house sold just a few weeks later, but I’ll never know if getting rid of the car had anything to do with it or not.

So that brings us up to now and how did I manage to end up with another ‘55 Chevy? Well, about 20 years ago I thought that getting into street rodding would be fun, but I wasn’t quite ready to make the jump into the really old vintage tin stuff. However, the 50’s stuff was looking like fun so I found a ‘49 Ford. The only problem I ever had with it was that I wanted it to be a ‘55 Chevy. That’s just a bit difficult as you might imagine. So after having done very little with the ‘49, I decided it was time to sell it and just let the whole street rod type deal go by the wayside. I placed an ad in the local trader paper and to my surprise was contacted almost immediately. During the transaction, I was asked why I was selling the car and I simply said that I really wanted a ‘55 Chevy, but that I also knew that anything decent was completely out of my price range. The person that was buying the ‘49 surprised me by telling me that they happened to own one and wanted to sell it too. We worked out a trade of cars at that point and I found myself owning my third and final 1955 Chevy. This one is a 210 model, 2 door post ~ identical to the model used in the Two Lane Blacktop movie (and of course American Graffiti). I cannot believe my luck in finding one of these and while it certainly is in need of work, it’s no worse that the Ford that I let go, besides, it’s a ‘55 Chevy!!

The build plans call for a large motor, automatic, decent performance that can maybe cruise to the ice cream shop yet do some fun duty at the strip on a Friday night. My wife accused me one time of being a teenager that had never grown up – she’s actually dead right and there’s no arguing the point. But she’s also that same pretty girlfriend that I bought that first ‘55 for -so I think we’re going to be a-okay.

Project Details

Project Details

Over a period of time the project objectives for this car have changed in my mind, sometimes flowing back and forth. Should it be an all-out drag car or should it be a street/strip car or even something in-between? I am not sure I will really know until the car is about done but obviously some choices are going to dictate how the car will be used.

Another item is while I reference the car that was featured in the movie “Two Lane Blacktop”, I am not building a clone of that car but rather a car that was maybe inspired by the movie car and the movie itself. I am not sure how many times I have viewed the movie since it originally came out but I can say that I know most of the details about the movie. The other piece of that is that the movie actually says a lot more than one might notice at first glance. It might look like a B-movie made for the drive-in theaters of the time but to me it actually shows a microcosm of life back in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Things were a real mess back then, a bad political war and youthful unrest were just the tips of the problems. Driving a car across the country with a few bucks in your pocket and making a couple of dollars racing it along the way – just motoristic escapism? I am not sure but it didn’t seem like a bad idea at the time.

So yes, now at a later stage of my own life, the ’55 represents something maybe missed, longed for or at the very least, some fun that I think I should have had back then. It’s my last build, that I am sure of and how it turns out is yet to be seen. My hope is that I finally finish a build somewhat quickly as I feel that time is not exactly on my side anymore, so there is some urgency in it but with a dollop of wanting to enjoy it too.