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Street Race Truck More... The Toolbox

'55 Chevy Revival


Old cars often have stories about the good times we’ve had with them, and some have stories about the not so good times. Some cars even have stories that follow them from owner to owner. Derek Turner’s 55 Chevy Bel-Air has some of both. Derek decided he needed a Tri-5 project for himself after restoring a ’56 Chevy 210 with his dad, Greg. After searching the local classifieds for a project, he located a ’55 Bel-Air with no engine or transmission in it. The story goes that the owner of the ‘55 found himself behind bars for an extended period back in 1972 and the car hadn’t seen the road since then. You could say the car was doing time right along with its owner.

This was definitely somebody’s hot-rod and without a doubt it gives you a 60’s vibe. The flower print contact paper on the dash, cheetah pattern door panels and vintage decals under the hood are a few of the clues to the car’s past. The powerplant was long gone, but there were a set of V8 motor mounts and a hole in the floor… presumably for a 4-speed shifter. A pair of ‘64 Impala bucket seats remained with cool brown upholstery to boot! There was some damage to the left quarter panel and driver’s door from some unruly kids that decided to run into it with a tractor, but it was very fixable. After thinking about it for a few days he decided to go ahead and drag it home with him.

Derek can be called a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to his cars. That makes for ultra-nice cars that win trophies… and stay put away in the garage most of the time. He wanted something that could be driven hard and go anywhere so the approach was very different with this car. In an effort to keep things simple, a used 350 small block was sourced and bolted up to a new pair of Speedway side motor mounts. A th350 trans is held up by one of our crossmembers. Swap meet special headers, radiator and other odds and end rounded out the essentials under the hood and kept the build affordable.

The original brakes were, well… original, so a new disc brake kit with drop spindles, power booster and master cylinder replaced the 55 year old equipment. New hardlines and rebuilt rear drums had the brakes in working order again. In an effort to go down the road safely Derek rebuilt the front suspension with new bushings, ball joints and tie rods. The OEM manual steering box had seen better days, so a CPP power steering unit takes orders from a modified stock steering column.

Moving on to that damaged left quarter panel Derek found himself sectioning a used panel that he harvested from a local salvage yard. The driver side door had also suffered some damage, so a used door made it’s way on the car as well. To save the faded brown paint that so many try to replicate these days Derek color matched the repairs with some custom tinted single stage paint. Rounding out the “look” is a set of stock steel wheels and Coker Bias-Look Radial tires.

So far the ’55 has seen more miles than any of the other cars Derek has built. In part due to the function over form approach he went with. This car has seen traditional car shows all over the Midwest, Including Vintage Torquefest in Dubuque, IA, Greaserama in Kansas City, MO, Rustemberfest in Pacific Juntion, IA and the KKOA lead Sled Spectacular in Salina, KS. Everywhere it goes people seem to love the “barn fresh” vibe and the simplicity of the car. So, what’s next for the ’55 you might wonder? Sitting in the field all those years didn’t help the floor pans any, so those might need some help sooner than later. Keep an eye on the toolbox to follow along with some upgrades he has planned for the car this year!

Check out the new engine build for Derek's car here and read about the rust repair here.

Check out more on Derek's '55 project:

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