BR’s 55 Project
It all came in to focus as I watched American Graffiti in the Fall of 1973. I could be Bob Falfa instead of Toad! I was deeply and profoundly hooked – not like how my boys are hooked on Bigfoot hunting TV shows. Hooked, a permanent mark, committed. I remain connected to my 55 while on this planet and hopefully in the after-life where I have my own Slurpee machine, 107 Octane flows from mountain streams, and 9/16” sockets don’t roll away to the hardest to reach spot under the car.
So as I wandered out of Meridian Quad Theater into a new world that was going to be traversed in a ’55 Chevy of my very own. It was the first bright glimpse I had in to my future and I liked what I saw. I had my chariot all picked out and I even knew where a few candidates were resting under dust. I had of bad case of cars in my head before I saw the movie but now there was an orderly ranking – a goal and rare clarity in a storm. I built several models of 55’s, cherished my AF/X 55, memorized Hot Rod magazines that had 55’s and now I set a goal to have my own when I turned 16.
My first 55 was a Del Rey from the Valley that had been resprayed in root beer brown with dyed black interior, a 2 barrel on a 283 with leaf spring lifters and Ansen Sprint’s. I drove that car everywhere and it was the first big thing I worked for, paid for, and called my own. I had the grand idea to tear it apart and restore it. Fortunately, I took the tear down step but then failed to fulfill the restoration part. In 1982 I sold the car in pieces and committed to one day having a finished 55 of my own. Fail = First Attempt In Learning.
Now it’s 1999 and I’m married with a kid on the way. I managed to own a few other cars between the Del Rey and 1999. A one owner ’66 Tempest, a 44k mile ’67 RS Camaro, a cherry 58,000 mile 65 Biscayne with a 235 and three on the tree which now resides on my wife’s finger, and a 57 210 four door sedan which will be the subject of another blog.
The brief summary of 1982 – 1999 is that I had enjoyed, owned, failed, grew up, got educated, married, and started a family. The shelved 55 dream was dusted off and rekindled. I found my car when a good friend spotted it “For Sale”. This was a running & driving 20 footer with sketchy wiring, vacuum leaks, ventilated floors, and a big stripe that made the car look like a Raider helmet. I didn’t care – I was back to where I left off when the Del Rey was flat-bedded away in 1982. I was going to save my honor with this 55 and that’s what I did.
The car became unreliable and unsafe at any speed over the course of several months. I tore it apart and called the good friend that was sitting next to me in that movie theater back in 1973. We sat in my single car garage a blank sheet paper and pencil.
Goal – a manually shifted pump gas small block powered safe hot rod that I could drive anywhere.
I searched for help and guidance and found mostly excellent shops that made a living turning dreams in to reality. I flat bedded the car to LA and over the next three years it came back to life slowly but surely. Each step is a story. The car had 1,500 trailer miles on it before it moved again on its own power. I started out with a rough driver and ended up with a manually shifted pump gas small block powered safe hot rod that I could drive anywhere. Permanent record expunged….well OK but you get it. A lot of you have similar stories and journeys attached to a car you had or have now. I’d love to hear them all.