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Friday, April 9, 2010

Price guide: 1955 Bel Air hardtop project

You want to buy a restored 1955 Chevy? $30,000 to well over $100,000 are not uncommon asking prices for well-heeled Tri-Five Chevys. Ouch! How about a project ’55 Bel Air? Solid, needs everything, shells go for $10,000 and up. Are you kidding? Sticker shock on these babies has sent many gearheads muttering unpleasantries as they walk away from a “project for sale” at the local swap meet. But, can you blame the sellers? These cars have earned the high dollar respect, rust included.

Legendary performer
You can’t expect a seller to let go of a ’55 Chevy without making some profit. These are icons of GMs history that forged their reputation at the drag strip and on the silver screen. For the 1955 model year, Chevrolet introduced the small-block V8 engine. The light weight, compact, small-block engine became a signature of Chevrolet for more than 50 years. 1955 models will forever be bonded to the beginning of small-block history. But small was not always better with regards to shoebox Chevys. During the musclecar heyday, bigger cubic inch engines were the norm. Guys in their old ’55s were gunning for the ‘new’ musclecars of the 1960s. Big-block engine transplants were mandatory, as was cutting a hole in the floor and converting 1955 Chevys to floor shift. The macho, hot rodded ’55s were light, quick and you had room to haul your buddies and your best gal. Don’t forget there’s room for a set of slicks and jack in the trunk, too.


What, no tail lights? Where’s the lock on the trunk?

Hood missing but parts of V8 engine included in $8500 price. 

’55s on film
Art imitates life and before long, fast ’55s played their role in several historic movies. A 1955 Chevy should have won an Oscar for starring in two of the most famous car movies ever made, “American Graffiti” and “Two-Lane Blacktop”.  Both featured 1955 Chevrolets hell-bent for speed. The die was cast. 1955 Chevrolets were bad to the bone. Even luke-warm car enthusiasts would jump at a chance to own a shiny black or grey primer ’55 Chevy 2-door post, movie car replica.

What drives you?
Reality is, most folks can’t buy what they want. An average car guy buys a project car because its cheaper than a restored or original, classic vehicle. Fitting a cheaper project car into the family budget also makes divorce less of an option than a $60k Nomad would. Well, get ready for a reality check. Old, desirable project cars, especially 1950s models are getting pricey. Get out the big checkbook, this rusty ’55 Bel Air project in the photos has an $8,500 price tag. A steep entry fee, but at least it gets you in the club. Even that has a downside, the waiting. You fool yourself into believing that you don’t want to hop into a restored ’55 right away. The opportunity to work on the project and make it your own vision is what you want most. It could be months or years before you drive the car. You could lose interest, run out of cash or die before its finished. Ugh!

Vision for the future
So what is a car guy to do? Wait for a miracle or myth to come true? You could find that little old lady who doesn’t know what her “old 1955” car is worth. Sure, that’s gonna happen. Or someday, you could meet a divorcee willing to part with her husband’s hot rod for “$100 of revenge.” Never happened, never will. My advice, if you want one, buy one. They won’t be getting cheaper anytime soon. 




Holes are where you can’t see the rust.


This 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air has cornered the market on legit patina.



Some good ’ol boys from Georgia trailered this rusty 1955 Chevy Bel Air hardtop to a big auction, swap meet at Talladega Superspeedway recently. Price $8500. Read more about that event here.

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More 1955 Chevrolet stories, click below:
Old ’55 - Cars in Yards
One-owner 1955 Chevy