Thursday, February 17, 2011

Barn Find: 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, vintage hot rod project is drag racing dream car

Striking barn-find-gold with a 1955 Chevy.  Finding a decent Tri-Five Chevy project car is rare, let alone finding one that was hot-rodded in the 1960s then parked almost 40 years ago — with all the go-fast goodies intact it's like finding buried treasure. Ron Kidd discovered this black ‘55 Chevy tucked away in a backyard and managed to work out a deal with the reluctant seller after several years of negotiations. Here is a barn find story that could happen to you.

Bumper and Front grill removed.
This 1955 Chevy Bel Air was hot rodded and raced on Alabama drag strips in the 1960s.

Look what I found 
  I love barn finds. I adore barn finds. I love the history and the mystery that every discovered automotive treasure holds. I found this 1955 Chevrolet on a carport in North Alabama and it is a great example of what we at junkyardlife spend our days dreaming about. The main difference is once my heart stopped pounding and I regained composure, I said sternly to the Chevy “You’re coming with me!” And he did. Only not that day. It took a couple of years worth of waiting and pacing the floors until a deal was made. And here is what I brought back to Ron the "Earth Roaming Car Guy’s" Tangled Web of Automotive Euphoria-with the help of friends, of course.

Ron Kidd watches his dream car head up the ramp.
Ron Kidd looks on in disbelief that he actually owns this barn find '55 Chevy.

It’s Not Easy Being Green
  So what is under the twenty plus years of environment?  I had to know! I am the numbers guy here at junkyardlife. Actually, its pretty even as far as numbers go. I (Ron) love to find out what it is, what it was, or how it rolled out of Detroit Michigan. Jody finds out how many were made and what the differences were. Anthony talks us into taking them apart. Junkyard historians and mad scientist we are! You know, we should really teach a class...

The first-time this Bel Air Chevy has moved in decades.

So what is it? 
  It is a 1955 Bel-Air Post Sedan. It rolled out of Chevrolet covered in a solid India Ivory White (code 593) with blue interior (code 509). It was a six cylinder with a manual three speed transmission. I learned that they did indeed make a Bel-Air with the post. They made 168,313 of them, and this one’s mine! It currently has a 327 from a 1964 Impala, a set of awesome 462 casting double hump heads and a Saginaw T-10 4-speed transmission!  Painted a classic black it makes you want to watch “American Graffiti” over and over.  It is missing bumpers, radiator, outside mirrors, the entire rear back seat, grill, the side Bel Air trim and what’s not missing may need to be replaced.  We don’t care. We are in love with this beautiful hunk of American street history.

The '55 housed a 327-cubic-inch Chevy V8 engine with #462 double hump heads.

  The ‘55 was purchased new near Birmingham, Alabama by an older lady who sold it to second owner’s family in the mid-to-late sixties. At some point in the car’s life, it was painted Turquoise and white with matching interior. During the second family’s ownership of the car, it became a lady name Dianna’s first car. Later, it became her husband Ronnie’s hot rod during the late sixties to early seventies. During that time it received the hot headed 327 cubic inch V8 and the four-speed. It was painted black and raced at Lassiter Mountain Dragway near Birmingham, Alabama. Ronnie’s brother-in-law, Curtis, who had just returned from Vietnam, borrowed the ‘55 and went on a date in it in 1970. Engine woes forced it to be parked under a shed, where I (Ron) spotted it about five years ago.

The '55's trunk had been left open, for who knows how long, helping preserve the quarter panels and trunk pan from the moist environment of its dirt parking spot.

Car was dragged up the ramp onto wrecker instead of rolling.
Loaded up for trucking.

Success in securing a barn find 1955 Chevy.
The 1955 Chevy slid, not so much rolled, off the flatbed wrecker.

1955 Chevy looks dirty, moldy, and beautiful as she hits the ground.
Debris falls off Chevy after landing at its new home.

The wheels and tires were replaced soon after the '55 was dropped off wrecker.

The 1955 Chevy in "Two-Lane Blacktop" had a rear bumper.

Dig that barn find patina? Rims and tires added to help roll the Tr-Five into garage bay.

Ron’s ’55 Chevy facts

  • Despite the fact that Chevrolet produced more Bel-Air 2-door Hardtops (185,562) than Post Sedans (168,313); the non-post Hardtop cars remain the most desirable.
  • The Black 1955 Chevy street racer from “American Graffiti” was the same car used in “Two-Lane Black Top.” Driven in “Graffiti” by Harrison Ford and driven in “Black Top” by contemporary music legend James Taylor.
  • The above mentioned movie car was owned by the studio and was brought back out to make sound effects for the 1977 hit movie “Smokey and The Bandit” staring a beautiful 1977 Special Edition Trans Am. I don’t know how I feel about that.
  • 1955 was the first year for a factory dual exhaust option. Jim Wangers (Pontiac advertising legend) worked in Chevrolet’s advertising at the time and sent a novelty kazoo to dealers to give out with a tag reading “twin pipes to make beautiful music.”

Ron Kidd is fired-up about his project '55.

Future plans - Hot Rod Hearts Out On The Boulevard Tonight
  So what’s it going to take to make this '55 hit the streets where it belongs? I am going to take it off the frame and do floor pans, bushings, mounts, fuel lines, brake lines and frame coating to make this last another lifetime (mine hopefully).

Notice the Hurst shifter curling over the bench seat?

  I am going to replace the entire wiring harness to avoid any fires and add power brakes and air conditioning. The 4-speed will relinquish its spot for a 6-speed to take advantage of some good over-drive. As far as the engine goes... heck, if I know. Seeing as this 327 engine is locked up tighter than Fort Knox, something has to go in its place. Part of me wants a “Two Lane Blacktop” big block rat motor with a lumpy cam and a thirsty Holley. Another part of me says I can make huge power from a stroked small block Chevy. Pump gas and dependability are important.  I also want to incinerate both rear tires at will when the notion hits me or a pesky Mustang entices me.

An early-sixties Pontiac tach is strapped to the 55's steering column. 

  In this frame of mind today, as of this writing, the car will be repainted a nice evil black. Not quite gloss, but not dull either. As far as rolling stock – my first choice will be a set of polished aluminum slotted mags and a fat pair of Mickey Thompson tires out back. My second choice would be a set of black steelies with a set of poverty dog dish hubcaps and black wall tires. Third choice is a set of Chevrolet Rally Wheels with the small center piece and white letter BFGs all around. Hot Rod Hearts indeed.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life 

Do you have a great classic or muscle car barn find story? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at & Ron Kidd at

Simple Green, a pressure washer and a junkyard galoot willing to get soaking wet on a 40-degree day washing his barn find 1955 Chevy Bel Air.

After the first bath in 30-plus years, the "Two Lane Moss Top" turned into a black beauty.

Project '55 Chevy is in full swing. Wrenches are turning on it as we speak.

'55 Chevy Barn Find Rescue Team – (L to R) Joe Potter, Jody Potter, Jason Trammell Ron Kidd and Anthony Powell.

Send your photos, tips and stories to junkyardlife


Tom Ordway said...

The carb on the 327 looks to be a Hipo Ford Holley. You can recover a small part of your initial investment.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Great story!

Anonymous said...

It must be great to be you!!!

Anonymous said...

Update?? Love this story!!

Anonymous said...

what you do is jack the back up put big tires and DONT CUT THE REAR WHEEL WELLS