The tire and wheel combination,...
The tire and wheel combination, and the lack of front bumper give the car its nostalgic look, while a slick coat of Glacier Blue paint leaves little doubt of this car's rust-free body.
There's no denying the extreme influence that cool car guys have on the younger generation. It's been that way for years, looking all the way back to the early days of hot rodding. Scary car guys with a roughneck attitude didn't get much attention from the younger crowd back then, but the really cool guys helped promote the hobby in a positive way-most of the time without even knowing it.
Woody Carrell was one of those guys who always had a cool car or motorcycle, and didn't come off as a hoodlum, like many hot rodders and bikers of the '60s and '70s. Little did he know that his coolness encouraged one particular enthusiast to pursue a career in cars and eventually build a shop of his own. That enthusiast is Chris Sondles, and he owns one of the premier hot rod shops in the country: Woody's Hot Rodz. Wonder where he got the name?
There are few images steeped...
There are few images steeped in hot rod lore as the up-close pic of a floor-mounted Hurst shifter with the white ball. And could that be-a mechanical oil pressure gauge mounted under the dash? Time capsule material for sure.
Woody obviously made a big impression on Chris Sondles, and their first encounter was over 30 years ago. In 1980, Chris and his father, Fred, stopped at a local gas station in their hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, when Woody pulled up in a '57 Chevy. Fred didn't know him, but started talking cars, and told him how much he loved Tri-Five Chevys. By the time they finished pumping gas and swapping stories, Woody invited Fred and Chris over to his garage. When they arrived, Woody had to go in his house to grab his keys, and Chris immediately noticed the Harley-Davidson parked in the center of the kitchen. Carburetors and intake manifolds took up most of his stovetop, while a removable hardtop from a Corvette left his pool table, which was placed in the middle of his living room, out of commission. Chris says that Woody was the "real life Fonz", and a quick glance at his garage proved the point.
Small- and big-block Chevys were scattered everywhere in the shop, along with lots of high-performance parts hanging on the wall. In the middle of all this was a Glacier Blue '55 Chevy, fresh from California, land of the rust-free hot rod. Fred tried to buy the car that day, but Woody replied with, "nah, I think I'll keep her." Who would've thought that nearly 30 years later, Chris would be helping Woody finish the same car he saw that day.
The GM Performance Parts crate...
The GM Performance Parts crate engine now rests under the hood of his '55 and provides him with reliable horsepower. Behind the small-block is a Tremec TKO-500 five-speed manual transmission.
The car started life as one of the first '55 Chevys off the assembly line, and it was sold at Felix Chevrolet in Los Angeles. It's a 150 utility sedan, meaning that it didn't come with a back seat and the quarter-windows are stationary. With no trim whatsoever, and plenty of utilitarian qualities, many of these cars were used as company vehicles, but they were also a favorite on the dragstrip because of the lighter body. This car was originally used as a Knapp shoe salesman's car and didn't see much track time in its life. Woody's journey with it started in 1980 after seeing it in a classified ad, and a closer inspection presented a flawless, 70,000-mile survivor. He forked over $1,500 for it, and never let any amount of profit pry it out of his grip.
From the time of purchase, Woody worked on the car here and there, making slow progress on the rebuild. Chris and the entire crew at Woody's Hot Rodz jumped in to help finish the car, as a side project during the evenings. All of the hard work came to an end in June 2010, as the car rolled out of the shop for the final time in this configuration. The looks of a '60s street racer are combined with the dependable qualities of a GM Performance Parts crate engine, and Tremec TKO-500 five-speed transmission. One interesting note about the crate engine is the fact that Woody won it in a local car show raffle. Looks like that $5 ticket really paid off.
It doesn't get much simpler...
It doesn't get much simpler than a '55 Chevy 150 utility sedan, as these cars came from the factory with no back seat and stationary quarter glasses. Fresh black material covers the original bench seat and custom door panels, while a rubber mat takes care of the floors. Dynamat was used to insulate the body.
Most of the Chevy's undercarriage is stock, aside from the Danchuk sway bars, and a pair of Danchuk front disc brakes. A 605 power steering box replaces the original unit, and keeps Woody from yanking too hard on the Impala steering wheel. While the mismatched wheel and tire combination might confuse today's youngsters, it gives the car lots of period-correct personality and consists of 15x7 Radir front wheels, 15x8 steelies and Coker Firestones all around. The lack of front bumper is yet another '60s trait, but the rest of the car's brightwork is replaced with Danchuk replacement parts. Brett Davis at Woody's Hot Rodz is responsible for the bodywork and also laid down the PPG Glacier Blue paint.
Inside, Woody's '55 is close to stock, with its black rubber mat from Trim Parts and simple black stitch work. Matt Baldwin at Woody's Hot Rodz handled the upholstery and also installed the American Autowire Highway Series wiring harness. You won't find a stereo in this vintage Tri-Five, and you certainly won't find any form of air conditioning, unless you count the wing windows. It's as plain as you can get, and that didn't happen by accident. Woody was around for the glory days of hot rodding and knows what a no-frills '55 should look like. This is it, and he couldn't be happier.
Oftentimes, mismatched wheels...
Oftentimes, mismatched wheels in the '60s meant the owner simply couldn't afford another pair of aftermarket wheels to run with his slicks, so the stock rear wheels just had to do. Woody's '55 rolls on Radir wheels up front and steelies out back with Firestone bias-ply tires on all four corners.
After lots of work, Woody has a car from the era he loves the most. Chris was happy to help this local legend get his car back on the road, and sums it up nicely with this quote: "In the 30 years I've known Woody, two things have stayed the same-my dad is still trying to buy the '55 and Woody is still the Fonz to me!"