A Z06 Corvette motor came from Street & Performance and was installed along with a Griffin
Now in his mid-sixties, Jerry O’Connor cannot remember a time when he wasn’t involved with hot rods. He overhauled his first car when he was 13 and, by the time he’d reached the legal driving age, he was building hot rods for himself and to sell, which is how he got into the car business (he owned a Chevy, Cadillac, and GMC dealership for 40 years). Through the ’60s and into the ’70s Jerry went drag racing, mostly in Oklahoma, and ran a ’64 Biscayne business coupe in the D/G class (with a 115 mph, 11.50-second times).
The new car business was doing well and by 1997 he began looking for a ’55 Chevy hardtop. He’d owned a ’55 Chevy sedan when he was a teenager and, even back then, dreamt of a red hardtop. So he was able to track down a rust-free body in Drumright, Oklahoma (only 60 miles from his hometown of Shawnee), and put it in storage until the time was right to build it.
D&D Specialty Cars not only built the ’55 for Jerry O’Connor, but created the interior for
More than a decade later Jerry retired from the dealership, and he wanted to get the car of his dreams on the road. He hooked up with the award-winning D&D Specialty Cars in Van Buren, Arkansas, a company that has been building rods for 30 years (as well as offering a ’glass roadster of their own design).
The concept was to make sure the car says “hot rod” when you look at it, but to update it with today’s technology, which happens to be a specialty of D&D. The ’55 was gone through from top to bottom, with the frame being smoothed out and stainless steel plumbing added. A tubular independent system went in up front and a Ford 9-inch (3.55:1) in the rear, and disc brakes were added to each corner. To get the profile right when he’s parked, airbags from RideTech control both the ride and suspension. For rollers, Jerry chose Boyd Coddington 20x10s and 18x8s, wrapping them in Toyo 295-20 and 235-18 rubber.
The engine, a Z06 Corvette unit, is rated at 450 hp and was obtained through Street & Performance in Mena, Arkansas. The top of the motor was polished and painted, and a polished aluminum Griffin radiator is cooled by twin electric fans. Exhaust runs out Flowmaster mufflers, and the small-block bolts to an L460 trans. Rex Van Dyke at R&P Machine in Jerry’s hometown did the install of the engine.
The smooth look was carried over into the engine compartment, too, with the addition of a smoothed firewall. The front and rear bumpers are also smooth (boltless) models, but the basic identity of the ’55—with all of its exterior stainless trim—was left intact. D&D, who did the bodywork on the car, was also the painter of choice, and they covered the ride with PPG Guards Red paint. High density headlights and LED taillights finished off the exterior, and soon D&D moved inside.
After smoothing out the dash, Classic Instrument gauges were wired up with a Painless Performance kit and went into the stock gauge location, and a clock was added to the passenger side speaker grille (copying a factory option from 1955). A flowing center console cascades from the dash down past the shifter (where the Alpine stereo head unit and controls for the Vintage Air system are) between the custom bucket seats D&D created and on back to split the rear seating where two more bucket seats are found. The seating is covered in Cadillac Natural Shale–colored leather, which complements the Rolls-Royce tan carpet that covers the Dynamat insulation. Other additions include a Boyd Coddington steering wheel bolted to an ididit column.
Jerry says he couldn’t be happier with the work D&D Specialty Cars did on his Bel Air or the way it turned out. And after achieving his dream (either 14 or 50 years later, depending on how you look at it), Jerry has the car of his dreams parked in his garage.
Jerry O’Connor’s ’55 Chevy Bel Air two-door hardtop
The bumpers have been shaved of their bolts, though the rest of the car still has its fact