Just the Facts
Model: Bel Air
Owner: Ronald Corradini
Every car has its fans, but not equally. Some cars have a few fans, some cars have lots of fans, and a limited number of cars have mountains of fans. The 1955 Chevy falls into that third category—vehicles that have earned an indelible spot on the short list of almost universally loved cars. (We say "almost" to acknowledge the handful of you out there who insist that they never want to see another 1955; hopefully you'll write to us explaining why.)
The wheel and dash (with 1956 insert) are stock, but a few interior components, like the H
There are two reasons why 1955 Chevys have become such iconic and popular cars among enthusiasts. The first reason is that there is a lot you can do to one to make it look cool. The second reason is that you don't have to do anything to make one look cool.
In general, 1955 owners tend to build their cars in one of two styles. Some take the nifty 1950s approach, with close-to-stock sheetmetal, period pastel paint, wide whitewalls, two-tone tuck 'n' roll, fuzzy dice, and a nickname like "Suzy Q" lettered on the decklid. That's kind of fun, and we've seen it a lot.
The other approach is the Gasser look, stripped down in the style of a vintage drag car, with a Moon tank, slicks and skinnies on five-spoke or kidney bean wheels, race decals, a straight-axle and straight-line race suspension, and a nickname like "Hell Raiser" lettered on the doors. We like that look too, but again, we've seen it a lot.
Keeping this 572-inch Dart big-block running cool is accomplished with a Mattson’s 1955-57
We love seeing 1955s that depart from those two styles—like Ronald Corradini's Pro Street–style Bel Air hardtop out of Newport Beach, California. Built by Scott Bonowski and the guys at Hot Rods & Hobbies (HR&H), Ronald's Chevy is partly radical and partly restrained and the two sides somehow balance each other out.
Let's start with radical. Did the bug catcher rising out of the hood tip you off that there might be something out of the ordinary going on underneath? That Enderle injector assembly feeds a blown, injected 572-inch Dart big-block, built by Shaver Racing Engines. The balanced and blueprinted engine is packed with JE forged pistons, with Eagle rods and crank, and a COMP Cams hydraulic roller camshaft. The Littlefield intake is topped with a BDS 8-71 supercharger with Hilborn 160 lb/hr injection. HR&H produced the finned valve covers and built the headers. A pair of Flowmasters cork the 3-inch exhaust pipes.
Of course, 900 hp and 875 lb-ft of torque are just big numbers without a stout transmission delivering it to the rear tires. No problem here. Torrance Transmission built the 4L80E with a Hughes Performance converter. A PowerTrain Industries aluminum driveshaft connects to the 9-inch rear.
All that engine was going to require more chassis than the factory combination, and HR&H remedied the situation by replacing it with a complete custom frame and suspension from Art Morrison Enterprises. The Art Morrison setup features a four-link and adjustable coilovers in the rear, and IFS with tubular control arms and another set of coilovers in front. Lateral performance and left and right handling is equal to whatever the big-block throws at it. And traction is no problem with a pair of 31x16.5R16 Hoosier Pro-Street meats filling the HR&H-built wheel tubs. The wide radials roll on 16x12 ET-III wheels. Up front, 26x7.50R15 Hoosiers are mounted on 15x6 ET-IIIs. Four-corner disc brakes and master cylinder from Wilwood can stop the 1955 in short order.
As we promised, all the radical performance modifications are balanced by a relatively mild-appearing body and interior treatment. Of course, it took a ton of work to keep things looking mild. The floors and firewall were completely rebuilt before the body went back on. Except for cutting the hood, there was no reason to modify its classic lines, and even the handles, locks, and most of the Bel Air Sport Coupe trim were retained. A trip to Artistic Silver Plating ensured that all that brightwork looks perfect. The bumpers were smoothed and a Nomad centerpiece added to the rear. Winfield lenses fill the taillight bezels. Inside the HR&H paint booth, Todd Griggs and Scott Bonowski sprayed the two-tone finish, a combination of PPG Candy Cabernet and House of Kolor Wimbledon White.
Ronald avoided overloading the interior with race car–inspired components, adding only a race tach, Hurst shifter handle, and four-point cage as indications of the car's performance. A 1956 dash insert was added to the stock 1955 dash, and factory air-conditioning vents were incorporated into the Vintage Air A/C system. The upholstery is low key but high quality. Dave Lopez at Elegance Auto Interiors used low-sheen black leather to cover the modified seat and panels. He maintained the basic stock door panel design, modifying it with vertical rolls and pleats, matching the stitching on the split-back bench.
As we said a few pages ago, 1955 Chevys have a lot of fans and this tastefully Pro Streeted Bel Air has been collecting a few of its own. As luck would have it, its biggest fan is the guy who owns it. "I think 1955 Chevys represent the best drag-type street cars ever made," Ronald told us. "This car is 100 percent the way I want it. I give all the credit to Scott Bonowski and his team at HR&H. I had the dream and the checkbook, but they found the car and built it to perfection."