1955 Chevy 210

1955 Chevy 210

Story and photos by Cam Hutchins

When the bug hit Jamie MacPherson, he had to have a Tri 5 in his garage, and he did what all serious carnuts did – grabbed the latest copy of Buy & Sell and scoured the auto section early Thursday mornings! Yes, this was the way it was 20 years ago; you had to grab a newspaper-type Craigslist thing and actually phone people. MacPherson had owned and built a lot of Tri-5 Chevys, but in recent years had been playing with the ’20s and ’30s and noticed that the sources of good Tri -5s to work on were getting a bit hard to find.

So, for a year to the day, he hunted for the perfect candidate. As luck would have it, the car was located less than a mile from his house. This was going to be the last car he would build, and he was planning on keeping this car forever and driving it everywhere.  He went there with the requested 2,500 bucks and offered $1,500 – you know how it is. The owner would not budge, $1,700, $1,900, $2,300, still nothing, so he paid the $2,500 and then hauled home his prize.

MacPherson is a machinist by trade and a patient one at that, and he knew he wanted perfection and was willing to wait. The car sat in storage for 17 years while he finished off a few other projects. Just a few years ago, he finally stripped the car completely down. Doors, trunk, fenders, hood, glass and wiring all came off, it was taken down to bare metal and off the frame, and off it went for floors to be replaced due to some rust issues. The rest of the car was pretty solid, but every square inch was gone over to be perfected. The seat frames and the body and frame were pretty good, but almost everything else is either brand new or left over from other projects. Every nut and bolt was upgraded to stainless steel.

The frame was kept at home to be stripped and cleaned up and painted. He knew the 1955 210 was a perfect looking car and did not want to alter a single piece of it. No chopping the roof or radiusing the wheel arches or removing the chrome trim. He did not even want to tub the car. He had some experience in perfecting chassis and for the back end, he went with an inboard spring pocket kit as well as removing the spare tire compartment, and then centred the gas tank for a cleaner look as well as better routing of the exhaust. Now there was room for wider tires without tubs or minitubs and cutting up the floor.

The 1955-57 Rear Leaf Spring Pocket Kit by Eckler’s was installed by MacPherson and he has used them before. This allows the springs to be installed parallel into the frame width. A small area of the lower part of the frame is removed where the frame curves upward at the front spring mounting point. The whole frame is not removed, just the lower edge, then a “Pocket” including the front mounting point of the rear spring, is welded inside the frame rail.

For the rear mounting point, a smaller section of the frame is cut away and the rear mounting pocket is inserted, making the frame a bit thinner at that point, but the heavily gusseted inserted part of the kit compensates for that. There are two leaf spring pads to weld onto the axle so it can be mounted in its normal place, but with more room for wider tires. He has 18×9-1/2-inch Special Salt Flat rims on the rear with 285/40-18 rubber hitting the pavement.

The rear end is an early Mustang shortened 57-inch Ford 9-inch with 3.55 posi favoured by Hot Rodders for decades. The front end has the whole CPP catalogue thrown at it. Classic Performance Parts out of California have been making high-quality performance parts for a long time and for this car, they supplied the rack and pinion steering, 2-inch  drop spindles, front disc brakes, master cylinder, 1-inch sway bars front and rear, and many smaller bits, crucial to make a 65 year-old car handle like a new car.

Powering this cool ’55 is a Chevy 396 that has been worked over to provide the much desired punch, but not at the sacrifice of reliability. Stock cast iron exhaust manifolds were replaced by the much better flowing stock manifolds from a 1999 Yukon 454 with the large 2-inch ports. The intake manifold is an Edelbrock RPM with Sniper Electronic Fuel Injection and fired by an MSD electronic ignition system. To remind people this is not your uncle’s stock Chevy off the showroom floor, it also has 11-to-1 pistons, and a  Sig Erson Racing Cam with 285 duration and 530 lift.

The small-chamber high-performance oval-port heads are one of those lucky chance parts of taking junk and making it gold. MacPherson’s keen eye for performance parts was gained from years of being a machinist building high-performance engines for dragsters right down to the early babbitt-bearing 1900’s. Finding some garbage heads, he looked a bit closer; the heads had been stripped of valves and springs and he decided to check the serial numbers and they were the exact heads he wanted for this mill.

When the car was close to being finished, a small problem occurred. Once the body was mated to the frame, it was apparent that even with all the room above the engine, the hood was not going to fit with the blower MacPherson was going to use. The cutting of the hood for clearance was not part of the plan, as it too greatly changed the perfect look of the car. The blower got begrudgingly removed, but in hindsight the engine is perfect. Really, tons of tire smoke, and kick ass acceleration is plenty enough power. For the exhaust, it was custom-made right from the exhaust manifolds back, going directly into 2 1/2-inch aluminum pipe with an H pipe to help with the pair of Dynaflow mufflers for that right sound that he was after.

While MacPherson was perfecting the chassis, the body was being worked over with a fine tooth comb and the floors replaced. He recalls a call from the body man who was a bit excited, and he ventured out to see what was up. It turns out the body man was so excited with the results of the floor, which he had polished to perfection. He wanted MacPherson to paint it with clear coat, so you could see the mirror-like finish under the car when you put it on show with those mirrors laid on the carpet at the high-end car shows. He was totally deflated when MacPherson told him this car was not a show car but a driver, so cover up the bottom with the best metal sealer and undercoat so this car can never be destroyed.

The car also got a full complement of sound proofing with Hushmat sound deadener throughout the car. High-quality carpet and custom-fitted floor mats of the same carpet lined the floor, with the interior done by the awesome Stytch MyRyde. A ton of happy meals were made with all the beef supplied to make the six skins that were used for this amazing interior. The dash is stock except for the extra lower padded and covered air conditioning duct work. The centre panel is the radio delete panel that looks amazingly custom with its little “bow-tie” perforations across the whole dash. The double DIN stereo was mounted in a custom-made console with some audio power goodies in the trunk behind a custom leather cover panel to keep it out of sight but not out of ear shot! All the switches are stock but polished to perfection, the gauge cluster is from Classic Industries, and the steering column is an Ididit unit with a Lecarra steering wheel wrapped in leather to match the car’s interior.

The choice of paint colour is interesting in that MacPherson refers to the primary and secondary colours. He had them custom mixed, and he calls them Copper for the Primary and Champagne for the secondary. If you get a chance to look under the car, it is completely protected by undercoat, except the engine, transmission, driveshaft, and differential, which have been painted the secondary colour as he calls it. So the interior is also done in these colours as best as they could be matched in leather and carpet. The interior armrests were ones that MacPherson has seen at speed shops for years, but has his installed sloping downwards for maximum comfort. The design of the interior is amazing and looks perfect, and functional. The A/C ducts blow the cold “Vintage Air ” in the correct place, the seats are wide and comfortable for long road trips and the sound system is perfect. A lot of thought went into the interior; even the speaker grills on the parcel shelf were hashed out by MacPherson, his wife and Stytch. Even the roof is lined with leather!

Knowing the trunk will be filled with lots of luggage for long road trips, MacPherson would be excused if he went a bit plain in the “boot.” But the trunk has the same attention to detail as the interior. The big techy parts of the stereo system are housed in a compartment behind the seat tucked away ever so gently. The rest of the trunk has the two-toned theme of primary and secondary coloured leather with small strips of chrome detail to really set it off. There is tuck-and-roll and perforations and just plain magic happening in the trunk. On either side, a small light illuminates the trunk when opened. Not content to use one of the 1.4 million automotive interior lights available, he was at the Old Car Centre and heard someone talking about a fellow who can make any type of light desired. So liking the Aston Martin and Bentley winged design, he had custom lights and bezels made for the 55!

One of the other crucial custom parts of the car is the wheels. Poring over all the wheels available and wanting to be different, and with the tire size that would fit under the newly expanded space out back, nothing was perfect. He was speaking with the reps from Ron’s Rims and wanted a certain size of their Salt Flat Special wheels. Of course, they were available, as a custom order. So pony up the big boy bucks to get the perfect wheels for your ride, because as MacPherson says, this is my last build and we are going to drive this car everywhere! The custom-made wheels are 18×9-1/2-inch with 285/40-18 tires at the rear, and 18×8 with 225/40-18s up front, with NT555 G2 rubber all around. He would like to give a special thanks to his wife and sons for all the help in building this fine ride.

By the numbers:

The stock 1955 Chevy 210 weighed only about 3,175 lb or 1,440 kg. A modern Mustang GT weighs at least 3,700 lb and the 2021 Corvette weighs 3,468 lb or 1,573 kg.

The 1955 Chevy 210 production was around 250,000, almost 10 times the 2021 Corvette production of 26,216 Units. The total production of 1955 Chevy full-sized cars – 150, 210, Bel Airs, Station Wagons and Nomads – was 1,775,952 units, compared to 2021’s  best-selling car, the Toyota Camry, at 294,348 units.

In 2019, before the pandemic, total Chevrolet sales including cars and pickup trucks was only 1,958,821 units.

Categories: Muscle Car Plus