Replacing one ’55 Chevy with another
Story Kevin Harper / Images Bill Erdman - November 15, 2012 10:00 AM
You will get little argument if you make the statement that the 1955 Chevrolet changed the path of the automotive world.
Over 50 years later, there is still a clear understanding that things would have been vastly different if Chevrolet hadn’t done what they did.
The following of the iconic ’55 runs deep. Time has not thinned the ranks, but strengthened them because it is likely that time has actually made more people aware of just what took place.
Books have been written about the efforts that were put forward. It is a well-documented fact that Ed Cole was entrusted with the company’s awareness that something had to be done, but they weren’t exactly sure what it was. The practice of changing badges or slightly tweaking a car took a rest with the ’55. This was a whole different animal and the public loved it … and still does.
This fine ’55 is owned by Alister Symon of Saddle River, New Jersey. It is not his first ’55, having had a new one back in the day. This car has been in his possession for more than 30 years, so he knows the ins and outs of it all.
When the ’55 was designed, it featured a new frame, new rear springs and new brakes in addition to the distinctive body style. The 265 cubic inch V-8 engine set it apart as a car that meant business. The development of this small-block Chevy was yet another accomplishment that would set the course of history.
Symon’s engine is the stock unit that is left exactly the way they were built. The displacement would grow in two quick model years, but the foundation was laid by the 265.
Two-tone paint, as featured on this Bel Air, was a popular choice for the ’50s. The roof, rear deck and upper fenders were factory painted in one hue with the rest of the car getting the second color. The separation job was left to chrome trim strips. Chevrolet would offer 23 different combinations for buyers. The paint on Alister’s car is not the original paint, but it is the original color to match the data plate. The body itself is devoid of any modifications and that is understandable. If it is an icon, why change anything about it?
While the distinct color and body style help set the car apart, the curious want to know more about the character of a particular car. There were 773,238 Bel Airs produced for 1955, so how does this one differ from others along the same assembly line? The original owner wasn’t necessarily shy about options, but the list includes a number of items taken for granted today. It had to have a radio and heater and there is a clock that reflects the period (long before the digital clock that graces modern cars). This car featured an overdrive transmission with 4.11 gears. If you wanted to put the car in overdrive, you did it yourself by pulling out on the handle, much like you would for a future emergency brake release. The car came complete with whitewall tires and the Power Pak option as well.
Symon took the time to spruce up the car with a restoration effort in 2004, preparing it for a 50th anniversary celebration. The car shows 80,000 original miles on it and enjoys the life of a classic in the hands of a caring owner.
One never gets tired of seeing great examples of historic rides and this car can clearly educate the uninformed. For those who were fortunate enough to remember the day when they were new, this is a direct throwback to those times. You will find many examples in museums across the country, but seeing one in its “natural environment” always adds a little excitement. When it’s a well-preserved and cared-for example such as Alister Symon’s Bel Air, it’s a refreshing sight.