In the Fall of 1963 I was 15 and a sophomore in high school. My older brother was a senior and a certified car guy. His study hall time consisted of reading Car Craft and Hot Rod magazines. I was a little more studious but, little did I know that my brother's obsession with cars was making it's way into my psyche.
I didn't have my driver's license yet but "big brother" was teaching me to drive in his red and white '55 Chevy Belair hardtop. The car was gorgeous with chrome reverse wheels, baby moons, a Foxcraft conversion floor shifter and 4:56 rear gears. I think there was a short time when there were Port A Wall whitewalls on the tires but, they kept spinning right off the rims. With the 265 CI power pack V8, the car was a Demon when we were downtown "scooping the Loop". We knew better than to follow any of the big block boys out to the highway for any challenges since our top end was severely limited by the rear gear. But, stoplight to stoplight we were pretty impressive.
About halfway through the school year I turned 16 and got my license. My brother was good enough to let me borrow the car as long as I remembered two things. One, turn it back over to him with a full tank of gas. When I got it, it was always running on fumes. The second thing was to either park on a hill or have enough friends nearby to push start the car. Besides not having much money for gas, my brother evidently couldn't afford to get a good battery on his earnings from sacking groceries.
The car was always immaculately clean. I think my brother waxed it every week. He could afford the Blue Coral wax that was about the best you could buy at the time. The times that I had the car for a date and some loop scooping are still memorable.
My brother graduated and joined the military. No college for him. Remember the car magazines in study hall? Grade point wasn't quite where it needed to be. He had no need for the '55 anymore so he sold it. I had no money to buy it and my Dad probably wouldn't have let me have it anyway as he knew what a car obsession can do for your grades. The '55 went to a local kid who wrapped it around a telephone pole within several months after buying it. He wasn't hurt too bad but that was the end of that beautiful '55 Chevy.
Fast forward to 1977. I went on to finish my college degree, did my military time, and had started a family. Was driving through the neighborhood one day and ......there it was. A red and white '55 Belair hardtop with a for sale sign in the window. I stopped my car (a '72 VW) and got out to check the Chevy. It looked pretty good. Needed paint and the chrome wasn't the best but the price was $800. Told the seller that I would take it and then went home to tell my wife about our new second car. She wasn't thrilled but knew she couldn't talk me out of it.
Got the car home and discovered that it was really pretty good. It had a 1964 327 corvette engine and was mechanically sound. I spent the next two years doing a restoration of this classic. Of course, the wheels had to be chrome reverse with baby moons. No Foxcraft shifter since it had an automatic transmission. I think the car turned out great. The picture that I included shows the car 33 years after I put it together.
During those 33 years I have had a lot of fun with the '55. Acquaintances from high school will see me in the car and they comment that they can't believe that I have held on to the car that my brother owned back in 1963. I used to try to explain that it looks just like that car but is not. Anymore, I just smile and say YES, there are some things that need to stay in the family!
Classics are Great To Drive!