Richard P

Once Lost Now Found

I obtained my first Chevrolet Bel Air in Fort Worth, Texas in 1967. Just after graduating from high school I enrolled at Arlington State College, now the University of Texas at Arlington, for my first attempt at higher education. My first Chevy was my primary transportation for the year I attended school. It was a red and white Bel Air Coupe and I purchased it together with my Uncle who was kind enough to open up his house to me at the time and give me a bedroom while I was attempting to get a college education. Unfortunately, I lost interest in school and was quickly reclassified 1A for draft purposes. Joining the military I had to give up my beloved car before reporting to boot camp. I said goodby to Texas, my Uncle and his family, my first car and headed off to my career in the Navy.

Just before I left Texas my Uncle also purchased his own Bel Air Coupe and decided to begin restoring it. This was a long and slow process which never was completed and the car finally ended up in his garage covered with dust. 30 years later, my Naval Career completed, I settled down in Tennessee and retired. While visiting my Uncle again, I discovered his '55 Coupe in his garage and inquired about it. He told me he had never achieved his restoration goals for the car and that his son had used it as a work car for a while. It was not presently running and he was working on rebuilding the engine. I told my Uncle that if he ever decided to sell the car to make sure he called me first. A few years later, that call came.

The 1955 2 Door Sport Coupe was repainted and brought to me in Germantown, Tennessee where I still live today. The car was in solid condition, no rust and never wrecked. The glorious new white over yellow paint job inspired me to get to work immediately completing the restoration. While the original engine is long gone, the replacement engine, which a 283 CU from a 1957 Chevy Corvette, was completely rebuilt and topped with a polished Holly 4 bbl carb. Electrics were modified to accept a MSD Pro Billet Distributor and alternator. I also completed a total transformation of the interior with custom-sewn seat covers and door panels adding new carpet. The beefy sound of the car is provided by a set of headers coupled to flowmaster mufflers. The 3 speed tranny is topped with a Hurst Shifter and my shifts are monitored through a Sun Super Tach. The original radio was rebuilt but it stays off all the time. I would rather listen to the whine of the transmission gears and the sound of the exhaust. The final touch was the addition of a set of classic American Racing Torque Thrust Wheels, the wheels I always wanted for my first Chevy, but never had enough money to buy.

Although my '55 lacks the modern comforts like power steering, power brakes, air conditioning etc. it is a pure joy to drive. I take it out frequently and I never return without at least one person complimenting me on the car. I've been hailed at stop lights, in parking lots, even followed back home by inquisitive observers. The conversation usually begins with "What year is that?" which is almost immediately followed with their story of another '55 they previously owned but only dream about now.

When I sold my first Chevy in 1968 for $350 it was a sad moment that I would not forget for many years. Little did I know that another would come my way decades later. I just turned 65 this June 1st but every time I get in my Bel Air Coupe and turn that key, I'm 18 once again.

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