1955 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door
WRITTEN BY Dean MacDonald
The owner of this fine ’55 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door post sedan, longtime resident Gary Lane, has seen quite a few changes in the Antelope Valley since his family moved here in 1951.
Gary first attended Del Sur Grammar School, then moved to Quartz Hill Elementary where he was in the school’s first eighth-grade graduating class. He later graduated from Antelope Valley High School and then spent two years at Antelope Valley Junior College and, from there, transferred to Cal Poly Obispo where he majored in engineering. After that, he went to work for McDonnell Douglas as a tech rep and traveled all over the world, including to the Philippines and Vietnam, specializing in A-4 aircraft, which were used in combat in Vietnam.
Then he worked for McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics out of Fort Worth, Texas, worked on the F-16s and then Lockheed, and finally at the Skunk Works here. Before retiring, he had worked in aerospace since 1962. His late wife, Sandy, grew up in the San Fernando Valley and the Valley and graduated from Palmdale High School. They have one son, Scott, 29, who has Down syndrome and has a job at Desert Haven.
Gary’s classic 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door post sedan was purchased new by Sandy’s father from a dealership in the San Fernando Valley. The car is, in fact, a true California vehicle and was actually manufactured at the old GM assembly plant in Van Nuys. In about 1975, Gary said, Sandy bought the car from her father and drove it for many years. Then, newer cars replaced the ’55 Chevy, and eventually it went into storage for a number of years. That’s when Gary, who has always been interested in hot rods and classic cars, decided to do a little tweaking on the car.
Originally, the 1955 Bel Air two-door post sedan was powered by a 265 cubic-inch engine with a two-barrel carburetor, which was bolted up to the stock Powerglide transmission. The powerplant now motivating the car is a 350 cubic-inch, ’97 LT1 Corvette engine coupled to a 60 E (electronic) transmission. This driveline Gary purchased was from a wrecked Corvette and, undamaged, it only had about 4,000 or 5,000 miles on it. Loaded with polished aluminum and chrome, the engine has a GM electronic ignition for optimum starting and, for cooling duties, a custom-made large aluminum radiator with an oil and trans cooler, plus an electric fan. Exhaust chores are handled by old Sanderson headers with 2?-inch aluminum exhaust pipes that exit in dual tailpipes. The horsepower this powerplant produces is substantial.
This potent engine and transmission is bolted up to the Chevy’s original rear end but not for long, said Gary, who is a member of The Atomics Car Club in Palmdale.
For optimum steering and stopping, the ’55 Chevy has rack and pinion with power steering and power four-wheel disc brakes. Other than those changes, Gary said, the suspension is pretty much all original except for sway bars.
The interior upholstery is done in custom black and charcoal velour and utilizes the car’s original seats. Matching the seats are the black Naugahyde door panels, headliner and carpets.
Additional interior features include a walnut steering wheel and tilt column out of a ’74 Chevy van; AC; a full set of aftermarket gauges custom-installed in the dash, which Gary plans to remove and replace with an all-digital dash; plus the original ’55 radio look with a hidden modern stereo that has a 12-disc changer in the trunk. The battery is also installed in the trunk.
This nifty and nostalgic 1955 Chevrolet two-door post is painted its original factory color (although it has been repainted twice), which is called Bayshore Line White and Neptune Green.
For the final touch, the ’55 Chevy rolls on all same-size tires, which are mounted on original Cragar old-style wheels with spinoffs, which provide an absolutely perfect hot rod look.