Mid-Century Modern: '55 Chevrolet Bel-Air Restomod
Starting a project with an iconic platform can be daunting for some builders. When a particular car has cemented its place into the minds of both enthusiasts and the larger American public, the transformation needs to truly be special to elevate it beyond its roots. Take a Tri-5 Chevy for example, a car so entrenched into Americana that it moves past iconic into nearly “the icon.” Moving the needle on a Bel Air build requires a whole lot more than just wheels and a drop.
Start with Good Bones
The owner of this 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air gave Georgia-based SOB Motorsports carte blanche to transform the car into something special. The owner said, “A local hot rod builder/ collector originally built the car and drove and showed the car across the southeast."
"There was no hesitation in taking the car to where it is now, though. The car had a nice shiny 502 big block in it with a turbo 400 transmission, but I wanted to take it a little further and keep a black theme going.”
SOB Built’s vision for the car was a “big horsepower, street friendly tire frier! The car was beautiful, it just needed our custom vision for the stance, the wheels and of course the power!” Their decision to retain the overall classic OEM aesthetic of the ‘55 was a smart decision, allowing the slick black paint and chrome to shine in a way that is thoroughly period-correct.
While the modern trend of blacking out chrome certainly has its purpose for certain segments, robbing a Tri-5 of its shine requires a LOT of justification.
Big Wheels, Big Vibes
SOB Built painstakingly fitted the staggered 20 and 22 inch Forgiato FV4 to the classic Chevy resulting in a completely jaw-dropping look. While calling a set of staggered large diameter wheels “period correct” would be a bridge too far, Forgiato’s design harkens back to popular hubcap designs of the period, feeling both fresh and familiar at the same time.
Bagged Bel Air
Stance is not made by wheels alone, however. The Bel Air received a full Ride Tech air suspension to really hammer home the classic gangster vibes. SOB Built owner Zack Martin said, “I love the custom fitment of the wheels, which required the new axles, and the air suspension."
"Everything is a precise puzzle piece, they all have to work together and fit just right for the big picture to come out correct in the end.”
Nitto Invo + Forgiato Combo
Choosing the right tire for the Bel Air was an easy decision. Although the car makes big power, the goal for this build was ultimately a street cruiser rather than a pure performance machine. Zack said, “We love Nitto's Invo tires, we have run them on multiple builds, along with our personal cars! The car still spins the tires but it’s a great smooth ride thus far.”
The Nitto Invo Luxury Ultra High Performance tire works perfect for the project because it was specifically developed for staggered size applications. Every aspect of the Invo’s modern tread design was engineered to optimize traction in both wet and dry situations, increase braking stability, and provide a quiet, predictable experience on long drives in high horsepower vehicles.
Blown LSX Power
That high horsepower, by the way, comes courtesy of a 427” LSX crate motor with a Boost District blower. Pulling this off in a classic Chevy platform wasn’t easy. Zack said, “Fitting the complete package in a somewhat tight engine bay, with the added needs for the supercharger and required cooling wasn’t easy. We built a custom “Air Dam” type heat exchange so the Heat Exchanger is actually flat under the front of the car with ducting forcing air in and through.”
A Holley Terminator X ECU and custom Custom Built Aeromotive fuel system keeps everything running smoothly through a built 4L80E transmission. Altogether, Zach said, “The goal was as close to 1000hp as possible on a pump gas combo for ease of use and drivability. The car makes well over 700hp to the tire, which through a 4l80E and a 9” rear end is pretty close to our target crank HP goal on pump gas.”
Altogether, this Tri-5 successfully separates itself from the hordes of classic '50s Chevrolets filling the lots of cruise-ins around the country. Pulling bits of influence from the pro-touring style, the big wheel domestic scene, and OEM+/period correct tuner styles, it stands on the shoulders of so many cars before it while firmly having its own identity. It feels both mid-century, and modern, doing justice to the iconic platform on which it is based.
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