THIS is another one of those show-stopper cars from SEMA 2015 in Las Vegas, a show where to stand out from the crowd you really need to build something eye-catching, really tough or just plain clever. This ’55 Chev is all three of those things. It’s owned by Greg Heinrich, a man who owns four Chevy dealerships and wouldn’t go near a Ford even if it had a Chevy engine in it.
Greg’s first dealership is called Fairway Chevrolet, so the backstory of the car is a bit of a ‘what if’: What if Fairway Chevrolet built a supercharged car back in 1955, a bit like what happened in the 60s with the ‘Super Camaros’ produced by the Yenko Chevrolet dealership? After all, Studebaker had Paxton blowers on their cars in the late 50s, so it could have happened.
While Greg is the very proud owner, the car was built by Rodger Lee and his team at Ironworks Speed & Kustom in Bakersfield, California. Originally the car started out as one of Rodger’s personal projects, but as it progressed Greg liked what he was seeing; so much so, in fact, that he bought it. The initial design rendering was done by the very talented Eric Black from E.Black Design, and the finished product is pretty much just like the artwork.
But it wasn’t as simple as applying a bright orange paintjob and bolting on some big wheels.
“To get the bumper that low on a stock ’55 Chevy, the rocker would be dragging on the ground; there’s just no way to make all that happen,” Rodger explains. “So you could say we pulled the rockers up on the car to get the bumper down where we wanted it. We took two-and-a-half inches out of the firewall in a pie shape all the way to the back, then we dropped the front bumper and the grille down so the wedge doesn’t go all the way through the car. It basically drops the bumper so it lines up with the rocker on the car.”
The engine package has just as many hidden tricks as the bodywork, and while a small-block with a 6/71 on top of it would have looked pretty cool, what Ironworks has managed to do is make a late-model LSX donk look right at home in the engine bay of a ’55 Chev.
While the engine is a stock LSX 376-B15, there’s nothing to be ashamed of when you see how well-appointed these engines are right from the factory. Six-bolt cross-bolted mains and another six bolts holding down the head on each cylinder, plus forged internals and a hydraulic-roller cam, make this a pretty good starting point for a boosted application.
These engines are designed to take 15lb of boost, but we spotted this car on the Vortech stand at SEMA, so they wanted to show off a little. The big V-20 blower is capable of making 45lb of boost, but Rodger says they’re running about 20lb in the motor at the moment: “We’ve got it really turned down; that’s their full race blower. Because the blower makes so much boost we’re finding it runs a little bit smoother by cranking it up a little bit. The longer we can keep the boost control valves closed, the better the mass airflow sensor works. We haven’t run it up on the dyno yet, but we’ve got about 300 miles on the car. I like to get the drivetrain to where it’s all broke in before we really beat on it. It’ll probably make 900-1000hp really easy.”
With all that horsepower on tap, it’s nice to see a decent set of seatbelts in the car. “I’m not a big fan of rollcages in street cars because you don’t want to hit your head on it,” Rodger says. So the bars you can see in the back are just there as mounting points for the belts – and to fill up the space where the rear seat once was.
“It gave it the look we wanted and it held the seatbelts and served a purpose; it also gave us a place to mount a fire extinguisher,” Rodger explains. “We didn’t want to have a back seat because we thought it gave it a bit more of a race car vibe, though it’s not intended to be a race car.”
The wheels are a pretty special bit of gear as well. Inspired by spindle-mount Halibrands on the front with matching five-hole wheels at the back, they were designed by Ironworks along with
many other cleverly disguised billet pieces. “We had the valve covers, air intake, underdash a/c unit, trunk badge and wheels custom-machined by Evod, but all the design was done here,” Rodger says.
“The wheels have a Cerakote finish to them, because most powdercoats have a little bit of a sheen to it where it looks like it’s a coating. But we wanted wheels that looked like they were actually another material, so we shot-peened the centres to get a rough-cast texture and then glassbeaded the outer lip, which has a smoother texture, so it looks like someone tried to smooth it out. We wanted someone to look at the wheels and think we might have found them at a swap meet.”
The only giveaway would be that they measure up at 18x9 and 19x11, a size you probably wouldn’t have found back in the 50s, and although they’re pretty large, Rodger made sure the tyres had enough of a sidewall to avoid the dreaded lacky-band rubber look. You won’t be able to tell the tyre sizes by looking at the sidewalls because they’ve been sanded smooth for that extra clean look – and because it makes them look bigger – but they measure up at 265/40 and 315/40.
Although the body has been smoothed of all side trim and the bonnet has been nosed and peaked, it still wears a pair of door handles and Rodger even kept the quarter windows in place. Those big slab sides needed a little more than the fairly mild colour combos that Chevrolet offered in 1955, so a little experimenting with the PPG paint tins and some ice pearl saw the creation of an eye-searing orange dubbed Haterade.
The car debuted at SEMA to a fantastic reception, and we weren’t the only ones who noticed how cool it was. Even General Motors dug it, awarding it the Best Chevrolet Hot Rod award. No arguments from me.
If you want to find out more about how this amazing car was put together, there’s a very thorough gallery of the entire build at www.ironworksspeedandkustom.com. s
Colour: PPG Haterade custom mix
Type: LSX 376-B15 Block: LSX cast-iron, six-bolt, cross-bolted mains Inlet: Holley dual quad Blower: Vortech V-20, custom air-to-air intercooler Heads: LSX-LS3, six-bolt Valves: 2.160in (in), 1.550in (ex) Cam: Hydraulic-roller; lift 0.560in (in), 0.555in (ex); duration email@example.com Pistons: Forged aluminium Crank: Forged steel Conrods: Forged Radiator: AutoRad radiator core support system Exhaust: Ultimate headers, custom exhaust Ignition: Stock coil-on-plug, relocated coils
Box: 4L85E Diff: GMR 9in, 4.11 gears
Front end: C6 Corvette Rear end: Four-link with Panhard bar Springs: Hyperco Shocks: Ridetech coil-overs (f & r) Steering: Ididit column, Woodward rack-and-pinion Brakes: Wilwood 14in (f), Wilwood 14in full-floater (r)
Rims: Custom Evod; 18x9 (f), 19x11(r) Rubber: Michelin 265/40/18 (f), 315/40/19 (r)
The team at Ironworks: Hugo Cruz, paint and polishing; Brian Hosty, bodywork and metal fabrication; Neil Hurley, metal fabrication; Jimmy Chavez and Michael Pitney, wiring and assembly