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General Information

I bought my 55 Chevy Belair in 1989 while on a road trip through work performing vehicle testing at GM Proving Grounds in Arizona.At the time I was working at GM Proving Grounds in Milford Mi.
Having Sunday off work,while looking through the cars for sale in the local paper, there was a 55 for sale and the location was the same town as the hotel.
It was the first day for the ad and after the initial phone call, I headed over fairly early to check out the car.

It was two tone, turqouise & white and the car was completely original,including the paint. The original headliner, carpet, and seat covers were still installed.There were several other seat covers on top of the original seat covers and various floor mats covering the carpet. The body was in great condition with very little rust, a replaced front fender and various dings on the outside stainless and dents on both bumpers. Some of the carpet fell apart in my hands when I attempted to move it to inspect the floorpan.

The original owner was from Tucson Az, had passed away, and his daughter and her husband were selling the car on behalf of her mom. She mentioned it was the only car her parents owned since she was born. She also mentioned the only time the car was in an accident was while she was learning how to drive, which required the front fender replacement. It was interesting to drive when I took it for a road test. Very musty smell inside, burning oil , manual steering, manual brakes, and all the rubber steering, suspension parts were either dried up or missing. The steering wheel had so much excessive play that I wasnt sure if the car would be able to turn at a corner. When I did manage a turn, the chassis seemed to turn first, then the body followed. Regardless, of all the vehicle issues, as I was pulling back into their driveway, I had already decided this was the right car.

Brief history of the car : It was purchased new in July 1955 in near Chicago Illinois by Armando Serra. He moved shortly afterwards to Tucson where he was employed at Davis Monthan Air Force Base as a barber. I seem to remember the daughter mentioning he had worked at the Davis Monthan for quite awhile, so if any of you out there served at Davis Monthan in the 70's and 80's and new of a barber there who owned a 55 Belair, or remember seeing the car, I would enjoy hearing from you.

Another side note, considering the 55 was with the same owners all this time, the daughter said she would have to call her mom to ask her if she would be ok with the car leaving the state. At some point in the mid 60's Armando had stopped working on the car himself, and started taking it to various shops and garages in Tucson. His wife saved all the receipts, which were given to me when I bought the car. It was convenient to know the history of the maintenance and repairs and mileage as the years passed on.

Back in Michigan, the 55 was in storage for a decade or so, while I gathered parts, built a polebarn to work on it, and somehow manage to come up with spare money and time to work on it.
The body was removed from the rolling chassis, then completely disassembled to prep by E-coating doors,fenders, trunk, and misc body parts. I built a wood 4*4 frame and used threaded rods going through front and rear body mounts to enable the body ( minus front clip ) to be hoisted up from the rafters and turned sideways to enable prepping the underside of the body while I was standing instead of laying underneath it. Similar to a rotesserie setup without the rotation part.

I removed all the components from the chassis, sandblasted the frame, and applied POR 15 on the frame. Upgrades to the rolling chassis were disc brakes in the front, power steering, and a front sway bar. Future upgrades include swapping out the original control arms, adding a rear sway bar, and rear disc brakes, and maybe a front disc brake update.

The powertrain consists of a 350 SBC, Tremec 5 speed transmission, and original rear differential.
I installed Dynamat throughout the body, and the interior has custom made seat covers, door panels , and head liner from Daniel Cope. I’ve installed tilt steering, updated gauges, new wiring harness, and LED tail lights.

This project has been ongoing since 1989 , however, most of the earlier years it was in storage. It didn’t take much time to take the entire vehicle apart. The time consuming ( and $$ ) part was installing new parts and cleaning ,prepping original parts. Years ago, parts were not as good quality as they are today. Many new parts had to be modified to fit correctly.

The car is completed enough to be road worthy and have several hundred miles on it during the last two years. I still have work to do on it and it will probably never be “finished”, however, its enjoyable to work on it and drive. It has come a long way since that first road test.

My youngest daughter was born the same year I bought the car, and I would not have thought she would have to wait all this time for ride in it. My 10 year old granddaughter got her first ride at the same time as all my kid’s first time.



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