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It started before I was born. in Jan 1955 master sergeant Laurence Haas (My dad) bought his 55, 2 door post in El Paso Texas. He was a life long Ford guy but the magazines were falling over themselves declaring the new from the ground up car from the General as the greatest thing since sliced bread. So he drove his 51 Ford into the dealership, and drove out in this, (The only picture I have)

Rectangle Art Tints and shades Military person Vehicle door


He loved that car and to the day he died claimed it as the best car he ever owned.

So growing up and hearing the uncountable tales of glory the old man would recount fed my own fire to someday wheel one of these cool old cars. I built plastic models in the 1960's of the gassers and such. Probably had a dozen or more of these models from all the model makers gathering dust in my bedroom.At 12 years old I imagined driving my very own 55 and vowed it would happen.

My Family owned and operated a commercial fishing boat and my brothers and I comprised of the crew when out of school. We were paid shares but never actually given a dime, just told it was in the bank. We complained about this "Slave" labor constantly. The summer of 1974 my constant bitching had the desired effect and I was given access to my earnings from the last 5 years of toil. It was not a staggering fortune but it was real money. I found my dream car in a neighboring town and begged a ride from my older brother to go see it. A root beer brown 150 post car with 3 on the tree and a blue flame 6 under the hood. It was a fine example of a 17 year old daily commuter car. So for the ripe sum of five hundred dollars I bought my dream car. The seller agreed to let us pick the car up in a couple of days and I had a car at the mature age of 14 and my folks had no idea.

I managed to garner the courage at the dinner table the night of the purchase to tell my folks about my amazing deal. It did not go well. My dad said "nope, not going to happen" My mom lost her mind blathering "this is exactly why we kept your money away from you kids" and other such nonsense. I was defiant. It was my money, I could spend it any dang way I wanted to,...Right?, Uhm I was a tad mistaken. The very next day My dad and I went to talk to these people that took cash from a child. I was miserable, was making plans to move out that very night. I would show them... The nice people that sold me my car were nice enough, they said they thought it was my older brothers car and had no intention of taking money from a child. Dad then went out and took a hard look at this 55 sitting out in the driveway. he was obviously drawn to it. Like a moth to a flame. He chatted with the sellers, asked if it was ok to sit in it, and once he opened the door,.....Bingo. I now officially owned a 55 Chevrolet.

My 55 and I grew up together. I abused and neglected it as any red blooded American teenager would do. The 6 died a sad death and was replaced with a wrecking yard sourced 327. It got used headers and dual point distributor. The 3 speed linkage found its way to the floor and a Kraco 8 track player was now under the dash. I then went through a game I like to call "Lets find the weakest link" and proceeded to grenade the drive train a piece at a time. The 3 speed was replaced with a iron cased 4 speed, the rear axles broke often enough that I bought any I found for spares The car was constantly broken. The thing is, I was just waiting. You see my favorite movie of all time back then was Two Lane Black Top. I had been setting a plan and it all came together after a very successful season fishing Albacore. Made more money in 2 months then most of my friends dads made all year long. I went on a spending frenzy the second I was back on dry land. I spent the next 4 months taking a perfectly good straight nice car and turning it into a homage to the TLBT car complete with a a Big Block, an Olds narrowed rear end with a spool and 5:13 gears a full cage roll bar, fiberglass tilt front end and a Ford econoline straight axle with disc brakes. The interior was mostly sheet aluminum, two seats and a primer paint job. The car was a rolling ****, but it did have a lot of Horse Power and the ladder bars did let the 14" wide Firestone "Pie Crust" tires hook up so for a hundred yards my car was damn quick. In fact that was its greatest asset. I could drag race anybody and put about 8 cars on them in under 3 seconds and they would lift thinking they had been destroyed not knowing that at about 80 MPH my car was topped out. I cruised main street most weekends and raced a lot of Army boys from the nearby Ft Ord army base. My car and I had a reputation and I learned a lot about putting that car back together. I eventually lost interest and sold the 55. I thought I was "over it" and moved on to other hot rods, Always Chevies and they were never as cool as that old 55.

Today I drive a 55 again. It is not as rough or obnoxious as the first one, however it was built by a older less spontaneous owner that has been tempered by the realities of life and spoiled by modern amenities like power steering and air conditioning. My current (and probably last 55) belonged to my wife's uncle. For the last 30 years it has sat in a barn on his farm out in Ceres California just outside of Modesto, (The alleged location of the film American Graffiti) I have been pestering her uncle for decades to sell me that car. in 2015 Jerry passed away. The 55 became my 3rd 55 and I went out and drug it out into the sun for the first time since the Ronald Reagan administration.
Car Vehicle Hood Automotive lighting Motor vehicle

Wheel Tire Vehicle Window Car


Once in Salinas I washed it

Wheel Tire Car Vehicle Motor vehicle


Then parked it for 5 years while I put together a war chest and bought all the parts needed to build my version of the perfect 55

Tire Wheel Car Vehicle Sky



I drive it as often as possible, and that 14 year old is still inside me and the dream is real

Wheel Tire Land vehicle Vehicle Car
 

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1957 Bel Air sport sedan
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This needs to go in an edition of the ATFA magazine!
 

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It's an awesome story. My Dad was a First Sargent in the Army.
On a side note...It appears the front moulding on the door of your 55 is on the wrong side. Maybe I am seeing it wrong. Or was that intentional?
Anyway I enjoyed the 55 story.
Todd
 

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Denver, Colorado 1956 Nomad
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Very cool story. I've always felt that whatever tri-five a person started out with in their youth will remain their favorite year for the rest of their life. For me, it is a 56.
 

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Great story! And great car, too. I have some very specific memories of tri-fives at Irwindale, Riverside and on the streets of the San Gabriel Valley that very much molded my tastes to this day.
Thanks for sharing!
 

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Stainless Trim Restoration
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Great story Robert! I need to find some of the old photos of my 55. I bought it at age 15. My dad was not a car guy and he never understood. Cars were like shoes to him. Ware them out, or the style
changes and they are replaced.

Mikey
 
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good read, enjoyed that. I'm sure you dad is riding shotgun with you every time you get behind the wheel.
 
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55 4 door Bel Air wagon, 350sbc, t5
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Fantastic story.
The paint on your current 55 looks great. Is that as you got it, obviously with a lot of tlc, or have you painted it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Fantastic story.
The paint on your current 55 looks great. Is that as you got it, obviously with a lot of tlc, or have you painted it.

The paint is not original, it was repainted 40 years ago.
 
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