Mr. Fifty-Five Fate
Randy Rosera’s Hardtop ’Vert
All too often, Tri-Five Chevys get scapegoated as muscle cars, and for the most part, understandably so—all too often, most Tri-Fives are muscle cars. In reality, as many of us know, they’re perfect candidates for mild or full-custom makeovers, especially the first-year offerings, the ’55 sedans, as Randy Rosera is about to reveal.
“I’m a car guy, and have been all my life. My first car was a ’55 Chevy [that I got] at the age of 14. My dad bought it from a farmer for $40. It was rough but my dad said as long as I stayed out of trouble, I could keep the car. Unfortunately, I didn’t have it too long. I have had seven other ’55s since then and countless hot rods in between. I keep going back to ’55s but I have never owned a hardtop or convertible—now I have both. I have had a variety of hot rods (a ’29 roadster, a ’34 coupe, a ’36 roadster, among others), a custom ’40 Ford sedan, chopped and sectioned, and in between more than my share of ’55 Chevys. No matter what car I’m driving, there’s another ’55 around the corner or in my mind. In the last few years I’ve had a ground scraping, ground pounding ’55 post-top pro-street car painted a deep purple. There was a ’55 two-door wagon with the original tired paint, which I ’bagged, upgraded the engine and trans, covered the seats with Mexican blankets, and drove the doors off. Another ’55 post car was a refugee from a museum … I sanded it, painted it with farm implement red primer, then re-sprayed it in the original green and white. I sanded through the paint to create the patina of age.
“I found this ’55 online in Idaho. It was clean and straight but it was 1,500 miles away. I couldn’t kick the tires or hear it run. A friend of a friend who lived near the car looked it over for me and drove it. His report was: ‘If you don’t buy this car, I will!’ There was no rust and it still had the original rockers, quarters, and floors. I beat on the owner until I got my price and shipping arrangements made. When the car arrived, I jumped in it and drove it the last 120 miles to my house. That’s a gutsy move for an unproven car, but it ran well and I liked it.
“When I got the car it was in black primer and had a very tired and sparse interior. It was missing some essential parts and pieces, but the engine was strong and the four-speed shifted smoothly. The front springs had been cut for lowering and it was a bit rough riding, but with my history with ’55s I knew who to contact and where to look for parts. It took a while but I got the trim, bumpers, and other parts needed to freshen up the car. A set of dropped spindles and lowered springs in front smoothed out the ride. Lowering blocks in the rear brought it to the right altitude and attitude. I spent some time smoothing the body, prepping it for paint, and had Norm Kranz spray it with House of Kolor Sunset Orange and white pearl, and then he covered it with flat clear. It gives the car a finish that’s velvety smooth with a sheen, not a shine.
“I also had the interior redone by Brook at Titletown Upholstery in Green Bay [Wisconsin]. Brook used a pearl white Naugahyde and contrasting (but paint matching) orange piping. It accents the car beautifully. I also had the floors done in Naugahyde as a throwback to the customs of the ’60s—I knew ultimately the roof would come off and that would help in the rain.