Melvin Carter, from St. Augustine Florida, has always loved 1955 Chevys. They were a favorite when he was growing up, and this is his second 1955, bought almost twenty years ago. The car has become an ongoing project in the Carter household, especially with the input from Carter’s oldest son, Kevin. Although the car was nicely customized when he bought it, Carter wanted his to be a step up from the thousands of 1955s that have gone before. Since most of the cool vintage Tri-5s on the planet have been treated to an upgraded – but otherwise uninspired – 350 under the hood, Carter opted for a different approach. With ideas from Kevin and help from engine builder Brent Frazier in Jacksonville, Florida, the trio worked out a plan for something a bit more unusual.
Their fresh new 383 stroker was equipped with a Probe rotating kit and an Erson cam, as well as a Turbonetics 70MM turbo. Shorty headers get the turbo spinning, and the air fuel mixture is ducted to the engine through huge red, powder-coated inlet pipes. To cool the incoming charge, an intercooler was fabricated by Stage VI in Jacksonville and mounted in front of the Griffin radiator along with a pair of Flex-a-lite electric fans. A ProCharger blow off valve handles excess pressure. The combination gave them plenty of visual pizzazz, as well as an awesome 525 horsepower at the wheels. Engine power is multiplied by the four-speed Borg Warner Super T10 transmission spinning a custom steel drive shaft and 3.50 gears. The chassis plants the power to the asphalt with custom-built ladder bars, coilovers, and a narrowed Ford 9" rear with Moser axles, installed by Dave and Ralph of the Chassis Shop in St. Mary’s, Georgia. Wilwood disk brakes and a NASCAR close ratio power steering box give the car autocross-level handling.
Paul Holman of Visual EFX in Jacksonville, Florida, is a friend of the family and worked with Kevin to create the beautiful interior. Continuing the theme of “something old with everything new,” Holman replaced the original bench seat with modern buckets and added a center console that runs from the dash to the rear seat. It accommodates the new gauges that match the factory instrument cluster, the shifter, cup holders, and switches for the doors, power windows, and convertible top. Everything was re-upholstered in shades of gray leather by Keith Clark.
Making the interior musical as well as comfortable, Holman laid out the design of the stereo, beginning with a Pioneer flip face head unit. Fiberglass enclosures in both doors accommodate 6.5" Lanzar Heritage coaxial speakers and twin tweeters. An additional pair of Lanzars in the rear rounds out the speaker mix. While the doors are works of art, there is even more excitement in the trunk. The lid holds a one farad capacitor, fuse box, and volt meter, while the trunk itself houses a pair of 12 inch Lanzar subs in a fiberglass enclosure, along with two Lanzar Heritage amps that power the system. Twin Optima batteries are hidden in the spare tire well. The system plays very loud and clear, just right for top down cruising.
Once the power train and interior were complete, Billet Specialties 17" rims got the muscular Chevy rolling using 245-45-ZR17 Cooper rubber on the front and 245-40-ZR17s in the rear. The finished paint job was accomplished by Chris Cruz in Deland, Florida using classic shades of red and white. Cruz added a set of ghost flames on the louvered hood that flow through to the dashboard.
Now that it’s complete, what’s next? Carter says future plans call for keeping the car exactly as it is, although he smiles when he says that Kevin may have a few other ideas. In the meantime, he plans to enjoy the car, cruising on sunny days through St. Augustine with his family.