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Hooked on Classics

By Ken and Deborah Johnson #10204370 • Cape Coral, FL

Photography by Jim Knight

My wife Debbie and I first got hooked on classic cars about ten years ago. We had a Chevelle at that time, but I had always wanted to own a ‘55 Chevy. After a considerable discussion with my wife Debbie, we sold the Chevelle and went looking for a ‘55.

main front

By the time we attended the 2006 Winter National event in Orlando, Florida we had only been looking for a ’55 to buy for a few weekends. While viewing all the great Tri-Fives at the show, we noticed a ‘55 Be1 Air 2-door Sedan along a fence with a For Sale sign in the window. I asked my mechanic friend, Larry Hays, who was with us, to check out the car. After crawling under, on, in and all around the car, we decided to purchase it and start a frame-off restoration. We learned that the previous owner was from our home state, Virginia. Debbie later found out the car came from her hometown, Staunton, Virginia. The history we were told was the car was purchased by a lady in Staunton in 1959 as a used vehicle. She kept it until she was unable to drive anymore and by that time it had deteriorated quite a bit. It then became a project for a grandson who made it presentable and roadworthy again. When he tired of the old car it was put on the side of the road for sale. It eventually ended up in Florida at the CCI event where we bought it. After we completed the purchase, Larry, our mechanic/restorer friend, offered to do the restoration and he said he could start the project in a week. With that we were off on a new adventure.

main rear

During the build of the car we replaced just about everything you can imagine, NOS front fenders were found, bumpers rechromed, glass replaced and all stainless trim was polished ... you get the picture. The 350ci crate motor was in nice running condition, but we decided to beef it up a little more with some WP heads, a single front drive system, dual quads and a TH700R4 transmission to move it along a little better. Oh yeah, did I mention the chrome? There’s lots of chrome under the hood. I sure do like that shiny stuff!

The paint is a two-tone custom blue. We didn't want to copy everyone else with the typical paint combinations, so we spent considerable time choosing the colors. Debbie and I argued on paint choices for quite a while. I would have chosen any number of color combinations, but while I couldn’t make up my mind she knew exactly what she wanted. Now, usually the first comment we hear is "I love the color!"

For the interior, we simply took the design from a 2006 SS Impala and blended that into the original seat setup using newer style fabrics and carpets. Finally, to top it all off, we lowered the car drastically to 5-6" overall and added 18" wheels to make the car super low and aggressive looking.

The car is finally finished, so now we’re planning to just cruise and enjoy the rewards of the hobby. We look forward to future shows, new friends and old cars.