When you enter Gordon Flint’s family home, you wouldn’t necessarily know it’s the abode of a car enthusiast. There are a few small hints, though, like the TV playing some random car show, the odd hot rod model displayed around the lounge and, of course, the pictures of the kick-ass ’55 Chevy that is sitting in his garage.
If this was a TV show you would now see the wavy lines that depict a flashback. Let’s travel back 16 years to when the New Zealand single of the year was The Exponents’ ‘Why Does Love Do This To Me?’; Shortland Street first aired; and you could pick up a rusted shell of a ’55 Chevy at a swap meet for $1500 — which is exactly what Gordon did. Well, not exactly. The car wasn’t actually at the swap meet he attended in Winchester in 1992, instead there was a whiteboard saying “55 Chev for sale”. The car was in Dunedin but Gordon was after a ’55, so he said, “Hey look, throw it on a trailer and bring it to Temuka and I’ll bring a trailer there too. We’ll do a swap on the side of the road and I’ll take my luck with what I end up with.” And that’s just what happened.
What Gordon ended up with was, in his own words, “a pig”, but it was a New Zealand-new right-hand-drive 210 four-door sedan and didn’t look too bad in its brown primer with no running gear. But when Gordon started stripping it down he found out just how much a lick of primer can hide. The floors were completely rusted through and there was 75mm of bog in the eyelids alone. “The whole thing was a bloody mess, it really was,” Gordon says now. But he knew the direction he wanted to take from the very start. He was always going to tub it and head for a more Pro-Street look, so he hacked the floors out of it, threw them away and went from there.
Fast forward eight years to 2000. Gordon had stripped down the Chevy, fitted it with a chassis made up of an HZ Holden front end from his old drag car and a new box section rear, and was keen to get his baby built. He originally had someone sorted to do the build for him. The person in question had just finished building his own ’56 Chevy and had done a very good job of it, but before Gordon could get his car to him the guy sold the business, leaving Gordon unsure of where to go next.
Burke’s Metalworks was a name people kept throwing around as the place to go for hot rod and restoration work in Canterbury, so Gordon went and spoke to Jason Burke, who was willing to take it on. Over the next seven years Gordon’s ’55 made many trips back and forth to Burke’s Metalworks while he saved money to get the next bit done.
Jason’s father Gus did most of the conversion from four doors to two. Gordon always wanted a two-door, though if the car hadn’t been so ugly when he got it he might have left the four doors. I’m sure you’ll agree with us when we say we’re pleased he didn’t — it looks wicked as a coupe. Gordon even managed to source a couple of original coupe doors locally — how’s that for luck?
Gordon had a strong direction right from the start, having picked the final colour even before he found the car. He also always knew it was going to have a Pro-Street feel, being tubbed and as low as possible without compromising driveability. Despite this, Jason at Burke’s still had a heap of input as to how it would look, and had some really good ideas about how to clean up the bodywork, such as making the front guards one piece and getting rid of the seams, removing a lot of the factory chrome including the window trim and hood bird, removing the bolts and over-riders on the bumpers and repositioning them closer to the body, and getting rid of the fuel filler cap from the rear guard. Such is the workmanship and attention to detail that unless you parked this car next to a factory ’55 Chevy, you probably wouldn’t realise the extent of the changes or notice the things that are ‘missing’.
Gordon can’t speak highly enough about the work Burke’s has done on the ’55, but he sums it up quite nicely: “I told them how I wanted it to end up and they went about doing what they had do to get it there. What I took to them was bloody atrocious, and Burke’s magically turned it into what it is now, I don’t know how they do it.”
The changes don’t stop there, either. Standing next to the car you would swear that the roof has been chopped at least 50mm, but no, the roof is standard height. This look was achieved by channelling the body over the chassis, which is also the reason the car can look so low without the aid of airbags. Gordon wasn’t keen to use bags as he didn’t want to mess with the suspension too much and destroy the ride of the car. The car now rides on an HZ Holden front and four-link suspension in the rear, with coil-over shocks. The HZ front end isn’t the only thing donated from Gordon’s old drag car — the 355ci small-block Chevy is also from his old drag racing days. Of course, it was sent for a freshen up, which was done by Dick Powell at Automotive Services.
This included cast iron double bump heads, a lumpy grind on the cam, and it was shot-peened and balanced. It is currently running a Holley 650cfm double pumper sitting on an Edelbrock manifold, but Gordon has a Holley 570 Street Avenger coming from Summit Racing in the States, as the engine is slightly over-carbed. He has also put in new Harland Sharp roller rockers and a Peter Jackson gear drive. Shifting is performed through a turbo 350 trans with a 2500rpm stall converter running 3:1 gears aimed at easy open-road cruising, which is exactly what the car has been built for.
After the car returned home from Burke’s, Gordon set about the reconstruction. New brake and fuel lines were run, and the car was rewired thanks to a Painless Wiring 18 Circuit Kit. Every bit of the cabin and boot was covered in Dynamat in an attempt to keep some of the road noise out, especially from those huge rear wheels. For the interior Gordon wanted a real contrast to that killer House of Kolor Passion Pearl paint, and to get this he chose a beautiful cream leather. He was originally going to use bone leather but felt it looked too dirty against the purple. Once again, Gordon already had a good idea of what he wanted for the interior. He had seen some of the work done on shows like American Hot Rod and found some patterns he liked, so he gave them to another Jason, at DA & DD Goslin Limited, which altered them to fit the shape of the seats and so on. The only parts of the interior trim not made from scratch are the front seats, which are out of an early model Mitsubishi Galant.
Jason made the door and kick panels and custom-made the rear seat to fit around those big tubs and still be fully functional. For the floors and boot Gordon went for gunmetal grey carpet over the more traditional black.
The interior is smartly finished off with a B&M hammer shifter, Billet Specialties steering wheel and, to give the dash a clean and modern look, there’s an aftermarket main gauge cluster from Custom Rod Gauges in the States, encompassing all the information needed in one cluster.
Show or go
Gordon never really intended the Chevy to be a show car. “I wanted to get a really nice car at the end of the build with all the money I was throwing into it,” he says. “But I never really intended to show it.” Nevertheless, Gordon took it to this year’s Rangiora Muscle Car Madness show and got a top 10 people’s choice ranking, then was asked to be in the invitation-only ‘Ultimate Rides’ show in Rolleston, both of which Gordon was thrilled with, though he still assures us this is not what the car was built for — he built it because he wanted a really nice ’55. “It’s a weekend cruiser, it’s not a show car. It’s got stone chips on it and stuff like that. You can’t worry about stuff like that — it’s a car at the end of the day.”
A long wait
It takes a special person to be able to wait 16 years to see a dream come to fruition, and Gordon admits it was a struggle. There were many nights spent sitting in a shell of a car in the garage, and every car show Gordon attended would see him come home fizzing and wanting to get stuck into the build. But with money not being given out for free, and Gordon wanting to do the best he could, he knew he just had to take the time. But hey, it’s been well worth the wait, hasn’t it Gordon?
When asked about the cost of such a build, Gordon tells us he has a folder full of receipts that he will never count up. “At the end of the day the car I dreamed about having when I started is now sitting in the garage, and what it cost to get there is completely irrelevant,” he says. What a great attitude. And if Gordon didn’t feel that way there wouldn’t be this incredible Pro-Street ’55 Chevy gracing our pages for you to drool over, would there?
Photos: Sean Craig
1955 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door
Engine: 355ci (5817cc) small-block Chev, 350 bored 30 thou over. Four-bolt mains, cast crank, hypereutectic pistons, shot peened and balanced, ARP bolts, Peter Jackson gear drive, Kelford cam, steel double bump heads, Harland Sharp roller rockers, Edlebrock Performer manifold, Holley 650 double pumper, Holley Blue electric fuel pump and regulator, MSD 6AL ignition, MSD SS Blaster coil, MSD Pro Billet distributor, MSD 8.5mm leads, 2.25-inch steel twin exhaust system, custom four-core radiator, B&M transmission cooler, hidden wiring
Driveline: Turbo hydro 350 trans, 2500 rpm high stall converter, shift kitted, narrowed Ford nine-inch diff, 28-spline axles, 3.1:1 diff ratio
Chassis: Box frame rear chassis rails grafted to HZ Holden front clip, diff and axles shortened and set up by Performance Automotive Development
Suspension: Custom four-link and panhard rod rear, Carrera coil-over rear shocks, Monroe gas front shocks with heavy springs, heavy front sway bar, Nolathane bushes throughout
Brakes: DBA gold cross-drilled and slotted rotors with Outlaw four-pot callipers on the front and factory Ford disc brake rear – fed through Wilwood proportioning valve
Wheels/Tyres: 15x6 and 15x12-inch Weld Racing Draglites, Bridgestone Potenza 205/60R15 and Mickey Thompson 31/16.5/15 tyres
Exterior: Four-door to two-door conversion, body channelled over chassis, custom front guards, bumpers cut and sucked into body, extensive shaving, House of Kolor Passion Pearl paint
Interior: Mitsubishi front seats, Billet Specialties steering wheel, B&M Hammer shifter, Custom Rod gauges cluster. Kenwood KRC-685 head unit, Kenwood six-disc CD stacker, Fusion four-channel amp, Alpine front speakers, Kenwood rear speakers