G3 Rods' '55 Chevy Bel-Air Convertible
Brand loyalty, shmoyalty
Since 1955, Ford fans have been crying foul, citing the propagation of Chevy engines in Ford vehicles. The taste left in their mouths from decades of Henry’s finest desecrated by a lousy “mouse” motor is permanent. I guess the fact that the Ford 9-inch is the go-to rearend for the entire industry isn’t solace enough. Then again, the 9-inch could begin to repair the emotional damage, but surely the latest crop of LS-powered Fox bodies has ripped open old wounds.
It’s no secret to those of us on the right side of South Dakota that things are done a little differently west of the Missouri River. Case in point, G3 Rods. A merrier band of misfits you will not find, but gosh do they build nice cars. We weren’t there when the plan was hatched for this ’55, but I imagine the conversation was something like this. Tyler: “I’m sick of all these Ford cars with Chevy engines! I’m going to get some revenge and put a Ford in a Chevy! See how they like that!” Turns out Tyler was at the shop alone, so it wasn’t much of a conversation at all. Oh to be a fly on the wall! However the idea came about, it’s kinda cool, even for dyed in the wool GM fanatics, and no one can argue with the eye-and-ear-popping finished product.
If this was a ’38 Chevy with a Ford engine, you wouldn’t be nearly as upset; everyone’s favorite Chevy is the ’55, so why not do a convertible? Once the iconic body was liberated from its chassis, a set of Schott wheels were rolled behind the fenders; 20x12s in the rear and 18x8s up front. After the boys at G3 played model-car-mock-up ‘til things looked right, Art Morrison was tapped for a complete chassis with C6 Corvette front and rear suspension systems. The body was channeled over the new frame rails, necessitating new floorpans to be fabricated. As long as the welders were warmed up, the sheetmetal was shaved of all superfluous items, the bumpers were tucked and a custom grill was fabricated complete with a graceful, floating spear. It all looks very much ’55 Chevy, but very modern at the same time, and you can’t put your finger on what changed. That’s the sign of true craftsmanship.
In a topless scenario, the interior becomes a focal point, and the metal shaping wasn’t even close to being over with the body done. The original “dual-hump” dashboard was 86’d, and in its place, an incredible, smooth panel. The only interruption of the curved excellence is a gentle eyebrow for the instrument panel. Really, the dash in this car is so satisfying to look at it doesn’t even matter what’s under the hood. After the final block sanding, the body was sprayed, inside and out, with RM Royal Blue Metallic paint and rubbed to absolute perfection. That color, by the way, is from the Ford catalog, just another twist of the blue oval knife I guess. The instruments are an off-the-shelf VHX-57F package, spec’d with black face and blue backlighting. They’re usually a drop-in replacement for 1957 Ford cars (twist it a little more), but they suit the interior perfectly. Weber Custom Interiors handled the soft surfaces, using Hydes leather and suede on the Corbeau seats, the door panels and center console.
The Pièce De Résistance, the polarizing catalyst of the project, is poking up through the hood. The big block measures 427 cubic inches, but that’s where the good news ends. Note: If your seat belts have a large GM or Pentastar on them, please sit down, or skip this paragraph. Those valve covers do not, cannot lie. You’re looking at a 427 Ford SOHC powerhouse topped by a polished Weiand 8-71 blower. Managing the wild stallion are twin Holley Terminator EFI systems, giving the look of dual-quads without the fumes and fouled plugs. I’ll spare you the gut-wrenching details of the internals, but I’ll share the documented power output: 1,000hp. The final twist/thrust of the knife is the built C6 automatic transmission, which sends grunt to (surprise!) a Dana 60 center section.
Dubbed Payback, Flip ’55, and that damn Chevy with the Ford in it, this car stands apart from the sea of cookie-cutter tri-fives. It pushes just about everyone out of their comfort zone (except maybe the MoPar crowd, but they know they’re not immune to cross-brand heart transplants either), and certainly shines the custom car spotlight on South Dakota. We are proud to be a part of such a wild car and to associate with craftsmen with the talent, vision and follow-through of the G3 gang. Payback is a great big feather in the Ford cap, proving the blue oval has plenty of fight left in it, even if they did have to wrap it in a bowtie to get the car in a magazine.