July 2015
Jody, Devona and Clayton Stiff
Mesquite, TX


Our 55’ Bel Air Story

I traded a 1949 5-window Chevy truck and $100.00 for my 1955 2-door Sedan Bel Air in 1975. I was taking paint and body class at Mesquite High School and in my senior year, the car was accepted as a Class Project. After taking it down to metal, welding the left rear quarter where it had only 3 rivets under the bondo, we painted it with white lacquer followed with red, blue & gold pearl, highlighted with a custom air-brushed blue ribbon on the deck lid and covered it with clear.  The interior was blue crushed velvet and variegated shag carpet.  Disco era cool! The paint job won 1st in District and 2nd in State VICA competition.

Time warp over 30 years ahead, past a fire under the hood, getting married and having 2 great kids. The car sat un-driven for most of that time. My son wanted us to get the car back to driving condition so he could drive it his Senior year in 2008.  Our “Father / Son” project began in 2006.  We went through the 350 small block, had the (3) 2 barrels re-worked, installed disc brakes on the front along with new bushings & springs, replaced 5-leaf springs in the rear, added Raingear electric wipers, and kept the Muncie 4-speed. The car was still aesthetically challenged, but he proudly drove it his High School senior year.  Now jump to 2010 when my wonderful wife agreed it was time to have the car re-worked again, much more extensively. 

After stripping the car of its working parts, it was taken to a body shop for a frame-off restoration.  The frame was powder coated, the body had a cobalt blue candy/ white with blue pearl paint job, all new tinted glass was installed, and it was returned to me in 2012. While the car was at the body shop, I sanded and polished all of the stainless steel trim parts that make it a Bel Air. With the stainless steel in place and a new American Wiring harness from front to rear, the car was finally street ready in 2014. My son and I installed the carpet. The rebuild took a short hiatus due to my diagnosis of prostate cancer and subsequent prostectomy.  While I recuperated from surgery, I had the headliner installed by a professional.  One of my largest incentives post-surgery was to be able to get back out and work on the car.

We sometime affectionately refer to our 55’ as “Franken-Five” for the parts it has collected over its previous lives, including a ’57 Chevy rear deck lid and a back seat out of a Pontiac that were in the car when I got it, a 350 cu.in. 4-bolt main motor from a “73 truck, new front floor pans, both Rocker Panels, and both rear quarters; and Mazda front buckets. The latest addition has been 17” Foose wheels & tires all around. Next in line will be 2” lowering springs on the front, 3:08 gears in the rear end for some lower RPM’s; interior upholstery and a sound system. We are having a blast driving the car to local shows around Mesquite and have received several awards listed in the “Incomplete” or “Unfinished” category.

I have to give credit to my wife, Devona, for her support and encouragement with getting the car back on the streets. I share any credit for work done on the car with my son, Clayton, who has been my right hand helper and inspiration on the rebuild. Without his help, the car would be far from being at this stage today.