December 2017
DACC FEATURE CAR

Dennis Fletcher
McKinney, TX
'55 Chevy Survivor

 

I have had my 210 2dr post 6cyl 3 on the tree 1955 Chevrolet since 1972. I bought it from the local Western Auto in Calico Rock AR who also happened to have a small used car lot in late summer of that year, the summer after high school graduation and just before starting college at Arkansas State in Jonesboro. I still have the original contract I signed. The price was $195, I paid $10 down and promised to pay $5 a week until paid off.

 

It had some rust including the usual spot over the headlight buckets but overall wasnít too bad. It started, ran and drove fine. Even then I knew that 55 Chevyís were special and I was very happy to get ahold of it. The car spent most itís life in southern Missouri before somehow making itís way to northern Arkansas. It was assembled in the Kansas City plant in late 1954 so apparently was never far from home.

 

I drove it for the next 5 years to Arkansas State. During this time I fixed a variety of problems with it, mostly brakes, it seemed to go through brake shoes pretty fast (had nothing to do with my driving Iím sure after all it is a 6 cylinder). My dad helped me a lot with it as he was a mechanic at a local gas station. It was involved in a couple minor fender benders and I wanted to patch up the minor rust issues so it had a paint job at the local body shop in about 1975. I also had the front seat recovered as it was not in good shape either.

 

My dadís whole family migrated to either WA or CA in the 50ís. All our relatives were as a result out west. So in the summer of 1975 my dad and I drove from Calico Rock to Wenatchee WA in the 55 to go see my grandmother and uncle and his family. I was actually born there but we moved back to AR in about 1965 when I was 11. We were going back to see everyone who stayed. The car made the round trip fine (about 2100 miles each way). The only problem was a rear axle bearing went out, caused mostly by the chrome reverse wheels I had on the car at the time.

 

After college ended in 1977 I returned to northern Arkansas working there for a while before deciding to move to Tulsa. I had a couple jobs there before landing a job with IBM. The 55 was with me during this whole time kept in a garage.

 

In 1979 IBM transferred me to Chicago. I of course took the 55, in fact they allowed me to put one car on the moving van and so of course it was the 55 that got to ride north. While there it got another much better paint job, the one it still wears now and I pulled the motor again and this time had it rebuilt completely by a machine shop. It now ran and looked almost new.

 

In 1984 I got a job in Oakland CA and so moved there from Chicago. The car went with me again but didnít stay too long. I took it back to Calico Rock to my dadís house sometime in the late 1980ís, driving it from northern CA and flying home.

 

I went back to my parents regularly to visit them and always drove and/or worked in the 55 while there. My dad has a couple sheds on his small farm and so it stayed in one of those. At some point though it was moved outside. I put a car cover on it and replaced it every year but it was now exposed. This is why the roof is as rusty as it is now.

 

Finally, in about 2002 my dad sold his 55 4dr Belair sedan (a very nice original car, wish I had it now, it was perfect) and my 55 got moved back under cover. This was the last year I got to go work on it and drive it for the next 10 years.

We built a new house in McKinney in late 2011 and moved in early 2012. I now had a large 3 car garage and decided it was time to go get the 55 and get it running again. So, over the 4th of July weekend that year I rented a U-Haul truck and trailer and went back to pick it up. After getting it home it would not start as expected but all I had to do was rebuild the carb and clean and adjust the points and it fired right up.

 

From there I worked on it for the next couple years as time allowed. One major problem was that It was bending push rods because of sticky intake valves. After replacing several of them I finally figured out that crud in original tank was contaminating the gas and causing deposits on the valves making them stick. I replaced the tank and sending unit and the problem was solved. Further work that was done beyond changing all the fluids included: rebuilding the generator, rebuilding the upper steering column, replacing the voltage regulator, replaced the horn relay, repairing the electric wiper motor, rebuilding the front brakes with new shoes, hardware and wheel cylinders. I also replaced the heat exchanger in the deluxe heater and got the blower working again. The car came without a radio but I had in the middle 70ís bought an original pushbutton radio. Through the internet I found a guy in Pennsylvania that fixes these and sent it to him. I installed it when it came back and a reproduction antenna and now it works fine. Recently I had the seats recovered, this time in reproduction covers the same as what came in it and put carpet in it. I also added a repro outside mirror on the driverís side for safety reasons, it did not come with any outside mirrors.

 

Future plans include replacing the original clutch as it is starting to slip, having the rearend rebuilt completely, replacing all the door rubber and door glass seals, replacing the rear main seal in the motor and replacing all the rubber bushings in the front suspension. Otherwise I am largely done with cosmetic changes so as you see it in the pictures is pretty much how it will stay. I drive it weekly now to various small car shows around DFW and it gets attention pretty much everywhere I take it. Fully restored 55ís are everywhere but ones like this, just preserved, and really not modified seem to be more rare.

 

The rest of the time it stays in my garage at home sitting beside my original 57 4dr Belair hardtop, which is another 42 year old story in itself!

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