Buddy & Bonnie Powell's 1955 Chevy
(from Volume 21, Issue 252)

story by Buddy Powell, photos by Michael B. Kelly


Bonnie and I were looking for a 1955 Chevy while at the Shades Of The Past car show in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. After 3 days of searching for the right car to purchase with no luck we had dinner with her cousin, Bob Willenius, from Fort Myers, Florida. He had a Tri-Five business there, restoring cars and selling parts. He said he was cutting back on his collection, and was willing to sell us his favorite ‘55. We were shocked! I had previously asked about this exact car years before, and the answer was “It is not for sale”. So we made the deal, and hauled it back from south Fort Myers to our home in Orlando the next week.

The car had been sitting in his showroom for 12 years (not running), with a near perfect body, and fair paint and interior. This was in 2008, and we started the car’s new life with a quick evaluation. At that point I decided to give it a new 350 cubic inch motor that I had built for my ‘66 Nova project, and a 200R4 transmission. The engine makes good power (about 360 horsepower), with a hydraulic cam, roller rockers, 202 valves, an Edelbrock carb and air gap intake. We installed all new wiring, Vintage Air A/C, Classic Industries gauges, Griffin aluminum radiator and fan kit, Hypertec pulleys, and power steering. I designed and fabricated my own frame side motor mounts that incorporate rack and pinion mounts also. Then added sway bars front and rear, and disc brakes up front. At that time the car was black with a gray tweed interior. For 3 years we drove it everywhere like this, and had a great time.

The paint was getting some age spots, so we decided to give the car a good face-lift. It wound up being a complete frame-off restoration, that took almost 2 years, and included a lot of improvements. The ‘55 body was in very good condition, and was very straight. So we had it blasted by Master Blaster of Orlando, and found no rust on all of the original body panels. My friend, Fred Swartzlander, agreed to do the paint work. He is the best in the business, and made a good car look perfect, with a lot of care taken to make sure every part aligned perfectly.

The interior is thanks to Howard Krusey of Complete Auto Upholstery in Altamote Springs. It consists of brown leather with a matching carpet, and a suede headliner. It turned out fantastic, and combined with the various billet items really turns heads. In fact, it was picked for the Best Interior award by Mike Kelly’s Cruise News at their Beach Blast 20 car show in Cocoa Beach during May of 2014.

Bonnie and I did all the tear down, cleaning, and most of the assembly of the car at home. Powder coated the frame and suspension, installed a new 9-inch Ford rear end with disc brakes, posi and 3.73:1 gears, stainless brake lines, all stainless hardware under the hood, Billet Specialties hood hinges, and a lot of other chrome and billet pieces.

The ‘55 turned out to be a great car to drive, to meet new friends with, and to spend quality time with each other. We like to drive to local shows in the central Florida area, when the weather permits. We live on TM Ranch in Orlando, and the road to our house is a dirt and shell surface, so its always either dust or mud. Thankfully Bonnie does a great job of keeping the car looking so good! We are blessed with so many friends in the car hobby, and look forward to many more years of fun with our ‘55 Chevy. -Buddy Powell