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Sam Katanich's 1955 Chevy
(from Volume 15, Issue 163)

One of the great things in life is when you can take a dream and make it into reality. For Sam Katanich that dream was to not only have a cool 1955 Chevy Bel Air to drive, he also wanted it to be “state of the art” with modern mechanicals. The end result is what you see here; a basically new car with a 53 year old body wrapped around it.

The project started when he purchased the body as a “roller”, with no engine and transmission. The car was shipped to Sam from Iowa, however upon receiving it he was disappointed because things were not as represented. The body looked more like Swiss cheese, with lots of rust and patch panels. Rather than be daunted, Sam decided on a rotisserie restoration, with most of the body’s sheet metal being replaced along the way. In fact, the only original metal currently on the car are the two front fenders and the top. Obviously things turned out well, and with House of Kolors “True Blue” pearl and Chrysler 300 “Vanilla” paint, the exterior is now straight as an arrow, and shines like there is no tomorrow. Subtle touches to clean up the exterior included a smoothed front bumper, and a wagon rear bumper.

Underneath you’ll now find an Art Morrison Tri-Five chassis, Wilwood 4-wheel disc brakes, 4-link rear suspension, and a set of Billet Specialties Smoothie rims (17x8” front, 18x10” rear) lend an aggressive look. That aggression bodes well, as under the hood resides a Bill Mitchell World Products all aluminum 427 small block Chevy engine that put out 535 horsepower on the dyno. The engine compartment was kept very sanitary, with a nice amount of polished and plated pieces to put a gleam in your eye. Complete control of all that horsepower is possible with a Tremec 6-speed manual transmission, which is yet another aspect that sets this shoe box Chevy apart from the crowd.

For the interior accommodations Sam took the car to Howard Krusey of Complete Auto Upholstery in Altamonte Springs, Florida. While there, Howard used champagne colored leather and suede to give the car a beautiful and luxuriously sculpted cabin, utilizing power Pontiac Grand Am seats that fit the proportions of the interior space available nicely, combined with a functional center console. The stock dash layout features a modern white-faced multi gauge cluster, and touches of billet throughout the interior come together to tastefully blend the old with the new.

The project took two years to complete, and was finished in time to drive on the 2006 Hot Rod Power Tour, which started in Orlando, Florida and meandered all the way up to New Jersey. The past two years Sam’s car was named the Best ‘55 Chevy at the Classic Chevy Winter Nationals, and has certainly turned heads wherever it goes. Since ‘55 Chevys have always been Sam’s dream car, what you see here literally is a dream made into a rolling reality - and that’s always a neat thing to see happen! CN