454/4-Speed Hot Rod: 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

Two-Lane Blacktop redux? That’s what I thought the moment that I spied this 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air hot rod. It has it all going on with its primer gray finish, straight front axle, and big-block power. There are only a few images so let’s delve in and see what’s here. This Bel Air is located in Warwick, Rhode Island and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of  $11,700 with seventeen bids tendered as of this writing.

Two-Lane Blacktop, of course, is a cult classic movie, released in 1971, that features a driver (James Taylor) and his mechanic (Beachboy Dennis Wilson) racing Warren Oates’ 1970 Pontiac GTO cross country. It was a screenplay of minimalism and featured three different ’55 Chevies finished off in this menacing street racer vibe. Actually, one of the three was refinished in black and had a significant role in George Lucas’ 1973 film American Graffiti, but I’m digressing. The biggest differences between this car and the star cars are the hood scoop (this one looks like a Ford Thunderbolt teardrop), the body style – hardtop here vs. a two-door sedan in the movie, and a flip forward front clip on the movie car. The gasser stance, straight axle, and radiused rear wheel openings capture the film star’s bearing really well. The wheels are sort of similar but not exact. And that vein is true of the car in general, it’s a nice attempt at capturing the film star’s overall presence but there are notable diversions away from the original too.

Power is provided from the same source however, a 454 CI V8 big-block engine, in this case, one capable of pushing out 420 HP. Having a 454 in the film car, in 1971, was cutting edge as that motor had only been in existence since ’70. And it was modified with a typical-for-the-time, tunnel-ram intake manifold, sporting two Holly carburetors. This example is a bit more sedate with its single four-holer on an aluminum aftermarket intake manifold and exhaling through fender-well headers, another change from the original. True to form, however, it has a four-speed manual transmission, and as a bonus, a 12 bolt differential to get the grunt to the ground and be able to live to tell about it. So, how’s it run? The seller claims, “To Start With This Car Is SICK FAST…

The interior of this subject car is missing one of the coolest features that I remember from the movie car and that’s the sliding, plexiglass side windows. Being a hardtop with frameless door windows wouldn’t allow such a setup here so it has to make-do otherwise. The interior’s image is limited and the seller states, ” NEEDS INTERIOR WORK” but does not elaborate beyond that. From what little can be spied, the interior looks fair though the steering column is out of a late model, ignition lock equipped, GM car and there is wiring hanging about underneath the dash, connected to something or another. The original stainless instrument panel shows well, though it has had a gauge implanted to the right of the speedo and the heater/defroster control head looks to have vacated its levers (you don’t need a heater on a hot rod, right?)

So no, it’s not a movie car clone, certain liberties have been taken, but this is a no-reserve auction and the bidding is trending at a much lower point than it would be if it were more true in its replication attempt. If it were mine, I might change a few things around on it but I’d certainly do nothing to alter the fun or “sick fast” aspect of it, how about you?

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Comments

  1. KC John

    I think you sell this car short with all the two lane comparisons. Tons of cars were built in this style and had nothing to do with the movie. Heck, the star cars were chosen because of their common street racer look. Someone built a cool street racer using am established formula. Watching an old movie didn’t have to be part of it. Okay, that was my rant for the day.

    Like 20
    • Frank Lacina

      My pain management Doctor, Dave Demangone, owns the 55 from 2 Lane Blacktop. Along with Don Johnson’s Cuda from Nash Bridges. Also owns the “Hot Rod Linclon” song car, and several other movie cars.

      Like 1
    • ninja3000

      I agree. In fact, when I first saw the post I thought it looked like something I saw locally as a kid, back in the ’60s (and, in fact, in RI). There were quite a few hot rods like this, pre-“Two-Lane.”

      Like 5
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Your earlier observations and mine must be completely different. Prior to seeing the movie, which I did upon its release in ’71, I don’t ever recall seeing a tri-five dressed like this. I saw many two-door sedans/hardtops, Nomads too, in various stages of hot rod guise but the flat primer finish, hood scoop, and, in particular, the radiused rear wheel openings were a first for me with the film.

      JO

      Like 2
  2. Joe Machado

    These when new, couldn’t turn, stop, or take off hard.
    Hence, everything needs modified.
    Idiot lights. Hence, all the gauges.
    Cheap, basic transportation.
    The gauges, I installed SW in the dash on both sides of the radio, but, I cut in a wedge, new exhaust pipe, slipped it on the back side housing so the gauges would face me at an angle. Other guys wanted me to do their cars. Fun stuff.
    Back in 1964 when we all helped each other.
    Real car guys being creative.

    Like 12
  3. Blyndgesser

    Road Island?

    Like 2
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Yeah, you know lots of “roads” for a car like this… Fixed, thx.

      JO

      Like 2
  4. Tony T

    Desired Info: Gear ratio? “Traction bars”? Pics of axle install … otherwise looks the “look”, alright. AND “Moon Eyes”.

    Like 2
  5. jerry z

    I’m curious what the final bid is with such limited info. The does have the look and stance though. A big block 4 speed, what’s not to like!

    Like 3
  6. TinCanSailor

    My best friend in high school had a 55 with a 396/375, M21, and a 4.11 gear. That was a handful to drive; no power steering, no power brakes (all drum), and a clutch that required all your leg strength to push down. But the engine (modified well above stock levels) sounded incredible and it would light up those poor little F70-14 Polyglas tires with ease in the first three gears.

    I later bought a Road Runner and it was quicker in a 1/4 mile and had modern luxuries like power steering and brakes, but it was nowhere near as fun to drive. That old 55 was truly a manly man’s car.

    Like 9
  7. RKS

    Man those front tires look ancient. I’d change those before I saw how sick fast it was.

    Like 1
  8. Nomader 55

    “original stainless instrument panel shows well” These were aluminum and this is a 1956 set. 1955 panels had little bow tie emblems.

    Like 1
  9. Boot

    Do a Finnegan and throw a Hemi in it.

    Like 2
  10. Mike Carter

    My Navy buddy had a 4 door ‘55 sedan that we drove all over in. It was a good sleeper car having a built up 348 with a 4 speed manual and high ratio rear diff. Got pulled over by the local sherif but he had seen it in action and was interested in what it had. No ticket was issued. Made a lot of beer money running that car against other sailors.

    Like 6
  11. Denny

    Wish people
    would stop cutting the rear wheel wells out of 55’s

    Like 1
  12. woa

    “I think it’s the jets man”. Dennis Wilson, the mechanic.

    Like 2
  13. Troy s

    I like it for what it is, an old school street/strip machine built solely for quick runs in a straight line. No front bumper, teardrop hood scoop, cool wheels, big block and a four speed. All business.

    Like 6
  14. Mark

    Very cool car!

    Like 3
  15. glen kay

    what a way to wreck a nice car so many cars are being wreck its an old car leave it alone if you cant do it right

    Like 1
    • Dave

      Not at all wrecked. Replacement panels are readily available.

      Like 1
    • DON

      This could have been modified 40+ years ago when these weren’t going for big money . In the mid 1970s people were still chopping them up for stock cars !

      Like 5
      • johnny

        We modified them because we couldn’t afford to buy a new muscle car in the late sixties and early 70’s. It was fun and kept a lot of us from taking the wrong path in life. I’d venture to say a lot of the restored cars that you see now where once hot rods and the only reason they’re still here is because of guys like us who kept them from the junkyard.

        Like 8
  16. Pete

    I’d put dual quads on it, update brakes. It’s already modified so why not?

    Like 2
  17. Jay E.

    If this weren’t so far away I’d be bidding the heck out of it, even though it is up to $15,100.00 now. Finnigan has increased the visibility of this style dramatically with his Blasphemi, which I love to watch run. But that is a much more sophisticated car than this or any movie car from the day.

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