How to build a 1955 Chevy in Seven Days!

The Seventh Day

For our toughest Week to Wicked build yet, we needed all seven days to get our 1955 Chevy on the road!

As an ancient proverb states, every journey begins with a single step, and Monday is when we take that step in our CPP Super Chevy Week To Wicked Presented by Golden Star Classic Auto Parts. This time around we built a sweet “1955” Chevy. Why the quotes? Well, our ’55 body was crafted together out of new sheetmetal from Golden Star and sits on a completely aftermarket chassis provided by CPP. Add in all of the other aftermarket bits from companies such as American Legend, Bowler, Covercraft, Dakota Digital, Danchuk, Eaton, E-Stopp, Falken, Gandrud Chevrolet, Hot Rods By Dean, Old Air Products, Painless, TMI, and United Pacific and the end result is a 1955 created from 100-percent new parts! No rust and no damage from time or Mother Nature, just a sweet, clean canvas for us to work with.

And this was our starting point on Monday, a painted and trimmed-out shell of a 1955 Chevy sitting on an old chassis and cart for transport. Typically, we start with a complete car, so the bad news was we had a ton of parts to install. The good news is that we didn’t need to spend half a day tearing the car down.

For past builds, we’ve started with done cars, or shells of cars, but the parts going in were far less complicated and numerous. This time we started with a shell of a car, made completely from fresh Golden Star sheetmetal by the guys at Real Deal Steel, and added every part you could think of. Full A/C system? Check. Power seats and windows? Check. Custom one-off interior? Check. Latest GM LT1 engine? Check. Six-speed manual trans? Check. And the list goes on.

The entire car has fresh wiring, and between all the systems (LT1, trans, Raingear wipers, stereo, seats, A/C, etc.) it was the single biggest project of the week. Typically, we finish our builds on the fifth day, but after working on the car for 13 hours on Friday we called it a day so we could start fresh Saturday morning. The fenders went on, the clutch was bled, and the front-end wiring was buttoned up. At noon on Saturday we had yet to even bump over the LT1. But, the work continued. All the fluids were added, the fenders were buttoned up, and the Eddie Motorsports billet hood hinges bolted on in preparation for the Golden Star Smoothie hood. The interior wiring was finished and the Dakota Digital dash, and matching clock, was installed so the TMI dash cover could slide into its new home.

Cars with a full chassis are awesome since one team could work on the body (wiring, A/C, etc.) while the other assembled the new CPP chassis. Yep, everything you see here is brand new, including the frame.

At 5 p.m. on Saturday, the LT fired to life and, after buttoning up a few wiring glitches and fixing a small leak, the car was deemed roadworthy. But it was late and we wanted pictures, so we covered up the ’55 and waited to road test on Sunday. The drive went great and, to be honest, it drove and rode better than any W2W project we had done in the past.

This is the rear suspension kit from CPP. To save time, the brackets you see were already welded to the 9-inch housing. The large crossmember’s job is to support the top of the double-adjustable shocks.

 

Two crews tackled the CPP chassis, with Jason Scudellari (right) and Christian Arriero from our MotorTrend Tech Center on the front and the CPP team on the rear.
The rearend came from CPP already assembled with Currie axles and a third member complete with an Eaton Truetrac posi unit. But, we still had to install the brakes and bolt everything in place. The goal was to get all of the suspension installed on Monday.
And that included these beautiful six-piston brakes from CPP. This brake kit is built around CPP’s new sealed bearing hub spindle. It’s the same arrangement found on modern cars, such as the Corvette, and it eliminates the hassle of tapered roller bearings and bearing grease.
Another first for us was installing this E-Stopp kit. Running parking brake cables is a pain, but the E-Stopp made it much easier. The main unit is weather-tight and can be mounted anywhere, including in the interior, such as under the back seat. We chose to mount it to the passenger-side of the CPP frame.
Wiring is always one of the demons we have to wrestle with on these builds. The problem is that it takes a lot of time to do it right and there are zero shortcuts. With that in mind, we started wiring in the Painless system—along with the other looms from the Gandrud LT engine to the Raingear wipers—on Monday. Six days later we were still wiring.
By Wednesday, we were done with the suspension, brakes, and doing all the plumbing for the chassis. Heck, we even had the fuel system, anchored by CPP’s massive 29-gallon tank, installed. Given how well the rest was going, we put a couple of guys on assembling the radiator and core support kit from Hot Rods by Dean. This system will look great, but more importantly, the larger radiator will help cool our LT1 and the system will give us much needed engine bay space.
After spending much of Wednesday prepping the Gandrud Chevrolet LT1 crate engine and bolting it to the TREMEC Magnum six-speed from Bowler Performance, we were ready to lower the combination onto the CPP chassis. Doing this without the body in the way was much easier. The Bowler kit came complete, from the Quick Time bellhousing to the Tilton high-performance clutch.
With the engine in place we could see if the prototype Doug Thorley headers would fit; and they did, perfectly! There aren’t a ton of LT options on the market, but manufacturers are stepping up with new products on a regular basis.
With the headers installed and a new aluminum driveshaft in place, our chassis was sitting on some borrowed wheels and ready to slide under the body. It was Wednesday and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves at this point, but there was still a ton of stuff to get done.
We were a tad nervous when it came time to drop the body onto the chassis. Thankfully, it all went together so easily that it was anticlimactic. The hardest part was getting the body off of the transport cart it was on and sitting on the lift correctly so it could be lowered to the frame.
And moments later, the body was fully bolted to the CPP chassis! It was zero-dark-thirty on Wednesday and we opted to call it a day.
Thursday morning had Lee Watts from the Muffler Man in Placentia, California, on hand to help us install a modified Pypes exhaust system. For now we kept it basic, but later he will spend a few days TIG welding in a permanent, over-the-axle system.
The Hot Rods by Dean cooling system we assembled earlier was then put in place on the chassis. This was critical so that we could finish plumbing all of the systems, including the power steering and CPP Hydrastop, since the power steering reservoir is part of the core support.
The CPP Hydrastop and CPP tilt steering column were installed and hooked up early on Thursday. This was important since it needed to be done before the guys from TMI showed up to tackle the interior.
As a rule of thumb, you can expect a custom interior shop to have your car for, at the very least, a month if you want a one-off look. The beauty of TMI is that they offer so many options that you can have a custom look nearly overnight. All the pieces for our mini-tubbed ’55 were premade at TMI so the process was more about installation and less about fabrication. This was our first Week To Wicked with power windows and seats, which added to all of the wiring we had going on.
After the center console was installed, the TMI crew tackled the rest. We absolutely loved the sculpted front and rear seats, which looked stunning and were comfortable as well. The one-piece TMI headliner was installed before the front windshield was put in place, since that makes it a much easier task.
Like the interior, the TMI trunk kit simply snapped into place and was even designed with a kick-out for the trunk-mounted battery. Notice the small access port near the battery for the power shut-off switch.
With the wiring under the dash done, and the Old Air Products A/C system installed, we could put the Dakota Digital RTX dash in place. These units are easy to install, require zero dash modifications, and combine vintage looks with 21st century electronics.
The rest of Friday was spent wiring, plumbing, adjusting, and fine-tuning all the parts we had been installing over the last five days. Normally we finish up late Friday, but that wasn’t going to be case this time. Hey, a week is technically seven days, so we were still in the game.
With all the work done in the engine bay it was time to install the fenders so we could finish up the front of the car. While this was going on, another team was at the back of the car installing the smooth Danchuk rear bumper. We can’t tell you how nice it was having Danchuk just a couple of miles away from our tech center so we could make last-minute parts runs!
Lunch-time on Saturday and we were installing the front brightwork from Danchuk and the LED lighting from United Pacific. We hadn’t even bumped over the engine, but we were confident it would all work.
Saturday is also when the Falken tires were mounted to the 18-inch American Legend Racer wheels. Once balanced, we attached the center caps so we could get them mounted on the ’55.
If you’re building a car, we highly recommend building, or buying, a set of builder blocks. Our tech center manager Jason Scudelari made these and they gave us a stable platform to work on and in the car with the suspension fully loaded. You can also see how good the ’55 looks slammed down on its new rollers.
The last piece of the trim puzzle to put in place was the smooth front bumper from Danchuk. It fit pretty tight to the body so we utilized a lot of blue tape to protect the paint from any accidental encounters. It took three people, and a few off-color words, but once on the car, it looked beautiful.
The moment of truth came at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The LT1 has a specific way it has to prime before firing, but after following the instructions that came with the Gandrud crate engine, the LT roared to life. We had a couple of small leaks and a slight electrical gremlin to fix, but considering what we pulled off it was all minor stuff. And yeah, the Old Air Products A/C system was fully charged and working!
The Golden Star Smoothie hood was bolted to the Eddie Motorsports billet hinges and with that our project was done as far as assembly. It was early evening of the sixth day.
We were beat, so we slipped the custom-made Covercraft cover over the ’55 and sent everyone home for the night.
Sunday was all about test driving the car, bedding in the brakes, and looking for any issues that might pop up. Very few did and we declared the car done! As a bonus, the ’55 rode great and everything was tight and solid with minimal road noise. Hell, even the Custom Autosound stereo system worked! This was our toughest build to date and although we used nearly the entire seven days, the end result was our best, and most complete, build yet. The only question is what will we tackle next?

 

 

 

 

Sources

Bowler Performance Transmissions Lawrenceville, IL 618-943-4856http://www.bowlertransmissions.com
Classic Performance Products (CPP) 378 E Orangethorpe Ave. Placentia, CA 92870800-522-5004http://www.classicperform.com
Covercraft Industries Pauls Valley, OK 800.274.7006https://www.covercraft.com/us/en
Dakota Digital 4510 W. 61st St. N. Sioux Falls, SD 57107(800) 593-4160http://www.dakotadigital.com/
Danchuk Santa Ana, CA 800.648.9554http://www.danchuk.com
Eaton Performance Southfield, MI 800-328-3850http://www.eatonperformance.com
Golden Star Classic Auto Parts 972.315.3758http://www.goldenstarauto.com/
Painless Performance Products (800) 423-9696www.painlessperformance.com
TMI Products 1493 Bentley Drive Corona, CA 92879(951) 272-1996http://www.tmiproducts.com/
United Pacific Industries (866) 327-5288www.upcarparts.com