Go ahead, admit it: You were about ready to turn the page and dismiss Clayton Moorman's Bel Air sedan as just another stock-bodied, resto-rod, red '55 Chevy. We almost did the same thing when we first saw the car at the 2005 Goodguys Southeastern Nationals. Then we took a second look. So should you.
It was the headlight rims that first caught our attention. Borrowed from a '53 Studebaker, they give the Chevy fenders just a hint of a streamlined taper. Then we noticed the bumper, which is flipped upside down, welded into one piece, tucked closer to the body, and smoothed. Something seemed different about the signal lights, too; turns out they are '57 Chevy backup lamps.
There are dozens of similar subtle mods gracing this not-so-typical Chevy from Elkton, Maryland. Like the '56 Chevy accessory fender bird serving as a hood emblem, the '56 Thunderbird door handles, the one-piece door glass, or the flipped and lowered side moldings with '62 Impala engine-turned inserts. The rear is more of the same, with a flipped, tucked, and shaved bumper, smoothed bumper pockets, painted taillight housings, one-piece taillights with '55 Chevy steering wheel emblems, relocated fuel filler, and '62 Chevy hood emblem surrounding the trunk key hole. All this, and we haven't even mentioned the wedge-chopped top (1 7/8 inches at the windshield, 3/4-inch in the B-pillars, none in back) and molded driprails. There's far more here than initially meets the eye.
What's interesting is that, as unusual as this '55 Chevy is, Clayton's story is fairly common. "I always wanted a hot rod but never had the opportunity to own one," Clayton says. "In high school, everyone drove musclecars, but me, I drove my dad's '63 Chevy station wagon-not cool. After high school it was off to college, marriage, and then the family, three children. When the last of the children got out of college, I started looking for a classic car."
Searching for a '57, Clayton found this '55, a clean driver that he could take to cruise nights and use in local fund-raisers at the Food Bank of Delaware and American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. After a few years of driving, the car needed a minor facelift; it got that and then some when Clayton teamed up with Stewart's Rod Shop in Middletown, Delaware.
Besides performing all of the aforementioned body mods and spraying the bright red PPG hue, the Stewart's Rod Shop crew handled the car's mechanical work, too. Their handiwork on the underside includes a smoothed frame with a '70 Nova subframe, a triangulated four-bar locating a 9-inch rearend, plus Air Ride Technologies airbags and ECI disc brakes both fore and aft. The Colorado Custom wheels measure 17x7 and 17x9.5 inches and mount Dunlop front and Hoosier rear rubber.
The Chevy's 383ci stroker small-block, built by McMillians Motor Works, is no slouch, either. Starting with an Eagle crank and rods, the block is filled with SRP 10.4:1 pistons, a COMP hydraulic roller cam, AFR heads, and a Demon 750-cfm carb atop an Edelbrock intake. Other vitals include an MSD distributor, Howe aluminum radiator, and March pulleys, while Stewart's Rod Shop again takes credit for the custom valve covers and air cleaner. Headman headers breathe through Flowmaster mufflers, and a ProTrans-built 700-R4 handles shifting duties.
The Chevy's wheelhouse is as trick and subtle as the outside. The '60s-era Impala bucket seats look right at home, while the dash-with its deleted right "hump," relocated glovebox, Classic Instruments gauge insert, and frenched shift light-looks both clean and classic. The original-with-a-twist theme even carries through to the cut down, smoothed, leather-wrapped '55 wheel atop an ididit column. Pennsylvania's Mike Haverstock gets credit for stitching the neutral-colored leather throughout the cabin.
We could go on and on listing the car's nuances and subtleties, but we think you get the point. We'll just leave you with one more interesting tidbit: Clayton is a Baptist minister. Thus, he has taken to calling his untamed, rambunctious Chevy the Preacher's Daughter. Now aren't you glad you gave it a second look?