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September 29, 2016

55 Chevy Survivor Custom

 

55 CHEVY SURVIVOR CUSTOM

 

Professionally Restyled in 1958 as a Birthday gift for a 16 year old kid. This comfortable family Custom is now ready to find a new Caretaker.


Marc M. from Wittmann near Wickenburg, Arizona is the current caretaker of this chopped ’55 Chevy 4-door survivor Custom. Marc has owned the car since 2005 and has been trying to find the full story on this in ’58 restyled custom. Marc succeeded tracing down part of the history, but the early years of the car, although he does know bits and pieces, remains still a mystery. Lets take a look at this late 50’s original 4-door custom, how it was restyled and what Marc has been able to find out about its past.

Barry Atkins – who owned the car from the early 1980’s till around 1984 – told Marc that the car was originally built in 1958. The story goes that the car was bought by a father who wanted to create a unique birthday present for his nearly 16 year old son. He found a used 1955 Chevy 4-door and took it to a local body-shop in West Massachusetts. The father requested a full custom, complete with chopped top, new front and rear, and complete custom interior, all following the latest trends. When the car was ready and the father presented his gift to his son, the son was disappointed since the car was based on a less desirable 4-door.

Barry Atkins also remembered that the body-shop in West Massachusetts name might have been something like “Awleys“, “Hawleys” or “Rollies“. it was said that the car was originally painted red, and was at least once shown in the World of Wheels car show in Massachusetts and possibly also in New York in the early 1960’s. During the 1960 the car was repainted teal with big metalflakes. (Marc found this paint when he was doing repair work on the floors. The metalflake teal was buried deep under many coats of paint.) So far this is all that has been found out about the early stages of this car. There are no names or the original owners, no photos, and what happened to it after that is also unknown.

CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-earlyWhen Red McCormick owned the car the skirts had been removed, the suspension raised and it was mounted on a set of chrome wheels and thin line white wall tires. The photo on the left is taken the first day Red McCormick owned the car. (Photo courtesy of Ray Soff)

 


CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-1981-01The teal metallic version of the Chevy as it look when Red McCormick owned it. This photo and the two below were taken at the Spring Carlisle, Pennsylvania Swap Meet in 1981. (Photo courtesy of John Goschke)

 


CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-1981-02At this point there was no rear bumper on the car. Hand shaped metal formed a square pan and extensions below the ’56 Packard taillights. Notice how the paint was flaking of on the rear fender and roll pan.

 



CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-1981-03


The next thing we know about the car was that famous Custom Car enthusiast Bob “Red” McCormick of East Hartford, Connecticut bought the car at a full service gas station in Durham, Connecticut. We have no date when this happened. Red sold the car in the early 1980’s to Barry Atkins of Columbia, Connecticut. At the time the car was painted in metallic teal (not the same metalflake teal the car was in the ’60’s), and overall in pretty bad condition and in need of body work and new paint. But Barry like it, and figured with a bit of work it would make a really nice cruiser. He also liked the fact it had some history dating back to 1958. Barry was the owner of Atkins Action Auto in Columbia, Connecticut which made the decision to buy the car easier. He was able to handle all the bodywork and paint in his shop.

CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-cc-magazineHot Rod magazine Custom Cars from 1984 featured the Chevy in a one page article named Fifty-Five Surprise. Sharing the story about the birthday gift.

 


CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-yellow-01This is how the Chevy looked after Barry Atkins had restored it painted a light yellow. (Photo courtesy of Marc M.)

 


CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-wedding-1988David Gregory owned the car it was used as wedding-limo on 8-8-1988 on his friend Ed Beauchaine wedding day. (Photos by Ed Beauchaine.)

 


Changing hands many times.
Around 1984 Barry Atkins sold the Chevy to Roy Niklasson. Roy kept the car only for a short period, perhaps a year, and in 1985, perhaps early 1986, Roy sold the car to David Gregory from Connecticut. In late 1988 David traded the car to Robert Thompson who was also from Connecticut. Then in 2000, Robert sold the Chevy to Dominic Flammia from Waterbury, Connecticut. The car now has been repainted in pearl white. Dominic puled out the engine that was in the car and replaced it with a 350 cid V8 with a Turbo 350 trans. And while he was at it he did some more mechanical updates including the installation of disc brakes, to make it a safer car to drive. Dominic had Robin Graphics of Connecticut add the cartoonish red flames and pin-striping. After having enjoyed the car for 4 years Dominic sold the Chevy in 2004 to Dennis Pluck from Pennsylvania, who enjoyed it for about a year before he sold it to the current caretaker Marc M. from Arizona in 2005.

CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-2002Luke Karosi, from Kustoms Illustrated magazine took these photos of the Chevy at the Lake Compounce swap meet in Bristol, Connecticut May 6th, 2002. The Custom was then owned by Dominic Flammia. (photo courtesy of Kustoms Illustrated magazine)

 


When Marc bought the car, he discovered that the engine in the car had a huge crack at the starter boss and would flex and eat flexplates. Marc decided to get a GM crate engine and a Turbo 350 trans to make it the perfect cruiser. With the engine out Marc decided to tackle some of the rust in the floor, welded in new floor and trunk panels and treated everything with rust converter, seam seal and Dyna Mat.

CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-2010-01These two photos show the car some time after Marc M. had bought it. By then it had been repainted white pearl with the cartoonish red flames.

 


CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-seats-01When Marc bought the car it has this set of very heavy living room style swivel seats. Marc replaced them with a ’55 Chevy front bench which was upholstered by redone by Glenn Kramer (Hot Rod Interiors) to match the rest of the interior.

 


CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-floor-01While the seats where out Marc also did some rust repair on the bottom of the car and welded in some new floor boards.

 




The restyling on the ’55 Chevy

The work that was done on the car by the unknown West Massachusetts body show was a 3 1/2 inch chopped top with the rear quarter windows filled in, modified front fenders to accept a pairt of 1958 Lincoln quad headlights. The rear fenders were also modified to make a set of 1956 Packard taillights look right at home. All door handles were shaved, and so were all the emblems for a smooth look. The stock grille was replaced by a ’53 Chevy grille bar to which 10 extra grille teeth were added to make a total of 13. The stock ’55 bumper is used on the front. In early 1980’s photos we can see that some sort of parking lights were mounted to it. We are not sure if that was from the original built, or a later addition. The earliest photos Marc has been able to find are from the 1970’s and 1980’s, and all show the car with no actual rear bumper, but rather a molded in square shaped pan. We are not sure if this is from the original version, or a later addition.

In the 1980’s a ’56 Chevy Chevy wagon rear bumper was added, which is still on the car today. When Red bought the car the interior had front swivel bucket seats original installed in 1959. The upholstery was done in Black diamond tuck. The swivel seats (which were more like office seats) were pretty uncomfortable and when Marc M. owned the car he replaced the seats for an much more comfortable ’55 Chevy front bench. He had it upholstered in Black diamond tuck by Glenn Kramer (Hot Rod Interiors), to match the rest of the interior perfectly. The car was lowered 5 inches in the front and 6 inches in the rear for a nice slight rearwards stance. To make the car look even lower a set of dummy lake pipes was added, and fender skirts installed. We have no info on what hubcaps and tire style the car had when it was first completed.

 

CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-2016-03Marc later added wider white wall tires, removed the skirts and changed the hubcaps for a set of four bar lancer hubcaps. Marc also added the dummy spotlights.

 


CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-2016-05This photo shows the white vinyl that was later added to the car. The ’56 Chevy wagon rear bumper work well with the ’56 Packard taillights.

 



CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-2016-06 13 ’53 Chevy grille teeth were mounted on the grille bar, and the ’58 Lincoln headlights were slightly canted to match the angle of the grille opening.

 


CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-2016-01Marc also added a set of 1950-52 Cadillac bumper guards on the smooth 1955 Chevy front bumper. They did have to be altered quite a bit to fit properly. Marc liked how they match the grille teeth really great.

 



CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-2016-04Slightly canted ’58 Lincoln headlights in modified front fenders on the left. On the right aftermarket four bar lancer hubcaps on black wheels an wide white wall tires.

 



CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-interior-01The Interior as it looks in 2016.

 



CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-2016-07



The dream

When Marc bought the car he did not really care much for the red flames and striping. He figured along the way he would sand down the pearl white and red flame paint job and add new paint that would suit him better. But for several reasons that just never happened. He did however create a few photoshopped images to see how the car would look with a new Watson Style outline paint job in different color combinations. We have also included two images in which we removed the red flames to give you a better look how the car can look with a less cartoonish paint job. Perhaps a future owner of the Chevy will create the more suiting and period correct Watson style paint job for the Chevy.

CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-2016-02With the red flames and some of the striping removed the car is looking quite different. 

 


CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-photoshopped-03Another photo where we took out the red flames and digitally aged gives a bit of an impression how the car might have been driven around in the late ’50’s.

 


CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-photoshoppedAt one point Marc asked John Goschke to digitally created several outline and scalloped versions to see what style and colors would suite him best. But before Marc ever got around actually painting his car, he decided it was time for him to let go of the car.

 




The details

  • 1955 Chevy Kustom
  • Originally built in 1958
  • Chopped top 3 1/2″
  • Shaved door handles
  • Canted ’58 Lincoln quad headlights
  • ’56 Packard taillights
  • Customized bumpers ’55 chevy front, 56 Chevy wagon rear
  • Louvered hood,
  • Fender skirts (not shown in the current pictures, but come with the car)
  • Lake pipes
  • Custom ’53 Chevy  grill (13 teeth)
  • All Glass windows (no plexi)
  • Black diamond tuck interior
  • New Solid Floors, Dyna mat, Carpet
  • GM 350 crate motor ( less than 600 miles)
  • Rebuilt TH350 trans (with flexplate ,converter, shift kit , lokar shifter, starter)
  • Drop spindles with Disc brakes
  • New Chrome headers and custom exhaust
  • New Cooling system ( Aluminum radiator, fan, hoses, trans lines, belt)
  • 15″ 1955 GM wheels powder coated with wide whites
  • New 58 Lancer hubcaps

 


Resources and more info

  • Hot Rod Magazine Custom Cars, July 1984

 

CCC-55-chevy-survivor-marc-berger-2016-end





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About the Author

Profile photo of Rik Hoving
Rik Hoving
Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)




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One Comment


  1. Profile photo of memo ortega

    not a bad looking car rik, i,ve allways 2dr,,, 4 drs, the car looks way better with the rear bumper on it, an those ugly flames must go for sure, the car looked nicer when it was in blue some body ill have fun with it,



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