Don Hoover has been a fan of the ’55 Chevy for many years. His original ’55 was actually his high school car. “After getting out of high school, I turned it into a drag car,” Don says. “I raced it from approximately 1972 to 1983. After that, I got out of racing.”
Don’s intent was to take a break from racing for a year or two to build a house. However, while the Hoover home was being constructed, US 30 Dragstrip closed. “The economy took a dump around the area,” Don says. “I didn’t get back into it until Kathy built her Camaro. Then, I couldn’t have her street car be better than my race car. That is why the plan was hatched to build my ’55 Chevy.”
The ’55 Chevy is not the only car in the Hoover stable. A few years ago, we featured Don’s wife’s ’69 Camaro. Don bought the Camaro for Kathy before they were married. After a long 32 years, they got the urge to restore her vehicle. Once her car was finished, that was the bug that bit Don to get his ’55 Chevy back out and onto the streets.
A Big Swap
Kathy’s nephew used to hang around with them at the dragstrip. Eventually, he grew up and bought his own ’55 Chevy and planned to make a clone of Don’s car. “When he heard what I was planning to do with my car, he offered to switch bodies with me,” Don remembers. “Rather than tear mine up, he asked if we could make a deal.”
The nephew’s car was stock with a small block in it. “He’s a gearhead,” Don chuckles. “My old car is still intact, and he’s in the process of finishing it up. He made it possible to keep the original car in the family.”
From the start, Don knew what he wanted to do with his “new” ’55 Chevy. He called US 12 Speed and Custom and had a conversation with them about his vision for the car, ultimately having them handle the build. “They would go so far and then call me up with a progress report,” Don says. “I knew I wanted a complete chassis, but wanted to go the next step and add a funny car roll cage. A fabricated 9-inch rearend was also a requirement, and I would be installing the LS engine and transmission. I had a good idea in my mind about what I wanted. However, I didn’t anticipate the to come out like a show-winning car and as high end as it did.”
Not Your Average ’55 Chevy
The craftsmen at US 12 built the Chromoly-tube chassis to NHRA SFI 25.5 certification standards with custom suspension pieces and carbon-fiber tubs. The all-steel original body, has shaved drip rails, tucked-in bumpers, and a filled cowl. Additional details include rounded door corners and a one-of-a-kind rear spoiler.
Vos Upholstery stitched the interior using black and silver vinyl and cloth. AMounted to a custom steering column is a small 13-inch steering wheel. “The car does have a headliner,” Don points out. “We also installed black race seats and five-point seat belts as well as all SFI safety equipment.”
The front suspension uses a four-link combined with fully adjustable AFCO coilover shocks and a Strange Engineering Ulta strut suspension linked to a Stiletto pro box rack-and-pinion. The previously mentioned 9-inch packs a Moser Engineering center section with 3:25 gears and 40 spline axles.
Mounted on the front of the ’55 Chevy are 17-inch Weld Racing spindle mount wheels wrapped in Mickey Thompson 26×7.5-15 radials. The rear features Champion Stripster 15×12 beadlock wheels. The Wilwood brake system includes clamps on all four corners, dual master cylinders, and stainless brake lines for plenty of stopping power.
Tire Melting Made Easy
Nestled in the engine bay is a 427-cube LS7 built by Brian Robbins that is fed by twin-turbos. They breathe into a high-flowing Holley Hi Ram EFT intake with a 105 mm Holley throttle body. A Moroso aluminum oil pan, single-stage wet-sump pump, timing chain, and a Rollmaster, timing chain round out the listed go-fast goodies.
A Holley EFI digital dash is in place to regulate the engine and monitor the vitals. They used a Clearview filtration system, an aluminum radiator, and custom valve covers. Horsepower is estimated to be around 1,500 at 5,500 rpm. A custom driveshaft was built by Lance’s Driveshaft in Portage, Indiana.
Shifting Out Of The Norm
From the plan’s inception, Don knew he wanted to do something different than use a typical automatic transmission. “I did a little research on Jeffco transmissions and decided to go that direction with it,” Don comments. “Shawn White assembled the Jeffco four-speed with a Gear Vendors overdrive.” The transmission tunnel was created by “Billy D,” and surrounding the clutch is a Browell Bellhousing.
So far, the transmission and overdrive are holding up just fine. “A lot of heat comes off it,” Don notes. “It can get to 140-degrees in the interior. You have to realize there is no floorboard around where the transmission is — the transmission is right there. I knew I wanted to use the Jeffco. It remains to be whether it was a smart idea or not.”
Don knows the transmission provides a wow factor for the car. “Everybody has automatics, and there’s nothing wrong with them,” he says. “But my ’55 drag car had a clutch Turbo in it, and I always liked that hard launch off the line. I wanted to keep that hard launch and knew this was the way to get the street version of it.”
Street And Strip Finally Meet
The car has gone down the track a few times since its completion in 2017. “It’s holding the horsepower quite well,” Don says. “It’s not been a problem. I did anticipate a little bit of a learning curve with the clutch linkage, but I’m coming along with it. And, there’s a little bit of maintenance I didn’t know about.”
With the Gear Vendors behind the clutch, it loses about 400 rpm. “We’re around 2,280 rpm while traveling down the highway, and it’s singing,” Don laughs.
Don and Kathy love traveling together to car shows and enjoy the compliments they get, no matter whose car the people appreciate at the time. As far as drag racing the ’55 in the future, Don isn’t sure how much he’ll be going down the track. The couple enjoys competing at Dragweek, but they have used Kathy’s Camaro for that competition. “I had torn up the driveshaft due to issues with that,” he says. “I need to go the next step up and put a carbon fiber one in it. I’m retired now and I’ve been adjusting to having a smaller budget.”
They have discussed going to Tom Bailey’s street party for Roadkill. “I’ve talked to him about it,” Don says. “Tom’s only two regulations are street legal and a parachute. I meet both of those.”
For now, the Hoovers are looking forward to kicking back and savoring the flattery at the car shows. That’s a better bet than going to the dragstrip and flogging the ’55 this summer. Still, if you see a beautiful blue ’55 Chevy in your rearview mirror and hear the whine of two turbochargers, you best get out of the way…