"Hi Jake, my friend, Ryan gave me your number and said I should get ahold of you. I have a classic car I'd like to sell and I wondered if you'd be interested in helping me with that."
I get text messages and phone calls similar to this one pretty often. Guys will call and ask me to list their car for sale for them. It makes me chuckle a little because the act of selling an old car really takes no work at all. But guys do this with me pretty often for one reason or another. Usually they are too lazy, too busy, or a combination of those things. In this case, David, the guy with this particular car isn't lazy. He may be busy, but not so busy that he couldn't deal with it himself. Nope, in this case it was something a little different. You see, David is not a car guy. And I think that the proposition of getting steamrolled by some fast-talking potential buyer more educated than him on the ins and outs of antiquated rolling metal boxes did not appeal to him.
I knew the car. A year or so earlier, I had drooled over it at my friend, Robbie's repair shop. Aside from being my close friend, Robbie is the go-to around here for all things hot rod, race car, or anything FAST that needs diagnosed, tuned, or otherwise tweaked. He's an absolute master of his craft, and for that reason, there is never any shortage of bad ass cars in the bays of his shop, Racer's Automotive. This one was no exception.
The car is a 1955 Chevy 210 post. When I encountered it sitting there at Robbie's shop, the first thing that struck me was the stance. It was absolutely hammered, sitting slightly nose-low with a hot amount of "California rake," and it looked amazing sitting on black wall tires, black steel wheels and dog dish caps. The car really looked like it was about to punch you in the fucking face just sitting there, a welcomed departure from the typical lame-colored, Torq Thurst-clad, crybaby doll magnet that is the typical Tri-Five Chevy around here. I'm a big fan of mean looking cars and this one was very striking.
The hood was up and as I approached it, something out of place came into focus under the hood. There, nestled snuggly between the inner fenders, sat a modern looking, fuel injected small block Chevy. There was no mistaking what it was of course. But there, prominently placed at the front of the engine, on a piece of new-fangled technology that is too advanced for a guy like me to know the technical term to describe it, was the confirmation. It read: "LS2"
"Whoa, LS motor, eh?" My statement was met with a swift reaction from Robbie, "Dude......" his tone was serious, "You should drive this thing. You would shit your pants." He said this with a slightly amused, but very serious expression on his face that told me right away he wasn't kidding and that there must be something special about this particular car.
"It's pretty fast?" I asked. Robbie immediately scoffed, "Man, I'm tellin ya: This thing flat out shits and gets. It's incredible."
Now, here's something you should know about Robbie: If he says something is fast, you can count on it. You see, Robbie has been into hot rods and race cars his entire life. His whole world is fast cars. We're talking about a guy that street-drives a 900HP blown Hemi stuffed into a '41 Willys Coupe. He has drag raced, street raced, tuned, or otherwise "been fucking with" big-cube, hi-horse power cars since the dawn of time. This guy's WIFE drives a 737HP Hellcat for god's sake. He has scoffed at more than a few of my own cars that I thought were pretty peppy, "pssh, a fuckin MUTT," is a pretty good example of how unimpressed he is by most car's power offerings. When Robbie got that stern look on his face, I knew the car was fast.
I didn't drive the Chevy that day. "You should drive it" wasn't an actual offer to drive it of course. It was a customer car, not his own. "You wish you could drive it," would have been a more accurate thing to say. Still, I left impressed by this little '55 Chevy with a fantastic look that had so affected my friend. I didn't drive it, but I wanted to.
So here we are, some time later. The owner of this amazing car is now beating down my door, asking me to peddle the little powerhouse. It's owner, David, again, not a car guy had purchased the car on a whim. Maybe he was in a different place in his life then. Maybe it was love at first site that turned out to be just a fling in the end. Maybe he woke up one day and decided he was more interested in collecting stamps. The truth is, I don't know what would cause someone to fall out of love with such an amazing car, but he did. And now, he was counting on me to find someone to fall for it all over again. In my opinion, an easy task.
I already loved it. But I knew I couldn't have it. See, I've been on an automotive bender of sorts for the last several years. One that has had me teetering on the razor's edge of either being the target of some kind of intervention, or some divorce lawyer's kid's college tuition. In short, I could not afford to drag another car home, for a million reasons. But, I was happy to foster it for a little while.
David's thought was that I would just take the car and house it until it was sold. This was the program with the car I had sold for his friend that had given him my number. I do this pretty often, just handle everything all the way through and simply bring the guy back his pile of cash when it's sold. In this case though, I didn't have the room. My wife had been having to park her car outside of the garage for a LONG time, and it was starting to become a sore subject.
"You promised me when we moved here that I would always be able to park my car in the garage. You said that since you have all that space in the barn and in the shop, that you would always make sure that I would have a spot to park my car in the house garage. Remember?"
I remembered. And for the last nine months or so, I had been breaking that promise with a slew of classic cars that came and went, and more often than not, spilled over into her parking spot. She was right, I was guilty. And while she made her comment in a sort of joking manner, I knew the truth was that she wasn't happy about it. And since it rains about 70% of the time here in the PNW, I could see why she would get tired of seeing some new old clunker parked in her spot every time she came in through the garage, soaking wet and annoyed. I get it, my bad.
So, David's car couldn't stay. Instead, I proposed he bring it out to me in the morning and leave it for the day. I wanted to familiarize myself with the car so that I could accurately describe it in the ad, and I wanted to have ample time with the car to be able to get proper photos. For that, I wanted it all day, because while I'm no photographer, I have figured out that different cars just photo better in different light. I wanted to be sure to capture the car as best as possible. And that takes a little time. Oh, and of course, I wanted to drive it.....
Arrangements were made and on a Friday morning, the car came rumbling down my gravel driveway, along with a loud scrape of the front crossmember dragging when it first came off of the road. "Man that fucker is LOW," I thought to myself. It was low. And it looked absolutely killer, just as I had remembered it. This time though, a new shock to the senses: I was for the first time hearing this thing run. And it sounded good.
David gets out and we chat for a bit while he waits for his wife to come pick him up. I'm asking about the car, "Does it have any quirks, or anything I need to know that's special to start or drive it?" The rundown was brief and the point was that basically, it just started and ran like a regular car and there was nothing too spectacular to report when it came to "quirks." Perfect.
"So, it's pretty fast is what I heard?" David gave me a sort of smirking response and said, "Yes, it really is!" But the difference between his delivery of this affirmation and the way Robbie had put it spoke volumes. His face told me very clearly that while he knew it was fast, this fact hadn't been driven home by anything in particular. Basically, he knew the car had balls, but he didn't dare drive it that way. Honestly, I think the car's ability scared him. And it was clear to me that he likely shifted the thing at 1500 RPM's everywhere he went and stayed as far away from unleashing any real power as possible.
After David left me with the car agreeing that he would come to retrieve it the following evening, I moved it down the driveway and parked it. I had some errands to run, and I would deal with getting to know the car when I was done with that. When I turned the key, it rumbled to life with a noise and a feeling that both affected you physically. You felt it in your chest. I put it into gear, impressed with how tight and "modern" the shifter and transmission felt, and got the car out of my way, resisting the urge to take it for a quick spin right then. I went on with my day, but all the while, I thought about that car and imagined what it might drive like. I was about to find out.
Finally, my chores and errands were done and I made my way out to that 55 Chevy. It seemed like it looked more badass every time I encountered it. And as I walked up to it, I thought to myself, "alright, let's see what all the fuss is about."
My goal was to get some photos. I have three specific spots I typically use to take car photos that are all near my house, which is in a rural area with little traffic and lots of winding country roads. As I pulled out onto the street, I shifted the way I imagined David must, low RPM's, just getting a feel for the car. It drove really well. Nice, responsive handling, the clutch, transmission, steering and brakes all felt really good. It was more like driving a modern car than a nearly 70-year-old one, an odd feeling. Not a bad one, but an odd one.
I take it a few blocks down the way and turn left onto Altman Road, my usual first choice when it comes to classic car photos. This is a long, straight stretch of country road with a beautiful view of Mt. Hood at the end of it and farmer's fields on either side of the lonely, stripe-less blacktop. It makes for great pictures and I utilize it often. Another thing it's fantastic for, is burnouts, due to how flat and isolated it is. I wasn't going to do any big smokey burnouts in someone else's car though, I know better than that. I did however, slowly roll into the throttle in second gear, and while the car lacks a tachometer, I'm sure I brought it up to around 3500 RPM's, nothing major, just to see if my friend Robbie had lied.. He hadn't. It was indeed pretty fast. "What's the big deal?" I thought to myself, "It's pretty quick, but I'm still alive.." I tried to convince myself it was no big deal, but in the back of my mind, I knew that I was lying to myself. I knew 3500 was right about where it started making power..
I took some photos on Altman, they turned out ok, nothing special. The light wasn't cooperating the way I wanted it to. "I'll take it down behind the old John Deere store," I said to myself, "But I won't do anything stupid, I'll just mosey on over there, take my photos and come back home.
The old John Deere store spot is about three miles from my house and is a cool old building that makes for an excellent backdrop. I pointed the nose of the Chevy that way and off I went. With every passing yellow line in the road, I grew more familiar with the car. Man, it was capable... I would roll into the throttle a little more with every shift, careful not to be irresponsible with it. Afterall, it wasn't mine to be irresponsible with. And according to Robbie just a couple of hours before on the phone, I needed to "be careful with that thing," and he wasn't kidding when he said it. So, I was.
I arrived at the spot, positioned the car and took my photos. Then turned it around and did the same thing with the other side. I took all my pictures, got some video, and decided that was good enough. Satisfied, I jumped in, fired it up and started heading home.
The main road between that spot and my house is called Orient Drive. It is a two lane road with a speed limit of somewhere between 45 and 55, nobody is ever really sure, and for that reason, everyone just drives whatever speed they feel. I figured this would be a good opportunity to open the car up a little bit. After all, I had about 5 miles on her by this point, more than enough for me to become acquainted just about any car. I was tired of wondering about it, I wanted to get just a small taste of how quick this car might really be.
I'm cruising along, speeding up here and there, but still driving responsibly and not doing anything stupid. I would wind the RPM's up slowly, to the point where it really started to scream, then shift and carry on. I was probably doing 55 or so, just enjoying the ride and contemplating whether I should really hammer on it or not when all of the sudden, in my rear view mirror, appears a grey SUV. It's coming up fast, very fast in fact. And in no time flat, it's directly on my rear bumper. I look at this dumb bitch in the mirror and she's giving me the "wtf" hand signal. You know the one, right? It doubles as both "wtf" and "get the fuck out of my way!" Here I am, trying to resist the urge of being irresponsible and simply drive and enjoy the ride home, when just like that, the choice was made for me... After about five seconds of this tailgating shit, I'd had enough.
Without evening thinking about, in one motion, I mashed the pedal to the floor, slammed the shifter down into third gear and side stepped the clutch. The sound that came out of this car is unlike anything I've ever experienced. It was as if hell had unleashed its full wrath all at once in a MASSIVE high-winding, explosive affair that shocked every sense I had. From a 55 mph roll, this car immediately broke loose and BLEW THE TIRES in a massive smoke show as the speedo's needle immediately buried itself. Within two seconds I was shifting into fourth gear and the car continued to pull with so much force I couldn't even believe it. It shoved me back in the seat so hard I was holding onto the shifter and steering wheel for dear life to simply stay upright and on top of the pedals, slightly pitched to the right as I felt the tires finally stop spinning, which just made the G force that much more intense as I put about a half mile between myself and the tailgater in about 5 seconds before finally letting off, my eyes as big as saucers. The mother fucker sounded and felt like I was going full throttle on ten CR500 dirt bikes at one time. I couldn't fucking believe this thing, it was like riding a street bike that had four wheels. Pure violence in every sense. And the best part was, it still had two more gears to go.... Unreal.
I didn't get into those last two gears though. That was enough for me. I was about a mile from home and it was time to head straight there. No more fucking around. I pulled into the garage, shut it down, closed the garage door and called Robbie.
"What the fuck has been done to this car??" I had to know. Robbie couldn't explain it, other than to say that "I told you!" and that "Someone has to have been in that motor, that ain't the stock 400 horse power." He wasn't kidding. Most people don't know what 400 actual horsepower feels like. They put a cam and a Holley carb on their 350 Chevy and go around telling people it's "400 horsepower" when it's really 270.. Most people haven't felt 400 horsepower and have no clue what it actually feels like. I do. Robbie does. And this, as Robbie put it, "ain't it."
I don't know how much horsepower is truly coming out of that fucking thing, but it's a lot more than 400. And the one thing I DID know, was that car had to go back to it's home, like ASAP, before things got stupid. It's a dangerous proposition, me owning that car, and I knew that much right away.
David was called into work the next day and the car ended up staying one more night. I drove it a little more, just to make sure I didn't actually need it.... and I did wind it up a few more times on those back country roads, but I encountered no more tail gaters and did no more especially stupid things in that insanely fast, capable and well-handling 1955 Chevy. It went home shortly after and I will admit that I was sad to see it go, but relieved it didn't stay.
At the time of this writing, this car is available for sale to someone who loves violence in their driving experience. Email me at: Jake@ironandsteele.com if you dare.