Photos by Trent Sherrill, words by Jake Steele
On the subject of tri-five Chevy's, there are usually two categories: Bone stock restored, or hot rod. Now, that is of course a pretty broad generalization and yes, you can throw all kinds of interpretations at "hot rod".. Not to mention toss in some exceptions like race cars, as we all know that there have been some incredibly wicked gassers built from this iconic platform provided by General Motors in those three magical years. That said, I think that there is one thing we can all agree on: In the grand scheme of things, surprisingly few 55-57 Chevs found themselves transformed into customs. But then again, what does "custom" even mean? It's a term we've only recently invented and a category we are all too quick to plop this or that car into. And while Dan Peterson's 1955 Chevrolet is draped in stunning metal flake paint featuring panels, scallops, lace and pin striping, all custom touches, it also hides one hell of a hot rodded 396 under the hood. So... You tell me.
The story of how this car came to be is a pretty typical one. You see, Dan is no different than the rest of us. He is sentimental when it comes to these old hunks of steel and the memories we create with them. His first car happens to have been, you guessed it: A 1955 Chevrolet. And all through his high school years, he made more than a few lasting memories with his car. So many memories in fact, that when Dan made the decision to attend college in Texas, his beloved Chevrolet would make the journey with him from Colorado, where he grew up, all the way down to the Lone Star State.
For a while, the love affair kept on. But eventually, Dan found he and his car growing apart. You see, he wasn't your typical college student looking to simply have a good time while away at school and figure it out along the way. He had a plan and a very specific goal in mind, he was going to be a doctor. His drive and focus on the task at hand meant that Dan soon found himself with little time to devote to anything other than his schooling. And eventually, his Chevy was sold off to a new caretaker.
Fast forward a few hundred long days and sleepless nights, countless sacrifices and a few multi-state moves, and Dan found himself being called, "Dr. Peterson." Not only a doctor, but an incredibly talented and successful neurosurgeon. And as he settled into his new role as a flourishing MD, there was one very specific thing in the back of Dan's mind: His old '55 Chevy.
Now before you get all excited and sentimental, thinking I'm about to tell you that he tracked down his high school car, bought it back and resurrected it, just calm down, he didn't. Instead, Dan opted to upgrade from the sedan that carted him around in his youth, to a hard top Bel Air. It was a nice enough car to start with and a suitable platform to work from. The car was initially sent to a shop in Texas to be transformed into the sleek and sexy vision Dan had in mind. Unfortunately, his vision and his eagerness did not necessarily translate into motivation on this shop's end, despite Dan be more than happy to pay the bill each month, hoping to move the project along. At a certain point, the decision was made to remove the car from the shop all together. But where to take it?.. Well, true to form, Dan made his own luck here too.. Somewhere along the way, he had decided that being a successful doctor wasn't quite enough, and tried his hand at entrepreneurship. Long story short, Dan, together with some good friends, formed what would eventually become Austin Speed Shop.
I bet you can guess what happened once it made it's way to Austin Speed Shop, but if not, I'll give you a hint: The crew got to WORK. For Dan, gone was the distressing pattern of not knowing what progress was being made, or when the project might be finished. The task was laid out and the guys got busy. Nothing could stop them, not even the fact that the jet black paint that was applied by the other shop was beginning to bubble.. Armed with this new knowledge, the plan of attack changed. Arrangements were made to have the car repainted by mega-talent, Pete Finlan, who applied the show-stopping paint scheme without being instructed or prompted beyond simply being asked to paint it black and gold. His interpretation of these vague instructions absolutely blew Dan and crew away.
Once back at Austin Speed Shop, final assembly got under way. A few changes were made as they went along, as the now out-of-this-world paint job commanded a higher level of attention to detail than the original plan, which was to simply have a good looking "driver." The crew altered the bumpers and grill (robbed from a Corvette), treated all the bright work to a polish or fresh chrome plating. The stance was then corrected and complimented by a set of wide whites on chrome reverse wheels. When it came to the interior, the task was trusted to Sean "Fat Lucky" Johnstun, who picked right up on the vibe of the car and continued the theme of knocking it out of the park, with a hand made set of buckets, a whole slew of custom touches and a healthy dose of tuck 'n roll.
So then, is it a custom, or a hot rod? I'm sure if you asked ten different people, you'd get ten different answers as to what this car might be. As far as I'm concerned, I think we should simply call it just what it is: Absolutely stunning. I mean, let's face it, you don't have to be a brain surgeon to see that.....