In my generation, the '55 Chevy kind of grew up between your shoulder blades; the bigger you got, the bigger that drawing became. Though not the very first car I owned, it was the most memorable. It took me places I'll never go again. It was a bridge, a slippery log, a narrow crossing from one sphere of consciousness to another.
Just at driving age, the '55 post car looked like a real bad dad. And it was. Had Street Eliminator painted all over it. All you had to do was snatch a look at Hot Rod. Listen to those duals crackling when he backs off the throttle. What did a 17-year-old's mind think about modern marketing? I hadn't a clue but my '55 seemed to be right in the middle of it.
One reason that the late-'40s and early-'50s Caddy and Olds were considered high-zoot was that they packed a relatively large, smooth-running V-shaped eight-cylinder engine years before straight-eight Pontiacs and Buicks became V-8s and Chevrolet introduced its revolutionary thin-wall casting V-8.
As today, Chevrolet owners were considered working class in search of versatile, inexpensive, and durable transportation, but for those who could see beyond the compound wall, the future looked nothing short of legendary. Light body, high-revving engine, cheap to buy, factory-built hop-up parts soon to flow like the Mississippi.
Zora Duntov's hallowed white paper is what happened. It outlined the Bow Tie's deep commitment of technical support and hardware, a highly-weighted prognosis that was revealed in 1953. Ford had just introduced its 239ci OHV V-8, and over in Highland Park, the hemispherical combustion chamber engine was entering its third year of production.
Duntov's reasoning: "Like all people, hot rodders are attracted by novelty. However, bitter experience has taught them that new development is costly and long, and therefore they are extremely conservative. From my observation, it takes an advanced hot rodder some three years to stumble toward the successful development of a new design. Overhead Fords will be in this stable between 1956 and 1957. The slide rule potential of our RPO V-8 engine is extremely high, but to let things run their natural course will put us one year behind-and then not too many hot rodders will pick Chevrolet for development. One factor which can largely overcome this handicap would be the availability of ready-engineered parts for higher output."
California might have Nancy Pelosi and the country's worst economy but it counters with the vast and captivating Mojave Desert, where the humidity is so low it'll peel the lips off a chicken. Humidity rots irrevocably, but dry, dry, and dry mummifies and preserves. Hot rodders, desert rats, pickers, car-nuts, and geezers like us have salvaged carcasses, familiar shells from those ancient sand basins and often riddled with bullet holes but nary a spot of rust.
K&N espouses that every aftermarket performance company should own "a killer '55," hence the revitalization of this 210, one that first served the company as a display vehicle. The car came from its original owner who lived in hot, dry Hemet, California. It was solid, hadn't a speck of rust, and retained all the original chrome and stainless trim.
The thing about K&N is that it likes to see people out driving in their cars, especially ones with K&N filters leading the intake tract. To give this idea some credence, the company encourages its employees to drive this cream-filled donut to local gatherings and runs. Not talkin' 'bout it bein' a Mary, either. Its stroker little-block makes 460 pound-feet at the crank. Plenty of beans to run amok. Just a little bit. Mostly, though, it's an extraordinary experience driving a 55-year-old veteran that goes, stops, and handles better than most modern-day cars and certainly a unique package in a world of store-bought, pre-fab, and injection molding.