We know that it’s not uncommon for a project to take as much as a decade to complete, but Keith Jereb has made a real case for it with his ’55 210. In this instance it was only 18 years, a small lifetime when you get right down to it. In that span of time, people change, trends change, and outcomes morph. What began as a serious Pro Streeter in 1998 turned a complete circle and became a Pro Touring supplicant, a renegade of sorts and notoriously refreshing in its originality and cheekiness.
In the beginning, the work was a lot slower (and sometimes shoddier) than Jereb could have imagined. The first couple of years were devoted to building a custom Pro Street chassis. Then, it was sitting for a couple of years. Motivation took hold and soon (a relative term here) the car had a 454 and Turbo 400 transmission. He admits to starting the engine but not really driving it. A few more years passed. When he could abide the stasis no longer, Jereb laid the car on a shop he presumed reputable. Two more years flitted by, and results were negligible. He dragged the churl back home for another long sojourn.
Then, one day, it just ended. Jereb had found Performance Restorations in Mundelein, Illinois, and gave them his ’07 Mustang GT Pro Tourer for some custom bits and to see if they had what he was looking for. Hooray! In February 2010, the ’55 went to finishing school for a complete revamp. The 454 was supplanted by a modern 502 and the transmission climbed on an overdriven high gear. Performance ramped its regimen up, pulling the body off the chassis, reworking and smoothing the rails as they went. It was just the beginning. Performance touched nearly every panel and length on the body, made a slew of one-off improvements, and gave the old dude a real reason to live.
Jereb says: “Since the car started off as a Pro Street form, and since times and styles change, we converted it over to more of a Pro Touring cruiser, updating the wheels to 20-inch billet and adding large brakes, front and rear. We still incorporated the large Mickey Thompson tires in the rear; it just looks too cool to get rid of those.” Besides, the tubs were already in and there’s nothing on the street that looks hairier than big steamrollers.
Performance seized a new Chevrolet Performance crate ZZ502 and began to upgrade with the idea that it would be completely street-oriented and thrive on low-octane fuel. They left the 9.0:1 compression ratio alone and balanced the forged rotating assembly but degreed-in a snappier Bullet hydraulic roller (601/601-inch lift, 238/248 degrees duration at 0.050 inch). They rigged the valvetrain with aluminum roller rocker arms and plugged the bottom with a Moroso pan and oiler. The open combustion chambers in the Dart rectangular-port aluminum cylinder heads cup 2.25 and 1.88 valves. OK, so we got the big-block. Now we need the leakers to bring it all back home. Electrifying the Hilborn stack injectors was relatively easy with the FAST engine controller. Total timing is set at 35 degrees. The exhaust tract was built entirely from stainless steel. Two-inch primary pipes merge with a 3-inch collector thence to a 3-inch system to the rear of the car. All fasteners are Grade 8 Gardner-Westcott stock. At the wheels, the 502 proofed 487 hp at 6,200 rpm and 509 lb-ft at 3,200 rpm. A 4L60E played by a TCI controller works with a lockup converter and a 2,500-stall speed. To keep it all copacetic Performance opted for a fluid cooler and a 3.5-inch diameter chrome-moly steel driveshaft from Vrn Welding & Fabrication in Lake Bluff, Illinois. The 9-inch axle was narrowed for the application, fitted with 3.73:1 gears, 31-spline axles, and a limited-slip differential.
Back in the Dark Ages, the ’55 was treated to a custom 2x4 rectangular frame, and along the way it acquired the full Heidts’ regalia: Superide front and four-link rear suspension modules, including the splined, adjustable, and huge 1.5-inch diameter front bar, single-adjustable QA1 coilover assemblies, and power rack steering. The 9-inch axle is supported by a triangulated four-link that dispenses with the Panhard bar altogether. QA1 single-adjustable coilovers bookend the product.
In the Pro Touring spirit, Jereb paid homage to dissipating energy with Wilwood six-piston calipers on 14-inch rotors at all points. Monstrous Mickey Sportsman S/R tires set the tone and nearly carry the form by themselves, but the many subtle body modifications were designed to make the car cohesive. The back hogs are 29x15R20LTs hanging out on 14-inch-wide Budnik Tiller 5s. Up front, the combo poses 18x9 rims and 26x10R meats.
Performance Restoration went full-tilt on the envelope, from the airbrushed ’56 side moldings to the candy, pearl, and pixie dust in the paint. Briefly, Performance rubbed the body smooth, shaved the door handles, flush-mounted the front turn signals using ’57 backup lights, removed all side molding, reworked the hood so that it opens back to front, installed a billet grille and custom taillights, reshaped the bumpers for tighter fit, smoothed the firewall and transmission tunnel, incorporated a gas-fill similar to the ’56 Chevy (hidden behind taillight), and handbuilt inner fenders and custom radiator shroud. Performance Restoration owner Brent Jarvis applied the custom mixed candy orange and pearls with pewter. All and all, a pyrotechnic display not easily dismissed from memory. chp
Another full-on transformation here, one that foils the extravagant exterior and becomes a phantom of the original, running its rudimentary but totally reformed lines. The entire project was underwritten with a Painless/custom wiring schematic. The sybarite in Jereb is salved by Pioneer audio, featuring hidden speakers and amps. Driving in the heat is debilitating, hence a Vintage Air HVAC system was installed. Jereb designed the gauge faces and Classic Instruments obliged. Classic also recreated the shift indicator/quadrant and built him a custom air/fuel mixture meter as well as a custom clock. Performance stretched the glovebox opening and welded up the dashboard seams. The car has an ididit steering column, Billet Specialties Edge wheel, shifter out of an ’07 Mustang GT, and leather and suede upholstery done by Vintage Stitch in Bristol, Wisconsin. Custom-built stuff includes the bucket seats and bench, console, door panels, headliner, waterfall console between the rear seats, and a big, clean trunk with minimal adornment.