When we first saw the Monroes’ ’55 sitting at A&E Motorsports in Santa Fe Springs, California, we were quick to snap shots of it. Few Tri-Five hot rods get the treatment this specimen received in just 18 months. That is, one where every nut and bolt was replaced with stainless steel and Grade 8 hardware, the frame was powdercoated, and many small details were added to make this car a stylish one. As a gift for his wife’s birthday, Bruce Monroe built this showstopper with the help from expert fabricator and friend Joe Walden, his brother Jeff, and Brandon Matrese. There’s no doubt this shoebox is a top-tier show car, but what’s cool is this car actually gets driven, despite being terribly clean inside and out. Forty years of experience building hot cars and fast boats out of Larry’s Garage in SoCal, Bruce is known for putting together some nice rides and adept car magazine readers may recognize his work, as he’s worked on several magazine projects over the years, including the CHP second-gen, F73 Camaro.
The blue gleam from the Steel Blue paint is deep, and the white tail end is a classic look that all car guys love, but what we think sets this car off are the billet Budnik wheels at each corner. Opening the hood reveals a custom painted engine bay and ZZ IV crate engine from Chevrolet Performance that is torquey enough that, with the help of a Richmond five-speed, gets the hefty hot rod moving in a hurry. A polished intake manifold, anodized washers and fittings, lightweight black and blue Aeroquip hoses instead of the overdone stainless braided hose, and a retrofitted air-conditioning system adds style and comfort to the combo. The interior, a leather/suede combination from Mark Lopez and Elegance Auto Interiors, is a mix of custom design and modern comforts, including a $5,000 stereo system that Bruce uses to bump classic tunes while cruising to various car shows. So far this ride has attended the Run to the Sun car show in Lake Havasu, California, which is one of the largest in the country, as well as Route 66 Rendezvous in San Bernardino, California.
The exterior, interior, and engine bay are all immaculate, but what the team is probably most proud of is the underside. Bruce’s fabricator, Waldon, custom-made the polished stainless steel exhaust system, which does a great job of quieting the V-8 to a healthy rumble. The traction bars on this car were also custom-made using some anodized blue beefy aluminum struts that car showgoers are constantly asking where Bruce bought them. An amalgam of polished stainless steel and aluminum and powdercoated components litter the underside, which is surprisingly clean despite being a cruiser.
Under the aero-emblem hood is a ZZ4 small-block crate engine that’s been customized aesthetically. Rated at 355 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque at a low 3,500 rpm means you can feel it pull early, yet is super reliable and the perfect amount of power for a comfy cruiser. A 10.1:1 compression ratio means Bruce can run California’s pump gas. A cast-iron four-bolt block contains the eight individual explosions. A forged-steel crankshaft throws around high-silicon aluminum pistons and pautered metal connecting rods. The heads are 58cc cylinder heads with 1.94-inch intake valves and 1.50-inch exhaust valves, and the camshaft is a hydraulic roller cam with 0.474-inch lift and 0.510-inch exhaust, with duration at 0.050 being 208, which makes for mild street manners when cruising. An aluminum dual-plane intake manifold topped by a Demon carb provides a nice torque curve, while an HEI distributor ignites the fires. Custom three-piece headers by fabricator Walden were built for the Monroes’ hot rod and coated by Jet-Hot to keep underhood temps down. A dual-pass Matson radiator and dial SPAL fans keep the whole combo nice and cool. Behind the GM crate engine is a Richmond five-speed transmission, and a Weber clutch and flywheel makes driving this machine a breeze, and behind that is a powdercoated 9-inch rearend with 35-spline axles and Positraction unit.
Wheels & Brakes
We thought the billet aluminum Budnik wheels on this ride really set it off and do a good job of complementing the paint scheme. They measure 17 inches in diameter, which is enough to house large Wilwood discs at each corner. The tires on the 210 are Nitto’s NT450 model and measure 255R50-17 in the front and the wider 275R50-17 sizes in the rear.
Peering under the car reveals the true quality of this build. A polished stainless exhaust system was handmade at Bruce’s shop in Santa Fe Springs, California, while all the load-bearing bolts were replaced with Grade 8 hardware. The leaf springs were custom installed into the chassis and custom-made traction bars are bolted under a narrowed 9-inch rearend. Fox shocks in the rear and QA1 adjustable shocks in the front of the 210 dampen road harmonics, while custom sway bars keep body roll to a minimum.
Mark Lopez at Elegance Auto Interiors in Upland, California, masterfully crafted the suede and leather interior, and it is a good mix of retro and modern styling. A slew of Auto Meter gauges are positioned in the billet dash and stereo controls were set up and hidden in the stock glovebox by Audio Shoppe in Riverside, California. A total of six speakers are positioned in the interior and two 10-inch subwoofers are in place as well. Billet aluminum pedals and door handles also add to the interior’s features, while the classic Hurst shifter ties the cockpit together nicely.