Jeff Hess is a retired insurance man and a native of Long Island, N.Y. He’s been fooling around with old cars for 55 years. Personalized “rides” have been his passion since the ’50s. His first car was a custom ’56 Olds. His latest is a ’55 Chevy with the resto mod treatment. “Resto-mod” is a term for a car that has a blend of original-type restoration work and high-tech modifications.
Hess has always liked cars that were “tricked out” in the style of their own era. His Olds had “old skool” modifications that were popular back in the ’50s. It was nosed and decked, with Frenched-in parts. It was lowered to ride close to the ground like a lead sled and carried a continental tire kit. Other customizing included a hood scoop, dual spotlights, dual rear antenna and “steel-pack” mufflers. For an East Coast cruiser, it was a fairly radical machine.
Hess now lives in Woodland Hills, Calif. His wife teaches college and his two boys have grown. He thought it was the right time to re-enter the car hobby. As he did years ago, he picked a GM car with changes that fit its era. He purchased the ’55 Chevy from a Texas dealer and made a few modifications.[inpost_gallery post_id=19518 border=”solid 1px #f00c0c”]
The turn-key Corvette was built at Vestri Vette in Lake Elsinore, Calif. The build took 18 months. Tallnla Designs of Woodland Hills, Calif., did the basic restyling work Egleton’s Custom Paint of Huntington Beach did the body work and the paint squirting. The car’s interior redesign was handled by Fiber Tech, also of Huntington Beach.
Motivating Jeff’s ’55 Chevy is a 468-cid Chevy big-block V-8 with lots of chrome and billet accessories. The 700R4 automatic transmission directs power to a Ford 9-in. rear end with 3:42:1 gearing. The Chevy has a billet aluminum grille. The bumper is a smoothened ’55 Chevy unit with a smoothened ’55 Nomad rear bumper. The hood and deck lid are shaved. There is a Frenched-in radio antenna on the right rear fender. The outside mirrors were pirated from a ’78 ’Vette and the custom smoked taillight lenses are of a special smooth design.
The interior features front bucket seats and a console. Autometer gauges are fitted to the Chevy’s distinctive dash. The car has tinted power windows and electric door and trunk locks. A Genie shifter handles gear changes. A Vintage Air A/C system was added, along with a Be Cool radiator. The exhaust features dual Smitty’s glasspack mufflers exiting via a custom billet bracket at the rear. A custom coil-over suspension setup with dropped spindles up front is mated with a Wildwood brake system. Jeff has American Racing “Torque Thruster” wheels shod with Toyo Tires, size 18 x 7 in front and 18 x 10 at the rear.
Jeff says that while he loved his Olds custom back in the ’50s, he wanted his Chevy to be a “new school” custom rather than an “old school” rod. He thinks there’s room in today’s car hobby for every style of vintage car from stock to lead sled to Resto-Mod. His goal has always been to have the best ride he can build.