posted at the Cohort by William Rubano
If it weren’t for those pesky newer cars in the background, this could have been shot in 1968. Or 1978. Or 1988. Or 1998. Or…2018. Period correct, right down to the gray primer. A true timeless classic.
It was a running joke between me and my high school buddy when we spotted any car with primer on it to say, “He’s workin’ on it.”
I honestly can’t remember seeing any Tri-five Chevys in our late-1970s high school parking lot, although there were definitely a number of mid-60s and up cars (ten year-old beaters).
“I honestly can’t remember seeing any Tri-five Chevys in our late-1970s high school parking lot”
Yes, by that time the high school crowd had moved on to Chevelles, Camaros and the occasional Impala – all with the same wheels, primer and stance.
Seconded, as I graduated in 1980 and there were 0 tri-fives in the parking lots, and I know these models very well. I remember them being used by hot-rodders and even more so by stock car racers, as they were the cheaper class for running circle tracks. The locals tracks called the class Early Model (as opposed to Late Model) and these were almost filling the entire field on any Saturday night. In the high school lots, we did see plenty of mid-60s cars, and I remember having a 1965 Belvedere that I learned to drive in, along with a 1969 Caprice that was my ride through my senior year. Ten year old cars were considered old, and a twenty year old car would have been incredibly noticed, but not in a good way. More than likely, you saw a lot of former-parents cars that got held instead of traded in on a new car, so 5 year old models were more common.
When I graduated from HS in 1991 in South Florida I thought it was logical given the fact it’s hot 95% of the year and no salt on the roads ever in WPB to assume there would’ve been a few kids driving a hot-rod ’50s Chevy in to the gymnasium parking lot. All the students had to park there and the lot was full up with cars . . . but, no. Scads of late-model used cars infested the lot but no work-in-progress old Chevys or any other classic-type cars of the ’50s, ’60s or ’70s. It was a real auto wasteland. (I had the only old car on the lot and a ‘hot rod’ it was not).
Our JOHN I. LEONARD HS yearbook had a ‘Best Car’ category for the ‘Senior Superlatives’ the year I graduated. I didn’t know that particular ‘Superlative’ was in there until I got the book and looked through it. Shame there wasn’t a ‘Slowest Car’ senior superlative . . . I’d have won that for sure.
I didn’t exactly say it would be common on high school lots in the 70s. But they were around.
Yeah, I really didn’t mean it that way, either – was mainly just sharing the observation. Funny thing is that I remember playing in a tri-five that was up on blocks in a neighbor kid’s back yard (“project car!”) when I was maybe eight or nine years old. It would have been a 13-15 year-old car at that point.
Remove the bright side trim and the window stickers and you’d have the car featured in the 1971 cult classic film, Two Lane Blacktop.
My thought too. I thought this was a tribute car
Close. The feature car is a ’56. The TLB car was a ’55.
The TLB ’55 would later reappear in American Graffiti, sans big hood scoop and tilt front end. It would get a smaller scoop, standard doghouse, shiny black paint, and period-correct chrome reverse wheels.
Are you sure about that? The side trim is definitely ’55. The ’56 had curved rear trim on the 210 and no rear fender trim at all on the bottom rung 150.
I agree, the subject car is a 55. It looks like a 210 that had the rear quarter bright trim, but none on the front fenders that came on the Bel Air. I think the 55 made the 210 look relatively upscale with the upgrade to the more expensive Bel Air not all that noticeable – a mistake Chevy would not repeat in 56-57. 🙂
Note the corrugated shiny bit at the rear of the strip- used to cover the paint transition on 2-tone.
Yes, this is a 1955 model.
No Nomads have given up their wheel arches for the featured car.
I graduated in ‘73 and I don’t recall anything older than ten years, except for one kid’s XK140 Jag.
I’m with Ed on this. I was in high school in the late ’70s also. It was common to see cars up to ten years old (hand-me-downs from Mom or Dad) but not twenty year old cars. Automobiles just did not stay roadworthy that long without some serious maintenance. Auto shop in my school had already been scrapped by that time. Most kids just wanted a dependable way to get around.
For the life of me I also don’t get this matte finish fad on even expensive cars. It doesn’t look “cool” or “tough” to me. To my mind it just says “unfinished” and a car in primer in my high school parking lot shouted that the owner did not have the wherewithal to get the car properly painted.
I agree. It is up there with those tow hooks in the bumper of the tuner crowd. They think it looks cool and JDM but to me it looks they don’t trust that their shit will not break down and will always need a tow. Tow hooks are for two things, the original transport of said vehicle to a dealership from the factory and for when the dang thing breaks down.
I really do not get the adulation of the tri five Chevrolets. I owned a fifty five and a fifty seven a long time ago. They were both just cars. Nothing special about them. I much more enjoyed the Corvairs that I later owned. They were more fun to drive and less trouble to keep running. And any modern car is at least a thousand times better than those cars. I just have no nostalgia for a time I remember clearly and it was not that great.
“They were both just cars.”
As opposed to repair-prone rust-buckets that ’57 Fords and Plymouths became. Which is why the Chevys that were “just cars” came out way on top.
I remember a fair number of tri-5s on the road in the 1970s, and even ride in one as a child. It was pretty used up. Seemed old, but not in a good way. The hot rodders of the day sure loved them, though.
While it’s true that you didn’t see any ’57 Fords or Plymouths left on the roads of Ohio by then, I was really surprised to see a number of late 50s Plymouths on the roads of Bogota, Colombia in 1991. Body rot was not a problem there, and the base 6-cyl drivetrain was rugged and easy to repair. Many parts were hard to get, though, and most of them had their independent front suspensions replaced with cart springs and solid axles. Even today, they would not be an obstruction in traffic there due to the 50mph national speed limit. I think it was the high price of fuel that eventually forced them off the road.
A big reason for the popularity of the Shoebox Chevy is purely economic; the proliferation and access to plentiful SBC parts made them simply the cheapest way for anyone to go fast. The styling isn’t bad, either, certainly better than what was to come in the next few years but, frankly, that seems like a secondary consideration.
In Australia they were just cars. We only got them with six with manual until 1960, and the middle trim level, and only in four-door sedan form. Absolutely nothing to get excited about – the good stuff was all back in the US.
It was the Ford Customline that had the image here back then – definitely no six, and an automatic option in a country where that was rare.
One of my more incoherent and unintelligible postings here.
I was … trying … to express approval and agreement with Paul’s first paragraph.
The gray reminds me… a few days ago I was surprised by a ’53 Cheviac. At first I thought it was just a Chevy four-door, but as it passed I saw the Silver Streaks on the trunk and the arch-shaped thing under the Silver Streaks. It was repainted in gray primer but otherwise looked original. Haven’t seen a Cheviac since 1968 when I lived in Ohio.
(Given GM’s tendencies, I’m sure the arch-shaped thing also had a trademarked name.)
Wanting to own a vintage car is more about wanting to recreate or remember a specific time in the owner’s life. Not to recreate the experience of driving the car. Tri Five Chevies have been popular since they were new cars. They have been relevant as each decade passed and continue until Today. Some will remember them as the first new car a young couple bought. The first used car bought by a young person with their first good job. Some will remember them as their car during high school, college, their first hot rodded car, their first “nostalgic” collector car etc. If I want a 1977 Coupe de Ville it’s because it was the car I bought after graduating college and the one I was driving when I met my Wife. Not because it is the greatest Cadillac ever, (although it was pretty good!)
Generally as transportation, or as a performance machine, the experience will be a disappointment for most. Most old cars did not drive all that well. Old Mustangs are pretty awful cars, though lots of people like them, myself included! Besides, where else can you find a time machine?
Best color for 55s, by far. Just needs a solid front axle and it would be perfection!
I grew up with an affection for Tri-Fives that continues to the present. Fortunately, the timeless styling was matched by great engineering, space utilization and build quality for its day. And they were built in massive numbers.
Hence they make ideal builders today. And you can build one to drive like a Corvette if you wish. The handling, braking and power of a C-4 or C-5 can be had, creating a “best of both worlds” experience.
The taillights of the 55 Chevy were one of the first “old car” taillights that really impressed themselves on my brain. These were 7-10 year old cars by the time I was paying attention, but they were still common enough that I came to be able to recognize them right away.
The 2 door post sedan roofline and glass was and still is one of the best greenhouse designs ever!
I’d say Tri-5’s were cheaper primer mobiles/teen hot rods/beaters from 1965-78. By the 80’s, they started escalating in value, and the ‘beaters’ got parted out for restorations and pricier projects.
I’ve never owned or driven a Tri-Five Chevy, but do like them. I used to be a ‘57 or nothing kind of a guy, though.
Partly due to my CC addiction, I’ve come to appreciate the 55 and 56 a lot more in recent years. These debuted over 5 years before I was born, but I can see what a big deal they were at the time. Goodbye stodgy looks and hello, hot new V-8… what’s not to like?
I’d gladly make room in my lottery garage for a nice one. I’d be a toss up between a ‘55 and a ‘57, I think.
I had three between ’70-’72 in my last year in high school and my first years of college. Both ’56’s were “hot rods” with a 327 in them-frankly they were sort of rat rods, and the ’57 was a stock ’57 Bel-Air with a power pack 283 and Powerglide. Got a ’56 Corvette in ’72 and that was it for Tri-Fives.
Someone needs to photoshop those newer cars out of the pic and replace them with maybe a Pinto or something… in the ’80’s my Chevelle served as the primered throwback machine.
I have to admit that the Tri-five does nothing for me. When I was growing up in the 1980’s there still were a bunch around and to my 8-10 year old self, they looked like an old car. Now at age 41, they look like an even older car. I would rather have a 1961-1969 Lincoln Continental
Seems that the photo is more recent. If I remember correctly, the facade of 631 Tire & Wheel dates from from the mid 2000’s. Hoffman Ave. Lindenhurst, NY.
Paul – There was an upper classman at Loyola High School in ’68-’69 who had a meta-flake green ’55 two door coupe, probably a 210, I think the trim was removed. This may have been before you attended school there. It had extended shackles on the rear springs and I believe American Torque Thrust wheels. I got a ride in it once when hitch-hiking on Charles Street; shocked at how roomy the back seat was!
I don’t recall seeing the car after the Spring of ’69 so I don’t know if the owner graduated or got rid of it and unfortunately never knew the owners name.
’68-’69? You sure about that? I was there from ’67-’69, and do not remember such a car. There was a very stock ’56 four door, that a kid drove every day (with several other riders) from quite a distance, somewhere on the south side of Baltimore. It was obviously a hand-me down.
But this sounds very different indeed. Maybe ’69-’70?
I’m Paul’s age, and so got out of HS in 1971 (suburban Cleveland, so salty winters). What everyone says above about “ten years old” really hits home. I can remember lots of cars in the school lot back to ’61 Fords and Chevys, and the very rare ’60 or ’59 Chevys. A buddy reported his widow-neighbor was letting go of a ’55/’56 Chevy, still in solid running condition, and the fact that I even remember it reminds me how striking it was to have a 15-year-old DD kind of car.
But I saw the Tri-Five cars everywhere in Hot Rod and such, and then “American Graffiti” came out in ’73, and it really seemed to jump-start the Tri-Five ardor in my neck of the woods, with several guys making great efforts to go to TX or CA or thereabouts to buy a non-rusty one to bring back to flyover territory.
BTW, I remember when cast wheels (“mags”) were a special thing; I couldn’t have seen that, 50 years later, only a cheap/fleet/rental car would have black-painted steelies and wheel covers.
As a high school grad of the class of ’73; I can recall seeing only one or two ’55 Chevys in the parking lot. In this time period, a Tri-Five Chevy was “just an old car” to most of my high school Junior and Senior students; too much of an ancient “Grandpa’s car” to have any social click status.
Most cars were American models from the early/mid/late 1960’s; often Mom and Dad hand me downs.
There was a disproportionate amount of VW bugs; often bleating thru owner loosely installed, leaky EMPI exhaust systems.
I lost count of all the ’64-68 full sized Chevies and Plymouths in the lot.
An occasional clapped out, rear end jacked up first gen Mustang.
My ’67 Corvair Monza was the only LM Corvair that I can recall in the lot. I used to amuse myself by opening the front luggage compartment trunk and exclaiming to a group of oblivious students: “HEY! What happened to my engine!”
I graduated HS in ’71, Redondo Beach, CA. I just dont remember seeing any tri-five Chevies. We mostly drove compacts or imports, Japanese bikes and a few Mustangs, all around five years old. Beach culture was different than the hot-rod kids just a few miles inland. The fastest car I remember was an ex-CHP ’67 Polara.
I did like tri-five Chevies, especially Nomads, from the time I noticed cars at a very young age, but didnt buy one until I had a house with a place to work on a project car. My ’57 was a very stock one that got me lots of complements, but drove like any other Chevy belonging to my dad or grandpa over the years.
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