SWAPPING UP

1955 210 Handyman Upgrade With Roadster Shop SPEC Chassis

By Eric Geisert   –   Photography by the Author

If you ask Jeff Thisted if hot rods were meant to be driven, stand back. He’ll tell you about taking his Autumn Bronze metallic ’55 210 wagon (that he found on eBay) from California through Nevada to Bonneville, or how it’s been on the highest paved road in the U.S. (the Mount Evans Byway at 14,130 feet), or hanging outside Illinois’ Joliet State Prison (the one-time home to one of the Blues Brothers) with it, or cruising through the Eisenhower Tunnel in Colorado (the country’s highest tunnel), or driving over the Continental Divide, plus being behind the wheel of it at 12 different Goodguys shows, the C10 Nationals, and driving the Hot Rod Power Tour—twice!

- Advertisement -

That would be an impressive feat on any hot rodder’s résumé, but Thisted did all of this in just over five months, from June 2 to November 21, 2022, covering each of those 21,000 miles in his ’55 Chevy two-door wagon. Thisted bought his Tri-Five about 10 years ago and has been slowly building it into a reliable road-tripper, but as everyone knows, true hot rods are never really finished, so he’s been chipping away at it ever since. That is until the winter of 2022.

002 custom 27 gallon stainless steel gas tank
This RS SPEC chassis was ordered with a few upgrades, including the custom 27-gallon stainless steel gas tank, adjustable coilover shocks, the engine mounts installed, a powdercoated chassis, and more.

Pushing Fuel: Updating a Second-Gen Camaro Fuel System for LS Power           

Though his ride had previously been improved upon in just as many categories as you can think of (Classic Performance Products tubular A-arms, four-way Wilwood disc brakes, a performance small-block, American Racing wheels, sparkly Mooneyes steering wheel), Thisted decided after a decade in his favorite mode of transport it needed a major overhaul and upgrade with the addition of an optioned-out SPEC chassis from Roadster Shop. Add to that Thisted’s desire to run the Silver State Classic Challenge (where you can drive your car on a 90-mile section of closed Nevada road as fast as you can possibly go) meant getting serious about how his wagon was put together. In order to get the gearing right to achieve a high-speed run, Thisted figured he should add a Gear Vendors overdrive to his 408ci, Gearstar 4L80E engine-and-trans combo.

- Advertisement -
003 removal of the wagon’s nose section
The teardown began with the removal of the wagon’s nose section, wiring, bumper, grille, steering column, radiator, and so on.

Roadster Shop has supplied Tri-Five owners for years with four levels of chassis configurations (SPEC, REVO, Fast Track, and Ride Line), but for wagon owners they offer a Wagon Rear Rail Option that modifies the framerails for that particular body style. Thisted enlisted the help of the fabricators at Orange County Hotrods in Corona, California, to do the chassis swap, and here’s how they made it all work. You can see more of Thisted’s experiences with his ’55 wagon on both his YouTube channel and Instagram.

004 14 body mounting points on the ’55 Handyman
There are 14 body mounting points on the ’55 Handyman, with two found inboard near the driver/passenger trans tunnel.
005 mockup of the wagon’s drivetrain
Two tall guys, OCHR’s Nic Cantrell (left) and Kevin Hamusek, stand with the mockup of the wagon’s drivetrain—all 76 inches of it! The unusual length comes from the addition of a Gear Vendors overdrive off the back of the Gearstar trans.
006 starts the chassis modifications as to where and how the Gear Vendors overdrive will mount
Due to drivetrain’s added length, Cantrell starts the chassis modifications as to where and how the Gear Vendors overdrive will mount.
007 A portion of the overdrive looks like it’ll rub on the corner of the chassis’ mounting tab
Two areas of the chassis will need to be addressed because of the added overdrive. A portion of the overdrive looks like it’ll rub on the corner of the chassis’ mounting tab, and the forward section of the overdrive (normally in the correct spot to mount the trans’ tailshaft section) will have to be recut and moved to support the overdrive.

 

008 the forward section of the overdrive (normally in the correct spot to mount the trans’ tailshaft section) will have to be recut and moved to support the overdrive

009 repositioned the supplied RS trans mount so it’ll line up with the overdrive’s mount
Cantrell repositioned the supplied RS trans mount so it’ll line up with the overdrive’s mount, but that means the ends that fit to the chassis will have to be trimmed back a fair amount and new mounting holes drilled.
010 edge of the overdrive is too close for comfort
The edge of the overdrive is too close for comfort, so the mounting tab section will be ground down a bit.
011 Wagoneer and social media content provider Jeff Thisted
Wagoneer and social media content provider Jeff Thisted in the middle of telling the world via Instagram and his YouTube channel about the work going on with his Handyman at OCHR.
012 new Gearstar 4L80E trans
OCHR’s Aaron Hamusek (left), Keith Garcia, and Cantrell all lend a hand getting Thisted’s freshly cleaned, squeezed, and injected 408 engine, the new Gearstar 4L80E trans, and the Gear Vendors overdrive assembly into the RS SPEC chassis.
013 drivetrain looks like it belongs there but there are some possible tight fitment issues areas
The drivetrain looks like it belongs there, but there are some possible tight fitment issues areas.
014 With the chassis tabs ground back the overdrive now fits fine
With the chassis tabs ground back, the overdrive now fits fine.
015 headers clear the RS supplied engine mounts and are tight to the block
These headers clear the RS-supplied engine mounts and are tight to the block, but the wagon will be getting a new stainless exhaust soon and this area can be addressed.
016 fuel lines for the Holley injection system will neatly fit under the body when mounted
The large 1/2-inch fuel lines for the Holley injection system will neatly fit under the body when mounted. Where 3/8-inch would normally be used in this instance, 1/2-inch line was installed because future plans include the addition of a supercharger.
017 body mount bolt and washer kit has multiple washers that can be stacked or removed to help adjust the vehicle’s door gaps
The body mount bolt and washer kit has multiple washers that can be stacked or removed to help adjust the vehicle’s door gaps.
018 rectangular washer is only used under the firewall mount
A rectangular washer is only used under the firewall mount. All others get the round washers.
019 ’55 57 Chevy passenger car line utilizes these stubby mounts but are not used in bolting down the wagon body
The ’55-57 Chevy passenger car line utilizes these stubby mounts but are not used in bolting down the wagon body.
020 body is lowered onto the new chassis the work goes slow as there are many areas to check to see if something is clearing or binding
The first time the body is lowered onto the new chassis the work goes slow as there are many areas to check to see if something is clearing or binding.
021 no clearance problems with the Gear Vendors overdrive
There were no clearance problems with the Gear Vendors overdrive unit after its mount was modified.
022 there a ton of space around the transmission
Not only is there a ton of space around the transmission and the vehicle’s trans hump but also around the output U-joint.

 

- Advertisement -
023 little space between the gas tank’s filler tube and the body
There is little space between the gas tank’s filler tube and the body, so for peace of mind some may want to clearance the section of the body just above the filler’s location in this small space.
024 clearance between the chassis’ front crossmember and the 408
Look closely at the clearance between the chassis’ front crossmember and the 408’s oil pan—very tight.
025 stock gas tank used to be
The one area on the entire vehicle that must be modified is where the rear chassis crossmember (and upper shock mount) hits a factory brace located forward of where the stock gas tank used to be. This is not a body piece found on Tri-Five passenger cars.
026 see the factory brace which was spot welded in place at the factory
With the chassis pulled back out from under the body, you can easily see the factory brace, which was spot-welded in place at the factory.
027 drills out all the spot welds and then pops the brace off the body
Hamusek drills out all the spot welds and then pops the brace off the body.
028 fab’d up this floorpan section
To also take care of some butchered holes from previous owners, Cantrell fab’d up this floorpan section, adding a few raised sections for improved strength.
029 new floor piece welded in and covered with undercoating
With the new floor piece welded in and covered with undercoating, the body can again be set in place (this time without any restrictions) and be bolted down for good.
030 running a 3 inch exhaust system and crossover under the wagon
With the way the RS SPEC chassis is built there is no problem in running a 3-inch exhaust system and crossover under the wagon.
031 route the 3 inch exhaust between the body and the frame and out to the back of the car tight to the framerail
Because the size and location of the custom 27-gallon stainless steel gas tank RS provided, OCHR could now route the 3-inch exhaust between the body and the frame and out to the back of the car tight to the framerail.

Sources

Gear Vendors
(800) 999-9555
gearvendors.com

Gearstar
(330) 434-5216
gearstar.com

Orange County Hotrods
(714) 514-3887
orangecountyhotrods.com

Roadster Shop
(847) 949-7637
roadstershop.com

- Advertisement -

Related Articles

Search Our Site

More Chevy Performance

33rd Annual Cruisin’ Ocean City

Bowties by the Beach By Chuck Vranas   -   Images by...

This 1967 Camaro Blends Original Styling with Drag Car Performance

By Tommy Lee Byrd   -   Photography by the Author If...

The Latest in Alternators and What You Need to Know

By Jeff Smith   -   Photography by the Author and...

Pro Touring 1970 Chevy Chevelle

By Nick Licata   -   Photography by John Jackson Joe Rasnick...

1957 Chevy Bel Air LS Engine Install

By Ryan Manson   -   Photography by the Author If you're...

BBT Built 1969 Chevy Chevelle Pro Touring Restomod

By Nick Licata   -   Photography by John Jackson Fred Koss...
More Chevy Performance

Chevy Concepts – 1970 Chevelle Rendering

Artwork by Tavis Highlander   -   Instagram @tavishighlander   -   TavisHighlander.com  ...

How to Avoid Fuel Starvation Problems When Building High Horsepower LT1 Engines

By Jeff Huneycutt   -   Photography by the Author Critics have...

Fresh Fuel Delivery for a Crusty 1977 Nova

By Tommy Lee Byrd   -   Photography by the Author If...

Double Dose of 1969 COPO Camaros With Different Personalities

By Scotty Lachenauer   -   Photography by the Author We’ve all...

Suspension Upgrade: Aldan’s Coilover Kits for C2 and C3 Corvettes and Full-Size Chevys

By Ron Ceridono   -   Photography by the Author Hot rodders...

Totally Custom Pro Touring-Style 1967 Chevy Chevelle

By Nick Licata   -   Photography by John Jackson Growing up...