My Name Is Earl

Eric Mead’s 1955 Chevy 210

By Shawn Brereton   –   Photography by the Author

Cars might be the most sentimental thing we can possess. Sure, a house has some legitimacy to taking that title, but a home is an inanimate object and you can’t take it with you. You can possess either one and have memorable experiences in either but only a vehicle can take you places while doing it. Seeing a particular type of vehicle can quickly transform you into a specific place or time in your life.

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Eric Mead, of Evansville, Indiana, is one of the lucky few who owns a vehicle that transports him somewhere else every time he steps in it. To him, it is a family heirloom—a legacy—that he can show to everyone. The car is a ’55 Chevy 210 sedan. When he sees it, he is returned to his Grandpa Earl’s house, where Earl promised an 8-year-old Eric that the ’55 would someday be his.

004 Custom Rear End 1955 chevy restomod

Earl was a carpenter by trade. He took possession of the ’55 in 1973 in exchange for some work he did for a customer. His grandson didn’t come along until 1979, so Eric never saw the ’55 running. Instead, it sat in a field along a fence row during his entire childhood. However, he did get to play in it and fell in love with it.

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009 Custom Grille 1955 chevy restomod

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Eric was hooked on cars from an early age. He spent every Saturday night from April to October with his father, Steve, and his father’s buddies at the local dragstrip. Steve had a ’69 Camaro, his buddy had a black ’55 Chevy, which is why a young Eric coveted Grandpa Earl’s ’55 so much. He was such a little gearhead that he knew 18436572 by age 6.

It took a while until Eric took possession, but Earl was true to his word, willing the ’55 210 to Eric upon his death in 1990. Many projects came and went as the ’55 waited its turn. The car was complete and mostly solid, but it needed a lot of work. Eric and Steve wanted this build to be special, so it took until 2016 to get Eric’s dream car rolling.

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020 Custom Shifter 1955 chevy restomod

During the teardown, they found Earl had never registered the car after discovering the previous owner’s bill of sale in the glovebox. He paid $200 in 1972! The two got to work ordering parts as the teardown continued. They knew the importance of a sound foundation and turned to the Roadster Shop for a SPEC chassis and started bolting on parts from there.

022 Custom 5 Spoke Wheel 1955 chevy restomod

Coming from a drag racing background, they went to Strange Engineering for a number of parts. A Strange Ford 9-inch rearend with a 3.70:1 gears, Truetrac differential, and 35-spline axles hang via a four-link and Panhard bar setup. Strange single-adjustable coilovers sit at all four corners, as do four-piston caliper Baer brakes fed by a Remaster master cylinder. Eric found Bogart Racing D-5 wheels perfectly fit the look he was after with 17×4.5s on the front and 15x10s on the rear, all wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber (26x6R17 Sportsman S/R front, 295/55R15 ET Street S/S rear).

011 Fully Built LS 1955 chevy restomod

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Eric chose a 376ci LS3 from BluePrint Engines, making a healthy 530 hp and 508 lb-ft of torque. To keep things tidy in the engine bay, he went with a Holley mid-mount setup for the accessories and a PRC aluminum radiator and core support. The Church Boys Racing by Stainless Works headers with 1.75-inch primaries and 3-inch collectors, dump into stainless 2.5-inch Dave Favor’s Performance Exhaust and MagnaFlow mufflers. A GM 4L80E outfitted with a TransGo valvebody kit from Wathen’s Transmission in Owensboro, Kentucky, receives the power through an FTI billet converter before transferring it to a Driveline Plus driveshaft.

003 Custom Silver 1955 chevy restomod

With the chassis now in roller form, Eric delivered the car to Reisinger Custom Rebuilding to give the body some attention. He installed new floors, hung new fenders, and got the body ready for paint before sending the ’55 back to the Meads. Realizing the timetable was stretching and that his standards were higher than his skills allowed, Eric started looking for a reputable shop to finish the build. On a trip to the Tri-Five Nationals in 2021, they met Andy and Amanda Meadows of Andy’s Hot Rod Shop in Mulkeytown, Illinois, and knew they found their shop.

After discussing what was left to do, Andy promised the Meads that if they entrusted him to finish the ’55, it would not only be at the 2022 event but would also be featured in his booth. Andy’s Hot Rod Shop received the car essentially as a rolling shell with all the parts to finish it. Andy and his crew had their work cut out for them, but he’s no stranger to Tri-Fives as he has one of his own.

010 Custom Exhaust 1955 chevy restomod

Andy attacked the wiring first, using an American Autowire chassis harness to talk to the E38 Engine PCM. Next was finishing the bodywork to ready the car for paint. Andy’s go-to painter didn’t have room in the time frame Andy needed to finish the car, so he bribed a primarily Mopar guy to paint a Chevy. Luckily, James Smith, of Road Runner Restorations in Johnston City, Illinois, didn’t paint it Plum Crazy Purple! Instead, it was Sateen Silver and white.

015 Custom Interior 1955 chevy restomod

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When it returned from paint, Andy and crew got back to work installing the Auto City Glass and many Danchuk parts to the exterior before it was shipped off to Holtsclaw Custom Upholstery in Francisco, Indiana, to install the Cars Inc. black carpet and black-and-white vinyl Delray interior. Upon its second return, the race was on for Andy’s Hot Rod Shop to button up the build before the Tri-Five Nats. An Eddie Motorsports steering wheel was affixed to the Summit Racing steering column and a Dakota Digital VHX gauge panel resides behind. The last step was to charge the Vintage Air system for those hot August dates for the Tri-Five Nats.

017 Custom Glove Box 1955 chevy restomod

Eric says the most memorable experience through the entire process was hearing Earl’s ’55 fire up for the first time in nearly 50 years at Andy’s shop on July 2, 2022. There were still details to be completed, so Andy sent them home and told him he would see them (as promised) at their trailer in the vendor area in Bowling Green a month later. True to their word, Andy’s Hot Rod Shop had Grandpa Earl’s ’55 sitting there front and center when the Meads arrived.

019 Custom Gauge Cluster 1955 chevy restomod

It was an emotional reunion for Eric and Steve to be able to hop in and drive Earl’s old Chevy around. They are so grateful to Andy, Amanda, and the crew back in Mulkeytown. Eric wanted to find a shop to get the car done so he and his father could enjoy the car longer. He never thought he would make new friends out of the deal. Now the Meads are racking up the miles, going to shows, and loving every minute. We’re sure Earl is proud of the legacy he left behind.

006 Passenger Side View 1955 chevy restomod

TECH CHECK
Owner: Eric Mead, Evansville, Indiana
Vehicle: ’55 Chevrolet 210

Engine
Type: BluePrint Engines Chevrolet LS3
Displacement: 376 ci
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Bore: 4.070 inches
Stroke: 3.622 inches
Cylinder Heads: BluePrint Engines aluminum
Camshaft: BluePrint Engines hydraulic roller (0.612/0.585-inch lift, 225/238 deg. duration)
Ignition: E38 Engine PCM
Assembly: BluePrint Engines
Exhaust: Church Boys Racing by Stainless Works 1-7/8-inch primaries to 3-inch collector and 2.5-inch stainless pipes bent by Dave Favor’s Performance Exhaust, MagnaFlow Mufflers
Ancillaries: Holley mid-mount accessory drive, PRC radiator and core support, SPAL Fans
Output: 530 hp at 6,100 rpm, 508 lb-ft at 5,200 rpm

Drivetrain
Transmission: ’99 GM 4L80E Automatic with TransGo valvebody kit prepared by Wathen’s Transmission (Owensboro, KY)
Torque Converter: FTI Billet 3,200 stall
Driveshaft: Driveline Plus
Rear Axle: Strange Engineering 9-inch with Truetrac differential, 3.70 gears, 35-spline axles

Chassis
Chassis: Roadster Shop SPEC
Front Suspension: Strange single-adjustable coilovers, stabilizer bar
Rear Suspension: Strange single-adjustable coilovers, parallel four-link, Panhard bar
Brakes: Baer four-wheel disc, 12-inch front rotors with four-piston calipers, 11-inch rear rotors with four-piston calipers, Baer Remaster master cylinder

Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Bogart Racing Wheels D-5; 17×4.5 front with 2.25-inch backspace, 15×10 rear with 5.5-inch backspace
Tires: Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R front, 26×6.00R17; Mickey Thompson ET Street S/S rear, 295/55R15

Interior
Upholstery: Holtsclaw Custom Upholstery (Francisco, IN)
Carpet: Cars Inc. black loop carpet
Seats: Original bench seat with black-and-white vinyl Delray pattern
Steering: Summit steering column with Eddie Motorsports steering wheel
Shifter: Lokar
Dash: Original
Instrumentation: Dakota Digital VHX
HVAC: Vintage Air
Wiring: American Autowire by Andy’s Hot Rod Shop (Mulkeytown, IL)

Exterior
Bodywork and Paint: Reisinger Custom Rebuilding (Evansville, IN) and Andy’s Hot Rod Shop
Paint: Sateen Silver/white by James Smith of Road Runner Restorations (Johnston City, IL)
Hood: Stock
Grille: Danchuk
Bumpers: Danchuk
Glass: Auto City Classics
Fuel Tank: 15.5-gallon Tanks Inc. galvanized powedercoated silver

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of My Name is Earl.

acp oct 2023

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