I grew up in North Dallas at the intersection of Forest Lane and Greenville Ave. I was the oldest of four boys. (no stinkin' girls!) My dad had a good knowledge of cars which I guess is where I got the car thing from. My uncle bought the ’55 from the original owners who purchased it new from Mohr Chevrolet in Dallas. I still have the chrome dealer plate. Well as time went by, the car eventually needed a valve job and my uncle was not good with cars. So my dad stepped in and traded my uncle a ‘66 Chevy wagon for the ‘55 and $500.
The first mechanic job I can remember doing was pulling the head of the 235 straight six and taking it to City Motors for freshening. We then rebuilt the wheel cylinders and brakes, put a new exhaust with a single cherry bomb on it and then took it to be painted at Earl Shieb's. It was originally a dark green/light green two tone paint scheme. We painted it all white and put brown vinyl over the green seats. It still had the big steering wheel and the three on the tree.
My mom drove it for a couple of years. She used to take us to our soccer games at Richland College or Fritz Park. All our games where at different times, so the rule was to either come watch your brother play or wait at the car. Well.. we decided to wait ON the car, with our cleats! I can remember climbing on the roof to get up high and find her off in the distance. I can still hear the engine hood go "fa fump" after we got off of it. We would chase each other all over that car. I am sure people driving by just shook their heads when they saw what we were playing on.
I started driving the car when I was 14. By the time I took my driving test I could parallel park it and drive it backwards as good as I could drive it forwards. I took my driving test and when I finished the trooper said the only mark against me was that I didn't down shift coming to a stop. Who knew..I did that on my motorcycle but not in my Chevy.
Then I started driving it to school. I used to have to park it on a hill so I could push start it (the starter was bad). I took it to Grapevine Lake once and the wiring harness shorted on the firewall hole and I had white smoke everywhere. I found some old speaker wire in the road and re-wired it on the spot to get home.
I graduated from Lake Highlands High School in 1980. I went right to work for a mechanic in South Dallas called Lopez Automotive. It was a favor my dad called in for me. I had a gift to tear down and fix most anything. It was that fall that my dad bought me the V8 motor. He had seen a ‘56 Chevy truck body and the man selling it told him he had a motor for it that had just been rebuilt. My dad bought the motor and brought it to the garage. We set the Chevy up in the back and he and I worked on it for a week. Finally it was ready to fire up and when we did a thick blue smoke came pouring out. This motor was actually the one the seller had taken out of his 1970 Chevrolet truck. So we pulled it out and the rebuild began.
I had it bored .30 and went back with TRW forged crank and pistons at 9.5:1 stock compression. I didn't want it to ping. I milled the heads .10 and put an Edelbrock Performer intake on it with a Holly 600. I used an Accel dual point distributor along with 1957 "ram horn" manifolds, high volume fuel and oil pump and the original 2 core radiator along with the 3 speed transmission.
Then on New Years Eve night 1980 I painted it candy apple red over silver lacquer. Since I had taken a hack saw to the rear fender wells and pulled out the lip of the opening I decided I wasn't going back original. I had decided to put a "pop top" in it. The owner of the body shop, Big Simon, said "come back to the back and I will show you something". My father and I went to the back and under a tarp was the back half of a 1974 Lincoln Continental with an electric moon roof. $600 later the moon roof was in my car with a button on the dash! I have not seen another 1955 Chevrolet with an electric moon roof yet. The paint job came out great and the car glowed. When it was finished I took the car and my girlfriend to White Rock Lake for a cruise. I had just hit the road along the lake when I guy ran out into the road waving me to stop. He pulled out a tripod in the street and put his camera on it and took some pictures. He told me he was with the UNT paper doing a story on "Cruising White Rock". It was so cool! I had a friend who was riding his bike on the other side of the lake and he said that he could see my car's paint job and knew it was me so he rode over.
Well I made it to the next summer and I had to replace the clutch. So I put an 11 inch Zoom. I had to drive on Central expressway to and from work, so I had the strongest left leg in town. By now three of the four boys where driving and I came home one day and the drive way was full. So I parked out in the street...across the street to be safe. Well I jumped in the pool and next thing I remember was the phone in my room ringing. I picked it up and it was my mom..strange..she said "Philip...it's your car!" I threw the phone down and ran through the house dripping wet to find my car's rear end had been crushed. My brother was late for work and jumped in his 1956 Chevy 3/4 ton truck and threw that baby into reverse and pulled out of the driveway without looking. BAM! My mother told him to "Get out of here" and then when he was a safe distance away she called me.
I cooled off and ended up buying a ‘81 Chevy Silverado Truck. I had the body work on the ’55 Chevy done to fix the damage but with payments and higher full coverage insurance I couldn't raise the money to paint it. Well 9 years later my high school reunion was coming up and I convinced my wife to allow me to spend the money and have my cousin paint the car at his shop in Plano. It took him almost a whole year and he cut some rear fender wells out of a spare 1955 Chevrolet he had and we painted the car 1990 Corvette Red using Deltron and added a Violet Pearl in the clear coat. That is the paint job it has on it today. I have always been able to keep it in the garage but for the last year it has been outside. I bought a 2001 BMW 740IL to turn and sell and the transmission went out on me and I haven't had the money to get it fixed. Not a good situation.
Ruby still runs good but I would love to do a rebuild if I could. I have three teenagers and I have built two cars for two of them. The youngest loves the old cars. I am lucky to still have her and once she is cleaned up she looks good from 20 feet away or zooming down the road. I still get the "thumbs up" signs too. I love this car and it has always been my first love..but my wife Adelita is my inspiration. She is the reason why I didn't paint it midnight blue like I always wanted..but blood red.
I give praise to my God and use the car as a conversation piece and in ministry. With my church in Frisco we had a ministry called I55. Whoever invited the most kids to youth that week would win a ride in the ‘55 from school and a stop at Sonic on the way home. We would park in front of the school and roll out a red carpet and make a big scene, passing out cards and talking to kiddos while the 200 watt stereo was blasting. Great fun and we brought some kids to the Lord in the process. That I believe is why I still have the car and can share this testimony with others. Thank you and Peace to you and yours.
BACK TO FEATURE CARS