November 2016
Feature Car

Duffy & Tina Oyster
1955 Chevrolet Convertible
Dallas, Texas


It was a Saturday morning when my cell phone rang and I heard the distinctive voice of my friend Roland on the other line.  He was at a garage sale on Royal lane less than a mile from my house.  He was telling me about a few of the bargains he had found and then mentioned casually that there was a rough looking 1955 Bel Air convertible in the garage of the house and that the owner wanted to sell it.

I threw on my shorts and drove over there as fast as I could drive. Sure enough among all of the junk was the convertible.  It had boxes stacked 3 high on the hood and trunk, had dust an inch thick on the paint, had fluid leaking on the floor and had 4 flat tires.  It was two toned gypsy red and shoreline beige with a tan convertible top.

I spoke to the owner who stated he had driven it into the garage 7 years before and parked it there.  He had not started or driven the car since.  Upon closer inspection, the body looked straight and the interior, although filthy, was in good shape.  Expecting the worse (engine work, transmission work, paint, tires etc--I made him an offer of $30,000.  I figured it would take me another $15,000 to get the car up to driving standards.  He accepted my offer rather quickly which made me think I may have done a little better on the price but we were both happy.

The following Monday I sent a flatbed truck over to pick it up so I could start work on it.  I took the spare tires and front tires from two of my other cars, and proceeded to put them on my "garage find".  After removing what seemed to be a million boxes of junk off the car, in front of the car and in back of the car it was ready to go to its new home.

The first thing I did when arriving home was to clean up the outside and inside of the car--surprisingly I found the paint, interior and top were in excellent condition.  Further inspection revealed the car had no rust whatsoever on any of the body panels or belly pans.  The trunk and engine compartment were also clean.  Now I was feeling really good!

On to the mechanics--I went down to Wallace Wade tires and bought 4 new wide whitewall radial tires and put then on the original wheels. Next, before starting or turning over the car, I replaced the gas tank, fuel lines, fuel pump and had the carburetor rebuilt.  The spark plugs were all pulled out and I soaked the cylinders with oil.  I let it sit for a day and turned the motor over slowly by hand 1/2 turn before soaking it overnight again.  I drained the oil and transmission and filled with new fluids.  About a quart of the transmission fluid came slowly flowing out of the bottom of the transmission-rats!

Buying a new battery, I was now ready to try to start the car.  The original 265 engine had been replaced by a later model 283 with the carter 4 barrel power pack.

With fresh gas and a can of starting fluid, I shut my eyes and started cranking.  It fired right up and those horrible noises I expected to hear were not to be heard.  It ran smoothly and did not even smoke at all!  I put it in gear and drove the car around the block 10 times.  The transmission shifted smoothly with no slipping or clunking sounds, but it still was leaking.  The next day I drove the car to Denton and back to Dallas without a problem.  After a week of driving, the transmission stopped leaking and not sure exactly why (maybe seals softened up).

My total expenses to get the car running and looking good was only around $3500, a far cry from the $15,000 I expected to spend!

I drive all of my old cars everyday unless it is raining or snowing, so this car is real reliable ride that I enjoy cruising around.  Convertibles are my favorite cars and I leave the top down and only put it up once a year to stretch the top back out.

Hopefully one of these days I will spot another "Garage Find"!

Duffy Oyster