Sometimes when I am walking around a car show or cruise night, I find a car that requires — check that — demands, I devote my full attention to giving the car a thorough looking over. I enjoy looking at all cars, but sometimes I just have to take notice of the ones that really have the details considered. I’m talking about the little things that most would not even consider when building a hot rod. I’m not saying those cars are not nice, I’m just saying, it’s the small details that make some cars stand out in a sea of hot rods. Such is the case with Keith Lesko’s ’55 Chevy.
I found this unbelievably cool Tri-Five while perusing the 2020 NSRA Southeast Nats in Tampa, Florida. Talk about a sea of hot rods! However, what immediately grabbed my attention was the gloss Ruby Red and satin brown color combination. If Keith, or car builder, Zip Simons of Street Metal Concepts (SMC) had told me about the color combination before I saw it, I have no doubt that I would have had reservations. But when I see it in person, it looks phenomenal. Kudos to Zip and the guys at SMC in Sanford, Florida, for pulling it off. Zip did tell me the Ruby Red hue was applied before Kevin purchased the car and SMC was tasked with handling some minor bodywork and then the duo decided to simply add the matte brown.
“The project began after the car was purchased from a private collection,” Zip states. “It was a very high-end build, but the execution was definitely dated. The wheels, tires and all of the ’90s-era engine chrome was scrapped to make way for a more modern appearance.”
Go to any large car show, and you will find more than a few high-end cars that are built purely for show purposes. However, this is not only a car that can win almost any show it attends, this is a car that also has the ability to be driven like it a true hot rod should. Thanks to an Art Morrison Enterprises (AME) chassis, this impeccably built ’55 Chevy is built to be driven and to make that experience the best it can be.
The AME chassis features coilovers, and rack-and-pinion steering helps direct the nose while an AME four-link suspension is keeping the rear at the perfect ride height. A set of Hydroboost-assisted Wilwood binders are mounted on all four corners. There is no doubt the chassis package is more than capable of driving hard into the corners and stopping on command.
Since driving will be a big part of the lifestyle of this ’55 Chevy, passenger comfort is paramount. As I said, the car was ready for updating, so a complete TMI interior was stitched together using a distressed Buckskin Ultra Leather. Nobody likes to cruise without tunes, so a Retosound radio and Sony speakers deliver the clean sound needed to enhance the ride. Finally, keeping cool is surely a necessity, so Vintage Air makes it so inside the cockpit.
One of the great things about a ’55 Chevy is it doesn’t matter what engine is placed under the hood, it is going to look right at home. However, if a big block is filling the expanse openness between the inner fenders, that is a huge (no pun intended) bonus. When you open the hood of this hot rod, you are immediately greeted with 406 cubic inches of tire frying power. Remember, the car was “built” before Zip and the guys began the updates, so not much is known about the engine, except it delivers a 10.0:1 compression ratio, uses a COMP Cams hydraulic roller and Edelbrock heads. Perched atop those heads is an Edelbrock Pro-Flo 4 EFI system.
For years, a debate has raged among enthusiasts about manual transmissions versus automatic transmissions and which is better. Although there really is no incorrect answer, in the case of this ’55 Chevy, it’s all driver actuated. Keith is able to row his own gears via the floor spear poking through the console that is attached to the TREMEC TKO five-speed. Finally, a Currie-built 9-inch rear with a posi and 3.55 gears finishes the list of motivational parts.
As stated, this ’55 has no problem standing out in any gathering of hot rods, and Keith’s ride is proof positive that old hot rods never die. Luckily for this example, Keith and the guys at Street Metal Concepts had a plan to bring this once outdated street beast into the 21st century and create a car that has a timeless look and will surely be something that will continue the hot rod legacy for years to come.