’55 Chevy Wins Battle Of The Builders At SEMA Show

Every year when the SEMA show concludes, one car is crowned king. The challengers all gather for the Battle of the Builders competition, but only one can be pronounced the winner. This year, the Chevy faithful should be proud to hear that Robert Matranga’s ’55 Chevy was crowned as the winner.

This show-stopping Tri-Five, aptly named ‘Brute Force’, beat out more than 240 other gorgeous rides in the competition that was the talk of the SEMA Show. There is no doubting the win, as every part of Brute Force has been scratch-built or heavily modified with many subtle details and just as many not-so-subtle details.

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The interior is a work of art that also delivers function.

New front fenders were “tweaked” to give a gentle slope toward the front of the car. This design element brings the nose of the car lower. The reverse-opening hood was also reimagined to follow the shape of the fenders. One of the subtle touches I mentioned includes a hood peak that blends into the body reveal on the cowl.

Positioned under the hood is a custom grille machined from a single chunk of aluminum, a flipped and reshaped bumper, and scaled-down turn-signal lights. Did you notice the custom headlight bezels and the one-off etched projector lamps?

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Hidden under all that shiny aluminum is 540 inches of tire melting big block.

Not only was the front massaged, but the wheel openings were resized, and the front fenders’ character lines have been extended into the doors. To smooth the car’s appearance, the drip rails have been removed, and the top was chopped an ever-so-slight 3/4-inch. In 1955, the driver’s side taillight swung out to reveal the fuel filler. On Matranga’s car, both taillights reveal a hidden surprise.

As the factory designed, the left opens to give access to the fuel filler, but a surprise awaits as the right reveals a battery disconnect switch. Finally, The rear bumper has been flipped, tucked, and modified, much like the front has. The body received countless other modifications, and the sheet metal was eventually treated to a custom hue of Brute Force Blue applied by Mick’s Paint.

Under the showy appearance is a modified Art Morrison frame outfitted with coilovers and an IRS designed by Chris Brown and Kugel Components. Upfront, one-piece suspension uprights incorporate integral caliper mounts and custom stainless-steel brake rotors that feel the squeeze of Wilwood calipers. Chris Brown designed the 18×7- and 20×10-inch wheels that are finished in a Brushed Bronze hue with a red pinstripe.

If you think the exterior is a work of art, take a look inside. A custom dash wraps around and actually flows into the doors. The driver is given all vital information via a set of Classic Instruments gauges, and Vintage Air makes this cool ride ice cold. The steering wheel is a custom piece built by EVOD and features a horn ring, integrated wireless paddle shifters, and a 3/4 leather-wrap grip.

A pair of seats were glommed from a Chrysler Sebring convertible because of the integrated seat belts. But you don’t think they remained stock, do you? Of course not. They were cut down and fitted with custom headrests and accented with hand-made aluminum trim. Gabe’s Custom Interiors used multiple custom-dyed leather hides to cover the seats and door panels. The custom-built floors were also upholstered in leather, as was the center console, which also houses a custom shifter and an integrated iPad to control the A/C, stereo, navigation, windows, and other accessories.

When it came to naming Matranga’s ’55 Chevy, Brute Force came to mind when the engine was built. Under the hood is a Mike LeFever-built 540 cubic-inch behemoth. This is no run-of-the-mill big block. Up top is a pair of Arias Hemi-style cylinder heads and a Hogan sheetmetal intake. A pair of Garrett turbochargers feed all 1,400 horsepower. However, Robert realizes that much power wasn’t actually needed, so, in the name of reliability and drivability, the mill has been detuned to deliver roughly 800 horsepower.

Robert’s ’55 Chevy is one Tri-Five that can stand out in any crowd as evidenced by the SEMA win. That’s no easy feat for any hot rod builder, and Matranga’s car does it with a healthy dose of Brute Force.

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About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
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