Most of us have our fathers to thank for introducing us to the hobby. Others have men who served as father-figures who did likewise. But the sentiment of passing the proverbial torch is what has kept this industry alive; a totem of tradition, a symbol of being connected to something special that predates our time. It’s a timeless connectivity that supersedes mortality. This is what draws people to devote their lives to studying history. Frankly put, connectivity with the past prepares you for the future.
It took Kevin Wallauer nearly a quarter of a century, but he finally found that connection.
Even as a seven-year-old, Kevin knew there was something to his father’s bright red Chevy. The shoebox ’55 stood high on thick-packed leaf springs, its exposed straight-axle front end didn’t help the wobbly mile-high ride. Tall “pie crust” cheater slicks spun in radiused wheelwells and white heat-coated fenderwell headers were visible a mile away.
The senior Wallauer regularly drove the gasser-style ’55 210 coupe, driving the family to local Southern Californian cruise-ins, car shows, and just around town. Young Kevin was never far behind, usually stowing away in the backseat. One particular family outing earned the clean ’55 a spot in a 1979 copy of Car Craft, but more important to young Kevin was that the seven-year-old’s face is clearly visible poking above the bench seat.
Lost in Time
Unfortunately, time and illness caused Kevin’s father to sell the red gasser in 1983 to a friend, ending a 13-year-long love affair. As time passed, the friend found the gasser to be more than he could or was willing to handle on the street and sold it to a third party. From that point, the gasser fell off the face of the earth. It was around this time that a now adult Kevin Wallauer – with a family of his own – started wondering as to the fate of his father’s ’55.
Chasing old phone numbers and various leads, both Kevin and his father embarked on the quest to hunt down the lost gasser. Unfortunately, Kevin’s father would pass on before that fateful evening when Kevin’s phone rang. The ’55 was still around, in one piece and still ran. In fact, the ruby red Chevrolet was all but completely unchanged since that day Kevin’s father sold the car in 1983.
Nearly 35 since his father first built the shoebox, most of his father’s customizations remained in place. The stroked and bored 391 cubic inch small block Chevy still touted its old school hump heads and tunnel ram intake. The “mighty mouse” spins a Erson roller cam and gets its spark from the same throw-back Mallory ignition his father installed back in the ’70s. It even had its original brass 1955 radiator.
Backing Mr. Wallauer’s small block is an infamous “rock cruncher” Munice 4-speed that spins the welded differential in a stout ’57 Pontiac rear housing. Amazingly enough the gasser still rides on its classic Blair’s Speed Shop straight axle front end replete with the finned drum brakes.
Back To The Future
Aesthetically, the ’55 210 coupe is a complete time machine, particularly thanks to its “old school” interior stitchwork, which was done by a forgotten upholstery shop in 1971 in El Monte, CA. All of the original chrome is in place, pitted and patina’ed in places. Somewhere along the line, the ’55 was treated with a new coat of paint but retained the same red hue. Traces of an ancient flame job are evident when a careful hand runs over the fenders.
One key feature is near and dear to many a Southern Californian hot rodder; Kevin explains, “It had been gone for over 20 years and only two people owned it. It still has the same ‘black plate’ as when [dad] sold it; its like they never drove it it.” And just to cap it off, Kevin adds, “…which is fine with me, I drive the car every day.”
Never to part ways again, Kevin has made it a point to let his two daughters fall in love with the car as much as he did when he was their age. Bridging the gap between his own childhood memories and the memories his two little girls are sure to make with their grandfather’s bright red Chevy, Kevin is forever grateful for a father who showed him what a cool car was all about.