For retired Air Force veteran Rick Kramer, it’s all about adapting. As career military personnel know all too well, getting attached to anything — or any place for that matter — can be difficult because assignments change often.
The 210 series first made headlines in 1953, after replacing Chevrolet’s Styleline marque. The great-selling ’53 and ’54 Chevrolet model boasted style and luxury unavailable in the base 150 series. Offering a wider choice of body styles for 1953 — including a convertible and sport coupe — the 210 remained friendlier to the wallet than the iconic Bel Air.
As an ever-changing market began to opt for style over economy, the ’55 models offered the introduction of the small-block V8, beefed up 11-inch brakes, and a wide list of powertrain options.
Although never achieving the level of poshness of its Bel Air counterpart, budget-minded 210 owners could — for a mere few hundred dollars difference — build a car that could live in the performance shadows while burning up heavier competition. A sleeper was born.
From The Beginning
Rick begins, “the car-bug first bit after I totaled my parents ’59 Chevy in 1963.” After that, a steady progression of youthful exuberance saw a string of ’55 and ’57 Chevys, a ’66 Buick Grand Sport, and a ’70 Plymouth Barracuda drive through the Kramer stable.
“Of all the cars that came and went, the ’55 stood out,” Rick recalls. “Maybe because it was the first, I’m not sure, but I knew I wanted another one someday.”
Being career military, Rick explains that realizing that dream would take some time. “You move around a lot,” says Rick. “Being stationed all over the world meant you traveled light and couldn’t take things like a car with you.”
“Everything is semi-permanent in the military.” Rick continued. The only constant being his wife Marcia. Once retired however, it was time to put down roots and begin in earnest to add another ’55 to the family.
“The car was purchased 15 years ago in Plattsburgh, New York, after a stock restoration had been completed. Everything was repaired or replaced, including rocker panels, floors, quarter-panels, trunk…everything,” says the retired aircraft-maintenance engineer.
The stock running gear was yanked, and the Tri-Five was treated to a more modern C4 Corvette upgrade by replacing both the front and rear suspension. He then added rack-and-pinion steering, and a Dana 36 rearend with a posi differential turned by Yukon 3.54 teeth.
As you might expect from this career Air Force man, Rick eagerly gives credit where it is due. “Initially, following more than two years of searching for my car, a friend suggested I try eBay. I ended up bidding on a car that ultimately didn’t meet the sellers reserve.”
Undeterred, Rick contacted the owner, hoping to seal a deal. Upon learning the car was no longer available, Rick voiced his displeasure with the seller before cutting his losses. But, as luck would have it, to Rick’s surprise, the phone rang a few days later with the news that his bid had been accepted. Rick had landed his ’55.
“The car was excellent,” says Rick, “It was four years out of a stock restoration when I took delivery. There were no surprises, it was exactly as advertised. But, I needed to make it my own.”
To that end, Rick likely dog-eared more than a fair share of catalogs, including those from Danchuk, Ecklers, Jegs, and Summit to garner more than a few modern replacement parts and pieces. What couldn’t be sourced was easily located at one of the many Carlisle swap meets Rick visited.
Interior duties were farmed out to Kiski Valley Upholstery in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, who added a new white interior with contrasting red carpet to compliment a freshly installed Classic Instruments gauge cluster, tilt steering, billet radio delete plate, and soft trim.
Times Change, Change With Them
“The car is in its third version of itself since I purchased it,” Rick tells us. “A stock restoration by the previous owner gave me a solid start to its ever-changing condition.” The Kramer’s are quick to add however, they started small.
“We initially replaced the Rallye wheels with a set of Keystone Klassics,” Rick stated. Giving credence to Rick’s advice to others, “don’t try to do everything at once. Start small, pay attention to detail, and do what you can afford.”
Over time, the stock dash in Rick’s hot rod gave way to the retrofitted gauges and sharp radio delete plate. “I don’t listen to music when I’m driving,” says Rick with a grin. Instead, opting for the mechanical symphony played through a set of Dougs Tri-Y headers flowing through a Pypes X-pipe, and exiting with a pair of asphalt-shaking electric cutouts. For more family friendly cruising, a stainless-steel 2.5 inch exhaust collects spent fumes with the cutouts closed.
According to Rick, the latest rendition of the car began with a C4 suspension swap, a Griffin radiator to handle increasing cooling duties, and a Stainless Steel Brakes (SSBC) master cylinder mated to matching front and rear brakes to keep everything under control.
“With help and the use of a friend’s shop, it took eight months of full-time work to get the car to the condition you see it today,” Rick states. “For the time being, we’re going to have a little fun with it, take it to a few shows, and just drive it.”
If we learned one thing about Rick’s 210, it’s that nothing stays idle for too long. “There’s a few things I may like to do to it down the road, but right now we’re just enjoying it.”
When asked what the car means to him, Rick says it brings back a lot of great memories of growing up and family road trips. “We were always going somewhere back then.” As for his favorite road trip? “That’s easy,” says Rick, “The first trip with my wife.”
Perhaps the next chapter in the Kramer’s history will include the open road, a Victory Red ’55 Chevy 210, and a great American road trip. “I like to take it to Florida, when we go to escape those New York winters,” admits Rick. “There seems to be plenty of places to drive the car down there.”
If the past is any indication of things to come, you can count on a change-it attitude in the near future. As for the Florida sun, Rick says with a knowing smile, he may need to be adding air-conditioning next. Some things never change.