Rick & Marcia Kramer’s ’55 210 Is An Ever-Changing Masterpiece

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.

Much like Rick’s stunning Victory Red ’55 Chevy 210, the road to the shining example of American culture you see today is paved with a lifetime of personal and automotive evolution.

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.

55 chevy 210

This isn’t your father’s ’55! Rick’s gorgeous Victory Red 210 has come a long way in the last 15 years.

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.

55 chevy 210

Packing plenty of Bow-Tie attitude, Rick and Marcia Kramer’s ’55 210 eagerly welcomes all challengers.

“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.

Sending power through the 210’s veins is a motivated Holley 670 Street-Eliminator-fed 327ci L79 powerplant, bored .030-inch over and heated up with a COMP cam and roller rockers.

55 chevy 210

Aim high. Rick’s attention to detail is evident in this chassis shot, showing this ’55 is as nice underneath as it is on top. They didn’t build them like this back in the day.

Buying Right

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.

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Custom touches like this Classic Instrument Bel Air cluster, Hurst shifter with Iconic 8-ball shift knob, and billet appointments set this rolling red-and-white beauty apart from the crowd.

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.”

The latest wheels are from Billet Specialties, and are wrapped in modern rubber. The '55 rides on a Corvette C4 suspension, providing a smooth ride. Inside the cockpit, electronic gauges from Classic Instruments keep everything in check at cruising speeds.

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.

Rowing duties come compliments of a Hurst Competition Plus setup, transferring instructions to a five-speed TKO 600 TREMEC transmission.

Subtle touches like this 8-ball-capped Hurst shifter, Billet-style SSBC master cylinder, and period-correct-looking Delco battery help make the Kramer's 210 a cut above.

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.

About the author

JP Emerson

My affliction with vintage iron is matched only by my knowledge of classic Rock ’N Roll. Although a heavy lean to all things Ford blue, I have a sharp appreciation for all makes and models, especially those that gulp gas and drop oil to mark their territory. Having provided work for multiple magazines, manufacturers, SEMA, and a top secret list of celebrity and auto insiders, I understand the bond between cars and owners.
Read My Articles

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