Ron Cherry: Long-term love of Tri-Fives
For car afficionados, Tri-Fives are Chevies built from 1955 until 1957. Major body changes differentiate them from earlier and later models. Since 1955 was the first year Chevy built a V-8 engine and went to a long, low look in styling, they quickly become iconic as the “new” Chevrolet aimed at a younger, bolder crowd.
Now, there are clubs just for Tri-Five owners, many of whom loved them since they were first built. One person with such an enduring passion is Kerry Anderson.
Kerry’s first car, when he was 16 years old, was a ’55 Chevy two-door sedan.
“That car was pretty hot for its day,” he said. “I put in a 327 (cubic inch engine) with a 4-speed trans. I loved it. I shouldn’t have sold it.”
But he did, after owning it for about three years.
But Kerry’s love of building hot cars did not end with selling his first car.
“Off and on, I’ve had fast cars over the years,” he said. “With family and kids, not always, but a lot.” Almost all of them were Tri-Fives. “I’ve done quite a few of them,” he said. “It’s a body style I like the most. I’ve wanted to have one again like my first one, but a Bel Air.”
His chance came when he saw one online about three years ago.
“It was an eBay car,” he said. “First time I ever bought a car on eBay.”
Noting the horror stories some car buyers have told about buying an eBay car, he continued, “It worked out okay. Everything was the way the seller said it would be. It was an older restoration, a driver.”
For Kerry, it was a step up from other cars he’d restored.
“I’d been buying all these wrecks, basket cases. Even with all the vendors nowadays, the aftermarket parts are just not the same. I wanted something more like it came from the factory and it was the one.”
It had a 327 cubic inch engine and a 4-speed trans, much like his first car. But that was not enough.
“Now that I’m older and lucky enough to have one again, I could build it the way I wanted,” he said. “My mind was made up. I was going to put in an LS3 engine and a 5-speed trans.”
Within a month, Kerry had started his rebuild.
“I tore it all down and redid it from the ground up,” he said.
He took the body off the frame and sandblasted the frame. Then he painted it before installing tubular A-frames with coil-over-shocks suspension in front, using CPP 500 steering box, and a Ford 9 inch rearend in back. All four wheels have Hydroboost power disc brakes.
He bought a LS3 6.2L GM crate motor that pumped out 525 horsepower, the highest horsepower naturally-aspirated 6.2L engine GM made, and matched it to a Treamac 5-speed manual trans.
He put the body on a car rotisserie he owns, so he could turn it in the air to more easily work on it and did all the body work.
“It had all the original body parts on it,” he said. “It’d had a few fender-benders and some rust issues, but not bad.”
Then he painted it Twilight Turquoise and Dune Beige.
“They’re original colors,” he said. “But Chevy never put them together.”
He finished off the exterior by rechroming the bumpers and replacing the rest of the chrome with reproduction parts. Keeping the original stainless trim, he polished it to look like new. For wheels, he went for 17 inch Hopsters from American Racing.
Inside, Kerry opted for an ididit tilt steering column, Classic Instrument gauges and a RetroSound AM/FM/MP3 player, doing all the installation and wiring himself. He even did the upholstery, going for a cloth and vinyl kit to cover the original bench seats. He shot all the painted parts himself.
A One man operation
One thing about any car that Kerry restores is that he does almost everything himself, including mechanical, body work, paint, wiring and upholstery.
“Back a long time ago, I’d take my cars to a body shop and they’d sit for years before they got done,” he said. “So I taught myself how to do body work and paint. Then I taught myself how to install interior kits. I don’t do any sewing, but I can do kits. I enjoy doing the work myself.”
He modestly added, “They’re not perfect, but they’re good drivers.”
However, anyone looking at his work might dispute that they’re merely “good drivers.” His meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail belies that comment. And it took him a mere 18 months to complete a project that many would have taken years to finish.
“I’m retired and it’s a passion for me, so I work on my cars a lot,” he said.
Since finishing his Bel Air, Kerry has enjoyed driving it.
“I drive it all around town,” he said. “I’ve taken it to Cool April nights in Redding and to Hot August Nights in Reno. It’s a driver. It doesn’t sit much.”
He’s very happy with how it performs.
“It has gobs of power. I think the engine is underrated at 525 horsepower,” he said. “It’s almost scary. It’s the most powerful car I’ve ever had, without a doubt.”
It may be the ultimate Tri-Five for Kerry. But then again, you never know what’s around the next bend in the road.
Ron Cherry’s books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His new book, “The St. Nicholas Murders,” is a Christmas mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills that is remarkably similar to Nevada City and is now out in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.
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