You might wonder where I get my ideas for my articles. It could be a car I saw at a car show, a car sitting off the road, a story someone told me about, a car I saw in the latest edition of Hemmings Daily — and the list goes on. This week’s subject car came to me as a result of smoke, savory BBQ smoke!
I was cruising through Collinsville the other day when I soon detected the familiar smell of BBQ coming from a fraternal organization, the Collinsville-Maryville Evening Lions Club smoker. As I pulled into Camelot Bowl’s parking lot, my OCR kicked in. However, this time it was not your typical car. It was a golf cart bearing a strong resemblance to a 50s Chevrolet.
Let me narrow it down a bit for you. There is what is known, in Chevy circles, as the Tri-Five Chevies. They are three consecutive years of very similar design, both chassis and body. Although the bright-work, grills, sweep-spears, tail lights and such, were distinctly different for each year, the frame, drive train and body parts were very similar, and in the case of basic body parts and panels, nearly identical. The doors, fenders, and greenhouse were virtually identical, as can easily be seen at first glance, but each year has distinctly individual trim as aforementioned.
Three models of Chevrolets, the Tri-Fives, were all very popular in their day and have remained so, through the years. There’s a local Tri-Five Chevy car club, one of many across the U.S. formed in honor of the ‘55, ‘56 and ‘57 Chevrolets, their owners and fans.
The ‘55 and ‘56 are the most similar. Of this popular trio, the ‘57 is the most distinctive having pronounced tail fins, strong sweep-spear styling and twin, chrome rocket ship hood ornaments, and came to be the icon of fifties autos appearing on T-shirts, mugs, plates, jackets, etc. This makes the ‘55 and ‘56 more attractive to many collectors as those years are rare today.
In terms of total model year production for the ‘55, ‘56 and ‘57 Chevys, the numbers were 1,775,952; 1,574,740 and 1,515,177 respectively. The 1955 model had a sales advantage for two reasons. It was the first year of a totally new style which included the new, lower, longer and wider look. Second, 1955 was a banner year for American cars due to a strong economy.
Convenience options across the Tri-Five were pretty much what you would expect from GM’s bread and butter marque in the mid-fifties — exciting things like tissue dispensers and chrome exhaust tips.
The only sound system was an am-only radio available with manual, push-button or signal-seeking tuning.
Chevrolet made 41,268 Bel Air convertibles for 1956 with a base factory price of $2,344. In 2018, that would equal roughly $21,777. But you could pick up a model like the one shown here from Golf Cart Wizard of Lake Panasoffkee, Fla. for just $1,195 plus $275 shipping (body kit). Or, if you are feeling lucky, the Collinsville-Maryville Evening Lions Club is selling raffle tickets through the summer.
Rollin’ With The FIN MAN: I am planning to have one on a Friday, between June 15 and July 13 — details to follow. It will more than likely be a local tour with stops at a classic car dealership, a restoration shop, lunch at Miss Sheri’s (South) and possibly another stop or two along the way.
Those of you who pre-paid for the next Levi tour may apply your payment to this tour or you may leave your funds on hold and they will be honored for Levi II or any other tour as details become available.
UPCOMING EVENTS: Enjoy the biggest and best automotive swap meet of the year, hosted by the St. Louis Model T Club. The event will be held at Gateway Motorsports Park at 700 Raceway Blvd., Madison, Illinois on Sunday, May 6.
Watch for The FIN MAN leading the Valley of Flowers Parade in Florissant, Missouri on Sunday, May 6. Look for us driving the black Camaro with Parade Marshall Father Time.
On Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, we will be at Fast Lane Classic Cars in St. Charles, Missouri for the gigantic Cobblestone Nationals Car Show.
Meanwhile, Keep on Cruisin’!