55 Chevy Bel Air parked

Cruisin’ Franklin: The Legendary ’55 Chevy Bel Air Gasser

A new look!
A new life!
A new everything!

So said the advertisement for the newly-restyled second-generation Chevrolet Bel Air in 1955. Also called “The Hot One” by Chevy’s marketing campaign, it was a bold statement for a car offering only 162 horsepower.

Franklin resident Pat Stinson has always called the first year of the “Tri Five” Chevy’s (1955-1957) his favorite car ever made. Through the years, Stinson, a well-known hot rodder in town, has owned over 50 cars and has helped friends build countless more. When asked why he loves cars so much, he is quick to respond that it is the friendships that come from the car scene.

Chevy Bel Air
Stinson’s ’55 Chevy Bel Air

Stinson also loves the Gasser style of hot rod. A Gasser is one of the earliest styles of hot rods, usually built to improve quarter mile times at the drag strip. The defining feature of this style is the addition of a straight axle front end that raised the car high in the front and allowed the weight to transfer easily to the squatted rear of the car, allowing maximum traction. Excess weight would also be stripped away from the car and the engine would be souped up.

After years of searching, Stinson purchased an all original 1955 Chevy Bel Air. His friends thought he was crazy when he immediately took a saw to the car and started cutting it up. “This car has been in my head for over 30 years,” Stinson says. He wanted his new toy to be a Gasser, so the work began. The result is this beautiful representation of the Gasser style, so prominent at drag strips throughout the sixties and seventies.

Classic car steering wheel and clutch
’55 Chevy Bel Air interior with steering wheel

As the car was transformed, that stock 162 HP would not do, so out came the stock mill to be replaced by a massive 540 cubic inch big block Chevy engine. With a thunderous 14:1 compression, 780 lift cam, twin Dominator carbs and headers, Stinson’s car grabs attention at car shows and trophies at the racetrack, where it does impressive wheel stands when launching down the strip.

The car needed to look as cool as it sounded, so Stinson went to work making the car look like a racer straight out of the pages of a vintage Hot Rod magazine. Opting for a two-toned paint scheme similar to an original model, he used robin’s egg blue and white that was then sanded and distressed to give it the vintage racer look. Believe it or not, he painted this beauty with spray paint cans!

The final product was this insane hot rod that makes Stinson smile every time he fires it up. During the build Stinson had some health issues arise, and all those friends he made in the hot rod scene proved why this is such a close-knit hobby. His car buddies came over to help wrench on the hot rod to get the car finished and ready to cruise, and race. Stinson is quick to thank all those who helped him create his dream car. He does his best to return the favor, spending his spare time helping others create their dream cars as well.

This beautiful Gasser can be seen downtown at all the regular cruise ins and local car shows. Stinson cruised Franklin back in the glory days in the 80’s and 90’s. Many of those friendships he cherishes were made in Franklin all those decades ago. He still enjoys hanging out with those same friends as often as possible. Now we know why Chevrolet called it “The Hot One”. Until the next time…keep cruisin’.

Comments 3

  1. Sewell says:

    The nicest 55 Chevy gasser around. Nice job Pat Stinson not too many people out there that can build a gasser from ground up and paint it with cans of spray paint from Walmart to look like this car.

  2. John Craighead says:

    That’s a cool read!! I definitely enjoyed reading it! Pat and his 55 are pretty awesome!

  3. Roy Arnold says:

    Got to know Pat in the last year,or two. He is a great guy. Always willing to share his knowledge.

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