Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Guest coverage of the 2017 Tri-Five Chevy Nationals in Bowling Green, KY

You already know this. Between 1955 and 1957, Chevrolet built a line of full-sized cars that would become the most popular and iconic in the history of the American automobile. I don’t even consider that to be an opinion. It becomes even more apparent when the Tri-Five Nationals makes its annual appearance at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green. This show is only three-years-old, and they already draw more than 2,000 entries. I was not able to make it up there this year, but we’re in luck. My buddy Bill DeBlasio from Long Island, N.Y. (no relation to Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of New York City), brought his own ’57 Bel Air coupe more than 900 miles for this event. Even better, Bill shared his pictures with us, so now we can see all the cool stuff we missed by not being there.

First of all, the '57 in the near lane Bill’s car. His daughter named it Ruby, which makes sense what with the bright red paint and bright red seats. This is just a well-put together ride. As you can see by this action shot, it doesn’t get babied. The GM crate engine and four-speed were good for low-15s on the drag strip. Then it looked great sitting out on the show field. And finally, it drove the final 400 miles home under its own power after a wheel bearing let loose on the tow rig trailer. It even managed to get better than 12-mpg running about 75-mph. Bill is definitely a guy who owns his cars to have fun. They aren’t just something to look at—these road trips and adventures will last a lifetime.

I actually passed this Tropical Turquoise ’57 Nomad on the highway as it was heading home through Nashville on Sunday. If you think it looks good in the picture, you ought to see how it stands out when it’s surrounded by Hyundais and crap. This one has some obvious accessories like the bumper guards and wheel cover spinners. But the most significant option was the Rochester Fuel Injection, a $550 option even in 1957, that brought horsepower up-to 250 or 283 depending on how it was equipped. That was a lot of juice back in the day, but Chevy’s still-new 283-c.i. small-block could handle it. The Nomad two-door wagon body style is also pretty special. It was like the public had access to a GM concept car.

Indiana-based Woody’s Hot Rods actually started this show to promote their Tri-Five restoration business, and every year they give away one of their beautifully built cars to a lucky winner. This year, they made someone very happy with this ’57 Gasser. The “All American” looks like it was built for the 1968 drag racing season, but everything from the body panels to the chassis is brand-spankin’ new. Sometimes it seems like there must be more ’57 Chevys today than there were in 1957, and the fact that one can be built from scratch like this with all new parts gives some credence to that theory. Beneath the fiberglass front-tilt hood lives a Hilborn-injected 502-c.i. big block. How come I never win anything like this?

I love the looks of this little ’55 Two-Ten two-door sedan. This car has the Delray package, which includes a sort of waffle-pleated interior that I think looks better than the one in the upscale Bel Air. This one has some desirable options, such as a 265-c.i. V8, a Powerglide automatic transmission, and an accessory tissue box holder under the dash. The colors are great too: Harvest Gold on the bottom, Indian Ivory on top, and Neptune Green inside. You might not think a yellow car with green seats is what you want, but once you see this color combination in person you realize that it is.  Bill tells me this car was purchased at the Lambrecht Chevrolet auction that was held in Nebraska in 2013.  It only has 28,000 original miles, but needed a complete restoration after sitting in a field for a half-decade.  The results were clearly worth it.

’55, ’56, and ’57 trucks and Corvettes were also eligible to participate in this show, although there weren’t many takers. The Cameo Carrier was sort of a mixture of truck and Corvette. It was based on the short bed half-ton pickup, but bedsides made out of fiberglass just like the Corvette smoothed out the look. Rich upholstery materials, full wheel covers from the Bel Air, and plenty of chrome also differentiated these glam-trucks from the typical farm rig. Chevy built these between 1955 and 1958, but when the Fleetside bed style came out in ’58 the writing was on the wall. This Bombay Ivory ’56 looks great in the pictures, and is also equipped with that all-important year-old small-block V8.

Part of the legend of the ’57 Chevy was fostered by its success in NASCAR racing. In late ’56 and on into ’57, Chevrolet built a handful of Onyx Black-and-India Ivory One-Fifty models specifically for NASCAR racing. These sinister sedans became known as “Black Widows” based on their paint scheme, and you could easily spot one by the heavy-duty six-lug wheels. Early examples were fuel-injected, but NASCAR outlawed it during the season, and the remaining cars were built or converted to carburetors. Buck Baker won the 1957 NASCAR Grand National Championship driving a Black Widow. There aren’t a lot of records on these cars, so it’s hard to tell how many there were or which cars were real Black Widows. This car looks beautiful, and it is sitting on six-lugs, so who knows?

I’ll tell you what I do know. I have more than 770 of Bill’s pictures from the 2017 Tri-Five Nationals to show you. And if you think I take a lot of pictures at these things, know that I deleted more than 100 of these to make this slideshow more manageable. He did a great job, and I really appreciate his contribution. Check out the entire slideshow by clicking this link.

4 comments:

  1. Great pics...Nice show....didn't know there were that many of the Chevys left in the world!...Tom

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  2. Amazing how many Tri Five cars in such cherry condition still are around. It is fairly evident that these particular years of Chevrolet were a great success. My Dad was a Chevrolet Dealer and I can still remember storing two 1955 Chevrolets with their first V8 in the modern era in our garage at home. We were awaiting the big Opening Day several weeks away, which was really a big deal back in the 50's. Thanks for this presentation, Craig......Roger Grotewold, Grotewold Chevrolet Oldsmobile, Larchwood, Iowa.......

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  3. Craig this is a great write-up. Thanks!

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