Sometimes one only has to look as far as their brother-in-law's front yard to find their next project truck. For Mike Weygandt of Corinth, Texas, the truck was a '55 Chevy pickup his wife's brother Esmer had owned since he was in high school. As a 10th wedding anniversary present, Mike's wife talked Esmer into letting her surprise Mike with something he really wanted. Before the anniversary party was over, the old truck was in its new garage and unceremoniously stripped of everything Mike felt he wouldn't re-use.
From the very start, Mike planned to put some serious horsepower under the hood, so boxing the frame was his first step. To further improve traction and stability, a four-link setup with coilover shocks from S&W was carefully welded into place, followed by replacing the '55's stock straight-axle and drum brakes with a front clip Mike cut from a donor '74 Camaro, adding an extra 3/4 inch to the wheelbase.
About the same time that the welds cooled, Mike pulled the differential out of a '70 Torino he found before sending it off to the crusher. The 9-inch Ford rearend was then narrowed and rebuilt using an Auburn posi unit, and to better withstand the increased torque, 31-spline axles from Strange Engineering were installed. To get the chassis off the jackstands, Mike chose Weld Rodlite wheels with BFGoodrich Radial T/As in the front, while Mickey Thompson Sportsman Pros were Mike's choice for the rear. Stopping forward motion is the job of Stainless Steel Brake Corporation's disc brakes up front, accompanied by a rear disc setup from Speedway Motors.
Mike wanted to drop the '55's front to give it a more aggressive stance, so he installed McGaughy's 2-inch drop spindles in place of the stockers. The stock springs were tossed in favor of Eaton springs with Monroe shocks for damping.
To achieve his horsepower goals, Mike rebuilt a '70 Chevy small-block with the help of his friend Kevin Biggs. This included cleaning up the cylinders with a .030-inch bore job and stuffing in eight Speed Pro pistons fitted with Total Seal rings. The pistons provide a mere 7.6:1 compression ratio, and the reason for this was Mike's decision to run a blower. Mike did, in his own words, "a lot of homework" and decided on a Weiand blower with a shotgun-style air intake that peers ominously through the opening he cut in the hood. The small-block's camshaft is a blower-specific grind from Lunati. Dual Holley 600 carbs meter the big gulps of gasoline needed to propel the truck to the 10-second times Mike says it runs in the quarter-mile. For spark, the huffer motor relies on an MSD Pro Billet distributor from MSD in El Paso. The exhaust is subdued to a sweet rumble with a pair of Hooker Super Comp mufflers. Mike states he has the blower set to 8 pounds of boost for daily use, which is usually a few times a week, and he reports that judicious use of the loud pedal gives him around 10 mpg in the way of fuel economy while making approximately 650 hp.
The last phase of the mechanical improvement was fitting in the tranny that came attached with the small-block motor, a '70 Turbo 400 that boasts a kit to improve the shifting points, along with a TCI Street Fighter 2,900-rpm stall-speed converter, B&M cooler, and Lokar column shifter. The tilt steering column was topped off with a Challenger Series four-spoke steering wheel from the folks at Grant.
Mike's handiwork also extends to refurbishing the interior. The stock '55 bench seat was tossed in favor of one Mike pulled from an '87 Chevy he re-covered in a charcoal fabric. The cab's floor received wall-to-wall carpeting with replacement door panels from Brothers that help tidy things up. The dash cluster is also from Brothers and is filled with a full complement of Auto Meter gauges, including a tach and boost gauge. For wiring, Mike yanked out the minimal stock '55 harness and laid in an 18-circuit beauty from Painless. Now the '55 easily handles the electrical demands of an Alpine stereo backed with a 10-inch Infinity subwoofer and Rockford Punch amps.
The body was pretty rough, so Mike had to replace all the sheetmetal with the exception of the cab. The final stage, the paintwork, was a task Mike left to a friend and pro, Larry Eperjesi, proprietor of Larry's Paint & Body in Lake Dallas, Texas. Much like a gearhead TV show, Larry was given the daunting challenge of spraying the PPG Concept tint-base white on short notice to have the entire job wheeled out and ready for Mike to haul to the truck's debut on the Dallas-Fort Worth show circuit. While Mike was at the '55's first show, he called Larry and told him the truck was awarded its first Best of Show trophy.
During the five years of work it took to build the '55, Mike received help from his friends Rory Roberts, Dennie Littrell, and Jeff Clark, but it was the endless patience of his wife and kids that really made Mike's dream possible. That first trophy was for them. CCT
A big ol' Auto Meter boost gauge cut into the dash alongside a Brother's cluster provides
Keeping with the double-nickel theme, Mike's 355-inch Chevy small-block makes big horsepow
The fat Mickey Thompson rear meats are mounted on Weld wheels. Up front, it's BFGs on Weld