For Joe Holguin, his interest in hot rodding was never confined to one category or another. Whether it was a classic pickup or an early rod, a street vehicle or a drag race car, all caught his attention. In the early '60s, Joe built a '40 Ford truck. A few years later, it was a '32 Ford. Weekends that weren't spent in the garage were spent at one or another Southern California dragstrip. Joe's interest was passed on to his son Mike, who remembers watching his dad work on his projects and accompanying him to the races. "I think back and this is when I knew that one day I too would build my own hot rod."
Mike got his first classic truck when he was in high school. It was a '56 Chevy, bought from a local wrecking yard for $125. "It was a heap with a small V-8 that barely ran, but to me this was my dream truck." He rebuilt the engine, added a racing transmission, and painted the interior. By the time he was 20 he had sold it. It was a decision he always regretted and eventually Mike started looking for another classic truck.
It was Mike's cousin, David Chavez, who found this second-series, big-window '55 Chevy at a swap meet. Knowing that Mike was looking for a truck like this, David called him and told him to hurry to the swap meet—and bring his checkbook. For the next seven years, Mike's dream truck sat in his backyard. Mike's friend Don Chemello finally pushed him to get busy with the build. Another friend, Bruce Stedman at Street Machines by Stedman, shared knowledge and guidance. Once things got started, all Mike could think about was getting it finished.
Upgrades to the original undercarriage included replacing the factory frontend with a Camaro clip, using the stock Camaro steering, shocks, and springs. A pair of 2-inch dropped spindles helps put the '55 closer to the ground. The 3.76:1 gears spin inside the GM 12-bolt rearend, located by ladder bars with a pair of coilovers to improve the ride. The front Chevy disc brakes are matched by Wilwood discs at the back. For the right wheel and tire combination, Mike chose 16- and 17-inch Center Lines, wrapped with Goodyear Eagle radials measuring 225/55R16 and 275/50R17.
Mike delivered the '55 to Gabe's Collision & Restoration Center in Calimesa, California, for the bodywork and paint. Every panel was massaged until smooth. No major modifications were made to the body—just removing the badging, shaving the front bumper, and adding the rear roll pan. Mike replaced the door windows with one-piece glass. He rebuilt the bed with panels from Mar-K, including the embossed Bow Tie tailgate, and installed dark Honduras mahogany bed wood. At Gabe's, the truck was shot with Marine Blue from DuPont (now Axalta).
The engine compartment was finished with fresh inner fender panels, a smooth firewall, and billet hood hinges. A ZZ4 350 crate engine was planted in the middle of it all. The small-block is equipped with a Carter carb and factory intake, and dressed up with a ball-milled air cleaner cover and valve covers. A serpentine drive system keeps the alternator and A/C compressor spinning. Hooker headers direct the exhaust to 2 1⁄2-inch custom pipes and Flowmaster mufflers. A Turbo 700-R4 transmission was selected to back up the small-block.
Mike took on the job of wiring the truck, using an EZ Wiring system to run power to the right places, including the Alpine stereo, Vintage Air A/C, and the Dakota Digital gauges installed in the stock dash. Mark Lopez and the team at Elegance Auto Interiors in Upland modified a Suburban bench for the '55 and wrapped it—and the panels—in beige and blue leather. A Billet Specialties Street Star wheel tops a tilt column with a custom billet shifter.
All of a sudden it was five years later and Mike's '55 was finished—although time may not have flown so quickly during the process. "The day I drove my finished '55 to its first car show I thought I was dreaming," Mike told us. "To this day, every time I get behind the wheel I still get the feeling I'm driving in my dreams."