AIR OF SU­PE­RI­OR­ITY

IF IT’S TRUE THAT GOOD THINGS TAKE TIME, THEN THIS BEL AIR IS 21 YEARS GOOD!

Street Machine - - Contents - STORY CRAIG PARKER PHO­TOS BEN HOSK­ING

It may have taken 21 years, but Bill Sharkey’s blown ’55 Chev was well worth the wait

IT MAY have taken 21 years. And the fi­nal push to Sum­mer­nats 30 may have been six weeks of 18- to 20-hour days. And it may not have been 100 per cent fin­ished when it got there. But noth­ing could have wiped the smile off Bill and Penny Sharkey’s face when the cov­ers came off their 1955 Chev Bel Air coupe dur­ing Fri­day night’s Great Meguiar’s Un­cover. “I can’t be­lieve how well it came up,” says Bill, who built most of this saucy shoe­box him­self. “I was so proud. To be at Sum­mer­nats, get it un­veiled, I got a bit of a tear in my eye. It cer­tainly was a money-can’t-buy ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Bill’s jour­ney to Sum­mer­nats with COUP55 be­gan with a clapped-out shell. “I’d wanted a ’55 since I was a young fella,” he says, “but I couldn’t af­ford the car I wanted, so I went look­ing for some­thing I could af­ford.”

His search led him to Joe’s Golden Gaso­line Clas­sics in South Aus­tralia, where he picked up the coupe as a bare roller that was only miss­ing, well, every­thing! So he hit the Danchuk and Clas­sic In­dus­tries parts cat­a­logues and be­gan mak­ing a list of every­thing that was needed. “I wanted as much new stuff as I could so it would look as fresh as pos­si­ble,” he says.

Mind you, Bill’s wal­let was any­thing but fat – this Bel Air was built on a bud­get. It meant do­ing vir­tu­ally all the work him­self, and buy­ing bits and pieces when­ever he had the money.

First task was the rust – and there was plenty of it. The doors, guards, in­ner and outer sills, boot and floor were all af­flicted. In a stroke of luck, a mate of Bill’s had an Aus­tralian right-hand-drive dash, fire­wall and floor sec­tion in good nick. Graft­ing this into the Chev killed two birds with one stone – elim­i­nat­ing rust and con­vert­ing it to RHD in one go.

The area that needed the most TLC was the roof – it’d been filled with bog and was crack­ing up. For­tu­nately it’s also the most ac­ces­si­ble area, which al­lowed Bill to me­thod­i­cally tap it all up be­fore file-fin­ish­ing it. As a panel beater for over 30 years and now owner of High Gloss Spray Paint­ing in Dubbo, this type of work comes nat­u­rally to Bill. The prob­lem is, cus­tomers’ cars al­ways come first – and Bill also built him­self a few other cars along the way.

A down­side to such a long build time is that styles in­evitably change. Early pur­chases, in­clud­ing older-style Bil­let Spe­cial­ties rocker cov­ers, air cleaner, in­te­rior door han­dles and wheels, all got flogged off along the way, re­placed with more up-to-date bits. This was also true with the body­work.

“I’d spent ages fix­ing both rear quar­ters,” Bill says, “but in the end I cut them off and re­placed them with brand new ones. Same with the door skins. The car got bet­ter as the build pro­gressed; I just wanted it to be as per­fect as I could make it.” Like the floor sec­tion, the chas­sis was another lucky score. “It was com­plete, with a Rod-tech front end, tri­an­gu­lated four­bar rear and the nine-inch hous­ing,” Bill says. “Glenn Ru­lach from Air Ride had built it up for coil-overs but then de­cided to go airbags. I’ve known Owen Webb since the 70s, from when he used to come up to Dubbo rep­ping. I got him to check it out for me – and he got it for a good price! It’s great, gives the old girl just the right stance!”

The colour combo had been in Bill’s head for over 20 years. “I’d seen it on a vin­tage Harley and thought it’d look good on the Chev,” he says.

He was right on the money, as the Vivid Yel­low and cream re­ally

GRAFT­ING AN AUS­TRALIAN RIGHT-HAND-DRIVE DASH, FIRE­WALL AND FLOOR SEC­TION INTO THE CHEV KILLED TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE – ELIM­I­NAT­ING RUST AND CON­VERT­ING IT TO RHD IN ONE GO

The clever COUP55 num­ber plates spent six or seven years on Bill’s Navara be­fore tak­ing pride of place on his di­vine shoe­box Chev

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