This ’55 Chevy 210 Makes Classic Style Contemporary
John Palazzotto’s ’55 Chevy 210
For hot rodders, heredity delivers more than just above-average good looks and intelligence. It also provides the gearhead gene. John Palazzotto of Discovery Bay, California, is one of those people born with that gene.
John is proud of his heritage as a third-generation hot rodder. His father, Vince, has been building cars since the ’50s. Vince’s ’32 Chevy five-window coupe was excellent enough to get a story in Hot Rod magazine at the time. His grandfather, John Neves, had a homebuilt chopped-and-channeled ’25 Chevy coupe that he displayed at the Oakland Roadster Show in its early days—also earning magazine attention.
Now it’s John’s turn in the spotlight. The car that got him there is this ’55 Chevy 210. First-year Tri-Fives have always appealed to him. His goal was to build the car in the restomod style—with an exterior honoring everything cool about ’55s, a drivetrain and chassis that delivered 21st century performance, and an interior that combined retro and contemporary.
Modifications had already been made to the Chevy when the previous owner listed the car on eBay where John saw it. He had the impression that it was a finished car. That wasn’t the case, but after pulling it out of the snow in the woods, it started and he was able to drive it back to California. “A white- knuckle drive,” he describes. Once he figured out that the Chevy would need a top-to-bottom rebuild to meet his goals, John turned the project over to Moal Coachbuilders in Oakland, California. He worked closely with Michael Moal. Moal, like John, was born with hot rodding in his blood, and is a fourth-generation builder from a family who has turned out remarkable street rods. Darrell Schneider is a body and paint man at Moal, as well as a longtime friend of John’s. The exterior modifications on the ’55 are thorough but subtle. Rear body seams were filled, vent windows were removed, and the bumpers were smoothed and tucked. The stainless grille from Cars Inc., Danchuk mirrors, and replacement headlights from Headwinds are some of the aftermarket parts used to restore the body.
The wheel choice could make or break the theme of the car. Numerous renderings were drawn with different styles before the Budnik Knife design from the X Series was chosen. The 20x12 and 19x8 sizes, with fat 335/30R20 and 245/40R19 Michelin Pilot
Super Sport radials, update the traditional-looking exterior. The wheels are backed by 14-inch Wilwood disc brakes, fed by a Wilwood tandem master cylinder and proportioning valve.
John wanted to keep a traditional red and white paint scheme, but with a deeper, darker red than the orange-
toned red used on a lot of Tri-Fives. Maserati Red fit the description, with Alpine White on the roof, rear quarters, and deck. Schneider shot the PPG paint. Sherm’s Custom Plating revived the chrome pieces.
The red and white combination carries over inside. The Glide Engineering front buckets and custom rear seats were covered in red Italian leather, with white reserved for the headliner. Dark gray German squareweave was selected for the carpeting. Dave Putnam has upholstered many of the nicest Northern California cars and delivered once again on John’s ’55. A Classic Instruments ’55-’56 Bel Era II six-in-one gauge package
replaces the stock gauges. An ididit tilt steering column holds the leather-wrapped Billet Specialties wheel. The audio system features an Alpine receiver and multiple amps, Focal speakers, and JL Audio subwoofers installed by Car Audio Innovations. Air conditioning components are Vintage Air. William Crockett at Moal installed the wiring.
Modern engineering continues underneath where an Art Morrison Enterprises (AME) chassis was built, starting with the 2x4-inch mild steel frame. The rear was narrowed to fit the big tires. The AME 9-inch rear spins Strange Engineering stainless steel axles, located by a triangulated four-link. The AME Sport IFS features Wilwood spindles and a Detroit Speed power steering rack. The Chevy is suspended with Strange coilovers plus Art Morrison front and rear antiroll bars.
Under the hood, a blown LS3 combines performance and good looks. Don Zemina at Motor Machine Super Shop in Carmichael, California, built the 650hp engine
topped with a Whipple supercharger. Moal Coachbuilders created the custom air induction and air cleaner system. They used their in-house CNC machine to build the billet oil accumulator tank on the driver side and the intercooler tank on the passenger side, both machined to match the ribbed blower case. A Mattson radiator and fan combo keep the engine temps cool. Craig Watts built a custom stainless exhaust system to draw gases from the Ultimate headers, with a pair of Flowmaster mufflers providing the perfect tone. A Bowler Transmissions 4L80E backs up the engine, with a Lokar shifter for gear selection. A driveshaft from Drive Line Service of San Leandro ties the trans to the rearend.
For this third-generation rodder, a lifetime of passion and three years of dedication have resulted in a ’55 Chevy 210 worthy of car show awards and magazine coverage. Now that it’s done, John and Moal Coachbuilders are teaming up for another project: the
’69 Camaro John has owned since he was 15. It’s ready for some modifying.
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