A Brand-New Bowtie
BOB MERCKLE’S ALL-MODERN BEL AIR CONVERTIBLE
Bob Merckle’s ’55 Chevy Bel Air
Amajor part of an old hot rod’s charm is just that—it’s old … it’s noisy … it’s nearly everything a new car isn’t. But for some, that particular appeal isn’t so, well, appealing, yet the desire still exists. Fortunately, our aftermarket has progressed quite well over the years, adopting many advancements the new car manufacturers have developed in drivetrain and suspension that can be adapted to those old cars we love. And when it comes to early Fords, you can have one built from the ground up with not a single old part on it. But what about us Chevy folk?
For the most part, if you want a hot rod based on anything from the late
’40s on up, unless you’re willing to hammer out your own body from sheet steel or aluminum, you gotta start with an original car. That is, unless you’re a Tri-Five kind of guy—that’s a different story. Thanks to Woody’s Hot Rodz, Art Morrison Enterprises, and Chevrolet Performance, among others, you can have that ’55-’57 Chevy you’ve always dreamed about—even a convertible— and not spend a minute worrying about searching for, repairing, or paying a fortune for any original exterior components. In essence, the charm of that old hot rod now becomes the charm of a truly all-new one, and even though he wasn’t dreaming of, let alone in the market to buy, that’s exactly what lured Bob Merckle in the day he crossed paths with Woody’s owner Chris Sondles.
“I walked into Woody’s on a whim on my way through the Cincinnati area on a trip. I had no intention of buying a car that day, but by the time I left, I did! What the guys at Woody’s are doing with these new-bodied cars is really amazing. Within that short visit, Chris and I had made a plan that included most of what you see today—he just took it from there, gave the idea to Eric Brockmeyer, and when Eric was done with the rendering all I had to do was pick the color for the top and bless the design—which I did!”
Two years following that chance encounter, Bob not only had the
’55 Chevy he hadn’t intended on having built, but one that performs like no Bel Air convertible was ever
A BRAND-NEW BOWTIE
intended to perform. But maybe the icing on the special-occasion cake was arriving to his wedding this past summer in the fresh-outta-the-shop drop-top where he and then-fiancée Justine were married in a ceremony filled with “friends, rock ’n’ roll, and of course plenty of hot rods!”
Bob may have wanted Corvette performance, which would loosely translate into an LS9-based powertrain depending on what era Vette we’re talking, but the decision was made to go with the LSA/6L90e platform instead—still 6.2 liters of supercharged, 580-plus horsepower performance … but a little easier on the wallet. His handling aspect requirements obviously come in the form of an Art Morrison GT Sport Tri-5 chassis complete with their proprietary IFS, power rack steering, fully adjustable dampers, and Morrison’s state-of-the-art