Danny Prestwood’s No Regrets 1955 Chevrolet Convertible

Prestwood 55

Most car guys dream of someday retiring and building their version of the ultimate Chevy. The dream rarely becomes a reality, and even if you do build your car, there are things that the power of hindsight would have caused you to do differently.

In the case of Danny and Mildred Prestwood and their 1955 Chevrolet convertible, Danny has fulfilled his dream. “With this car, I did everything I ever wanted, so there is nothing left to wish for.” People often ask why he made all of the modifications and put all of these resources into his car. Danny told us, “It’s because a lot of people build an old car like this and when they are done, they sit and say I wish I did this and I wish I did that,” which he wanted to avoid with this build.

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Photography provided by Patrick McGinnis Photography.

After retiring from a position as plant manager at a furniture company in 2005, it was time to buy the car and start transforming a dream into a reality. “When we bought it, we drove it for a little while, just how it was. I believe it only had 73,000 miles on it at the time,” Danny said. “The gaskets and seals were so old that we decided to take it in for some work. We had the transmission overhauled, and came to find out that the engine had also recently been redone.”

The Face Lift Begins

The car was in great shape, with minimal rust and very little work ever having been done. In early 2010 however, there was just one thing that Danny wanted to have looked at. “A piece of chrome wasn’t lining up right,” he said, “so I took it in to a friend to get fixed.” The quick repair turned into a list of little things that Danny wanted repaired, and it finally got to the point that Danny decided to have the car restored from the ground up.

With this car I did everything I ever wanted, so there is nothing left to wish for. -Danny Prestwood

After having the drivetrain sent to a local shop for a complete rebuild, and the bodywork started, misfortune took the wife of Danny’s body guy, and he had to close up shop. With a partially complete car, and more than just a little uncertainty in the future of his project, Danny visited a local shop that he had heard good things about, Hot Rod Dynamics.

The young company had been recently opened by Joe Lutz, and was only two miles from Danny’s home. The two started talking, and redefined the entire structure of the project. “Joe started talking to me about all the things that could be done to the car, and the things he had done in the past,” Danny said. “He mentioned that we could put a Fatman chassis under it, and I really liked what he was talking about.”

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Joe didn’t waste any time getting to work on the car and moving it in the new direction of building a ’55 Chevy convertible with a modern chassis and driveline that featured modern performance and amenities, with minimal exterior modifications to the body.

The build started with a Fatman chassis for a solid foundation. The Prestwood’s were not interested in a high-horsepower engine, but that does not mean they wanted to sacrifice performance by any means. So, under the hood is a 400 horsepower LS2 engine and 4L65e automatic transmission with a GM EFI system. The rearend is a  Strange 9-inch, with 3.55 gears and positraciton.

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Stock Power Play

Using a stock 6.0-liter LS2 engine, and not a big-block, Joe focused on making the area under the hood extra clean. The fuel injection harness was built by Speartech to their specifications.

We wanted to hide the wiring and plumbing as much as possible, to clean up the engine compartment -Joe Lutz, Hot Rod Dynamics

The plan was to make everything look clean, so they hid the wiring and plumbing as much as possible around the engine compartment. Joe explained. “The computer, relays, and fuse panel for the fuel injection are located behind the driver’s-side inner fender panel. The front inner fender of the ’55 Chevy is unique, in that they have a lower removable panel. This made a great place to hide sealed electronics such as the stock GM computer.

It is immediately obvious that the coloring under the hood is not the standard one might expect. The stock LS2 intake manifold has been meticulously smoothed and painted the same color as the body, with the engine block and valve covers painted to match. The stock LS2 stainless-steel fuel rails are polished, and there are fabricated covers that hide the injectors and wiring. The  covers use a similar two-tone paint scheme to mimic the outside of the car. The serpentine system is from Street and Performance, and has been chrome plated. The guys at Hot Rod Dynamics  smoothed the firewall, which does wonders to clean up the engine bay, and a hidden Raingear wiper system is located inside the car to get rid of the stock wiper motor.

The chassis is fitted with rack-and-pinion steering, a polished-stainless steel four-link rear suspension system, fully-adjustable coilovers at all four corners, polished-stainless steel control arms, and Wilwood brakes comprised of 13 and 14-inch rotors with six- and four-piston polished calipers.

“The frame was powdercoated to match the body, while the underside of the floor pans were smoothed and painted a contrasting satin black. The fuel tank is a Rick’s stainless tank, and stainless steel fuel and brake lines are routed to be neat and as unobtrusive as possible. The exhaust system was fabricated at Hot Rod Dynamics using 3-inch mandrel-bent 304 stainless steel, and then polished by hand.

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Keeping It Classic

To keep true to the Prestwood’s desire for a classic look, the car retains the stock wheelwells. Stuffed inside those openings are wheels measuring 18×8, and 18×10, wrapped in BFGoodrich KDW2 tires. To get a deeper dish wheel on the rear, the rearend needed to be narrowed an additional four inches from the way it came from Fatman’s.”

The PPG paint was applied by Chip Strickland of Strickland Automotive in the original colors of Indian Ivory over Turquoise. Although it sits a little lower than stock and the wheels give a little insight into the fact that the car has been modified, other than that, it looks stock. The top, along with everything else, is powered, and can be activated via a wireless remote. You will also notice that this car takes a page out of the ’56 and ’57 Chevy’s playbook, as Joe moved the gas filler under the driver’s side taillight housing, and is electronically controlled.

Getting Cozy

You can see the air vents here and the custom machined bezel for the console shifter. If you go to the Trique MFG homepage, the third image on the rotator is actually of this car!

You can see the air vents here and the custom-machined bezel for the console shifter. If you go to the Trique Mfg. website page, the third image on the splash page rotator is actually of this car!

The interior of the car is also a custom work of art, but retains the inspiration of the car’s originality. Hot Rod dynamics fabricated the center console from steel tubing and sheetmetal,  and they integrated a smooth, flush-mount glove box lid into the console that is held shut by spring-loaded magnets. The dash was smoothed, and the factory seams, original dash glove box, ash tray, and radio location were eliminated. The end result is a very smooth and clean look to the dash.

The shifter bezel in the console was custom-machined to match the Trique manufacturing A/C vents, and the upholstery work was outsourced to Scott Moore, who did a phenomenal job. The goal with the interior was to build a contemporary leather interior with some styling cues that are a throwback to the original design. Scott took a basic outline, and came up with a unique design that totally surpassed everyone’s expectations.

You can see that this car is loaded with modern creature comforts, including a Sony stereo system with a touch screen and navigation, power windows, and Classic Instruments gauges. The car is nothing short of perfection, and that’s not surprising, as the estimate Joe gave us states that 1,500 man-hours of labor went into the car.

With the care and effort that went into making the underside as beautiful as the outside, nobody wants road gunk down there. For that reason, the Prestwood’s have only put a few miles on it, but nothing substantial.

“I’d highly recommend Joe to anyone that wants any work done at all,” Danny said. “He’ll do exactly what he says he’s going to do.” After seeing the car, and hearing the story behind it, it’s not hard to understand the reason behind Danny’s recommendation.

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About the author

Kyler Lacey

A 2015 Graduate from Whitworth University, Kyler has always loved cars. He grew up with his dad's '67 Camaro in the garage and started turning wrenches at a young age. At seventeen, he bought his first classic, a '57 Chevy Bel Air four-door, and has since added a '66 Plymouth Valiant and '97 Cadillac Deville to his collection. When he isn't writing for Power Automedia, he's out shooting pictures at car shows, hiking in the forests of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, or working on something in the garage.
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