1955 Chevy I Can't Drive '55!
"It's just a '55 Chevy hot rod with a big-block and a stick." That's how custom car builder JF Launier described this gorgeous two-tone Tri-Five. Maybe that's because that's what Wes Sutherland asked for when he approached Launier at JF Kustoms four years ago with a simple goal for a '55 Chevy: "I just want a cool car ... You know, like a bright-colored hot rod!"

Realizing he needed to start from scratch, Launier bypassed complete cars and sought out a shell as a clean slate. The phone call finally came in; a friend had found a car at a farm.

The '55 they found was a one-owner car with a family history; the dad originally bought and drove it, but all three sons learned to drive in it and got to use it as they got older and each time it was customized by the boys through the '60s. It was no perfect barn find though; after teen drivers and 40 years in a barn, there was lots of rust and all the pieces of the partially assembled car had to be transported in three truckloads.

Over the next two years, Launier kept Sutherland up to date with lots of email pictures and phone calls, but he had near carte blanche on the '55's look. That same level of trust allowed Launier to take the '55 to the OUSCI with only 50 test miles. At SEMA, the '55 was extremely well received with many people wondering what was done to the car to make it look so clean-including us. It just has a look doesn't it?

After tracking down Elvis for a photo-op with the car, Launier drove the 60 miles to Pahrump where the rest of the challenge would take place the following day. Both Launier and Sutherland were proud of the Tri-Five's performance, especially considering the competition. "It did extremely well considering the high number of race cars that the little show car was up against, finishing 17th out of 55 cars overall," Launier says. Actually, it seems that the competition altered his perception of what he expects out of his cars from now on. The OUSCI was Launier's first real track event and what he describes as an "incredible experience." It even caused the '55 to come away with a new nickname, "El Toro."

By The Numbers
'55 Chevy
JF Launier & Wes Sutherland Fort Nelson, BC, Canada
Overall Finishing Position: 17 out of 55

Type: 572ci GMPP big-block Chevy
Block: GM
Oiling: GM oil pump with custom-fab oil pan by JF Kustoms
Rotating assembly: GM 572ci forged stroker assembly
Cylinder heads: GM rectangle-port aluminum heads, 118cc chambers
Camshaft: GM PN 88961557, .632/.632 lift, 254/264 duration at .050
Valvetrain: 1.7 ratio GM aluminum roller rockers
Induction: GM aluminum single-plane with Holley 850 cfm
Exhaust: custom headers by JF Kustoms, 3-inch pipes with Flowmaster mufflers
Fuel system: Aeromotive fuel pump with stock tank
Ignition: MSD billet distributor and coil
Cooling: GM water pump with Be Cool electric fan and aluminum radiator
Output: 620 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque per GM specs
Built by: GM Performance Parts
Transmission: Tremec TKO 500 with Lakewood scattershield and Centerforce clutch
Rearend: Strange Engineering 9-inch with locker diff, 31-spline axles, and 3.73 gears
Front suspension: Art Morrison Tri-Five Chassis with Strange coilovers and Art Morrison tubular control arms suspension and 1-inch sway bar
Rear suspension: Art Morrison 4-link with Strange coilovers
Brakes: Wilwood 12-inch rotors with four-piston calipers up front, 11-inch rotors in the rear
Wheels: 19x8 and 20x10 Painina from Curtis Speed Equipment with 4½-inch backspacing front and rear
Tires: 245/40R19 and 315/40R20 Pirelli