Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!  

The Shoebox Chevys were also known as the Tri-fives because they encompassed three years in the mid fifties - 55, 56 and 57. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Bel Air is from the first of those three, but does it come with a price that's triple what it should be?

Mercury may be gone, but it far from forgotten, and yesterday's 2003 Marauder proved that should the brand ever fade from memory, this Mercury at least will leave behind two smoking strips of BF Goodrich. That was enough for 54% of you to anoint its sub-ten grand asking with a Nice Price Crown, even if it was just a tarted up Crown Vic.

Back in the fifties Ford's Crown Vic squared off against its primary competition - Chevrolet, which introduced a stunningly different product at the mid point of the cold war decade. The '55 Chevy is important on two fronts - first of all it marked the introduction of one of the most hallowed of engines - the SBC V8, and secondly because it's one of the best looking cars of any decade to come out of Detroit. This 55 Chevy Two-Door Sedan is described by its seller as a ‘rat rod' but it looks more like a traditional hot rod than anything Michelle Mcgee might call home. Inside however, it's a different story.


The styling of the ‘55 Chevy was pretty revolutionary for the time, described by the maker as ‘Motoramic.' The hood line is 3" lower than on the preceding year's cars, and the hood sharing the same height as the fenders served to visually lengthen both. Eschewing ornate pretense, the '55's grille is said to have been designed to look like that of a Ferrari, and of the three years of shoebox production is by far the simplest design. Here that grille sits over a bumper that once may have been chrome, but now looks to be down to its last nickel. The one in back isn't any better, but at least they're complete and straight. The rest of the car is painted a shade of red usually seen on cheating husband's collars and is too shiny for a Rat, but still looks pretty nice on this Bel Air. Coordinating with the body color and hazy chrome are black-painted steelies wearing wide whitewalls. Those are tucked into the wheel wells as the car has been dropped from its original ride height, but no where near enough to qualify as a low rider.


If this car originally came with something more than a six then it would have been the 265-cid V8 that debuted the same year, an engine that was the progenitor of the most famous engine in Chevy's history (sorry Cosworth Vega fans) and perhaps in the whole U.S.. At this point in this car's life, that's pretty immaterial as it presently sports a 350 which is backed up by a another 350, of the Turbo Hydramatic sort. That's a rock solid but not too imaginative a driveline, but then, it's also a good foundation for a lot of things.

The A-arm front suspension and long-leaf rear were intended to provide and improved ride and handling over its predecessors, but in contrast to a modern car, driving this Chevy will likely be akin to piloting the Exxon Valdez. Armstrong power steering and likewise brakes will additionally remind the operator that a lot of progress has been made in the past fifty-plus years - and that driving this car requires a lot of planning ahead.


But at least the interior will provide a pleasant retro environment, right? Well, here's where this rod turns out to be the rattiest. While the head-cracking steel dash is handsomely designed with its symmetric binnacles, instrumentation is on a need to know basis, making do with only a speedo, and fuel and temp gauges. And apparently none of those work. There is an under-dash triple gauge set up, but it looks like some MacGuyvering will be required with the wiring to get this thing communicating. The seats are sleeved in covers that look like depression-era muu-muus and those stand in stark contrast to the shaggy blood-red wall to wall. Speaking of walls, the door panels are kind of funky, appearing to have been covered in what looks like ground-up albino or the asbestos lining off an old boiler. Touch it at your own risk. Up above, the headliner is like your best friend when you were six - imaginary.


Underneath, it looks to have a fresh coat of black Krylon, and the dual exhaust exits ahead of the rear axle in case your drug of choice happens to be carbon monoxide. There doesn't appear to be any rust or hinky-looking repairs having been made - just a solid Bel Air. The ad claims 8,557 miles, but that's likely not the total this car has rolled, and with a busted speedo, who can tell what it's done?

The last year of the shoebox Chevy was ‘57 and with Ford introducing all-new, lower and longer cars that year, the bow tie brand lost the sales crown to Ford for the first time in 22 years, not an ignominious end. Time however has been more kind to the Chevies than the Fords, and today the ‘55 -'57 Shoebox cars typically prove more popular than the Fords of the era. That popularity comes with a price however, and in the case of the convertible and two-door long-roof Nomads that price can sometimes feature six figures to the left of the decimal.


This one, being but a fixed B-pillar duo porte, would be expected to command much less. And, as what is described by the seller as ‘Rat Rod' could be construed as just tired or crappy, that should reduce its value even more. The question is, what should that value be? The seller seems to think it's $12,999, but that's just his opinion, and I would wager that he is somewhat biased. You on the other hand have no skin in the game and hence can weigh in on whether that price is too princely a sum for this Bel Air, or if that's a hot deal for this hot rod.

You decide!


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