Illustration for article titled Project Car Hell, Party Like Its 1955 (and Youre Broke) Edition: Ford, Chevy, Dodge, or Nash?

Welcome to Project Car Hell, where you choose your eternity by selecting the project that's the coolest... and the most hellish! I haven't been able to do as many PCH posts as I'd like, so let's have a 4-fer-1 today!


1955 was a helluva year for the American automotive industry, with prewar frumpery finally expunged from car designs and the economy bubbling over with optimism, plenty of dollars in the pockets of those millions of freshly minted GI Bill college grads, and Ike's promise of a vast new Interstate Highway System on the horizon. Car shoppers were ready to sign on the line that is dotted, and they did so in vast quantities. Naturally, most of us would feel pretty cool rolling in a '55 model year machine, but the price tags on most of the ones you can find nowadays make us think we're stuck in 1958. But if you're willing to plunge your soul into the hottest molten-sulfur-filled crater in Project Car Hell invest a little time and money into a project car, you can buy yourself a classic 1955 American car for 600 bucks or less. We've got one apiece from each of the Big Three, plus a car from one of the many doomed independents of the 1950s, so let's go shopping!

We might as start with the most expensive of the four: this 1955 Chevrolet sedan (go here if the listing disappears), for which the owner would like to receive 600 American dollars. Anyone who has been to a car show in North America during the last, oh, fifty years has seen several hundred thousand '55 Chevrolets, so there's no need to get into its storied history, the famous movie cars, or the inaugural year of the small-block Chevrolet V8. And speaking of V8s, this car comes with one! Is it the original 265, or (far more likely) a good ol' 350 yanked from Grandpa's wrecked Kingswood Estate wagon back in '82? Who can say? Who cares? You get a reasonably intact body and- maybe- a quasi-functioning suspension, plus every single interior and trim piece you could possibly need can be purchased from these guys.

The '55 Chevy is a great-looking car, no arguing with that (though I prefer the less "blocky" look of the '56), but you don't have many choices for the project that haven't already been done to death. 9-second drag racer, super-spotless show car, low rider, rat rod, whatever- 100,000 dudes got there before you. You might get a '55 Ford sedan, but even those are pretty common… but hold on a second, Henry- what about a '55 Ford wagon? What would you say if we told you we could put you in this 1955 Ford two-door wagon (go here if the listing disappears) for just $400? That's right, it's Ford's answer to the Nomad! The Ranch Wagon is just as cool as the Nomad and you can put a nice one together for about 1% of the cost of the Chevy. Check out this '57 Ranch Wagon to get a sense of just how good a mid-century Ford two-door wagon can look. This one has the standard PCH engine-sans-transmission setup, but that doesn't matter; you'll be dropping a supercharged 5.4 Modular out of an F-150 Lightning into it, anyway!

It's hard to argue with the appeal of a two-door wagon, but just imagine yourself behind the wheel of a two-door, Semi-Hemi-equipped '55 Dodge coupe, say for example this one for 500 bucks (go here if the listing disappears). It's in Michigan, which means there is might be extensive some rust, but so what? Two-tone paint job, tons of chrome, and a growling V8. Maybe you could go the rat rod route with this one, apply two shades of primer, and show those Ford and Chevy guys how it's done!

Do you really need to stay with the herd and run a V8, or do you want to go seriously old-school and pack a flathead six under your Kenosha cruiser's hood? Yes, you can buy a mostly complete proto-AMC for chicken feed, as proven by this 1955 Nash Statesman (go here if the listing disappears), which comes with a price tag of a mere 300 bucks. Three hundred dollars! The seller doesn't give us much useful information about this car, other than the extremely optimistic "super complete parts car not fixer upper" and the less encouraging "floor boards are rusted threw," but it should be a slog through Hades a walk in the park to get this classic sedan back on the road and looking good.

Of course, any one of these cars would make you an instant Legend Of LeMons, should you choose to race-ify it, though we'd prefer that you kept it street legal as well; that way you can drive it to and from the races, no trailer needed!

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