1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

RIDES regular Jarvis takes the road less traveled.

Story: Evan “Evo” Yates

Photography: David Yates

In 1955 the U.S. penny was 95 percent pure copper, and Chevy began producing its second (and most popular) generation of the Bel Air. Today the penny is 2.5 percent copper, and Chevy makes cars like the Cruze. Times have clearly changed, but thankfully there are custom car gurus like Jarvis of Jay’s Customs in Lithonia, Georgia, who pump life back into classic rides, adding new-school touches while still paying homage to their heritage.

Jarvis—whom you already know from the King Kong Donk, the Skull Cutlass and the Transmaro—decided to tap into a niche rarely explored by those who also own a purple Donk on 28s. Jarvis understood the dedication and commitment needed for a build such as this, where parts would be expensive if they could be located at all. “This kind of build separates the boys from the men,” he proclaims. “This is really the most expensive Chevy you can put together. Just for a clean body with no motor or transmission, you’re gonna spend $25,000 to $30,000.” Jarvis was fortunate enough not only to acquire a clean-bodied car, but he also scored one with a numbers-matching 265 V8. The ’55 Bel Air was the first Chevrolet production car ever equipped with a V8, so retaining the factory block was a fairly obvious—and committed—choice.

The scheme for the iconic Bel Air was actually inspired by a box of old pennies. Jarvis had yet to incorporate copper on a vehicle, so he took the theme to the extreme, throwing in ol’ Abe wherever he could muster. “The idea behind the Lincoln theme had a few meanings,” explains Jarvis. “I wanted to do a copper color, and the first thing that comes to mind is a penny. Next, I wanted something that represented history, because it’s such a historical car, and lastly, I wanted to show people what saving up all your pennies could get you!”

On the exterior, Jarvis opted for a two-tone cream-and-copper paint scheme, with the majority of the trim dipped in copper. Jarvis went with a set of Dcenti wheels, 20×8 in the front, 22×10 out back, wrapped in Kumho tires, preferring to keep it classy under the fenders. One of its most unique attributes, though—seldom seen on a Bel Air—is the mural on the trunk lid, once again featuring Abe in all of his vintage awesomeness.

Keeping it on par with most of his builds, Jarvis went 10 toes down in the guts with plush leather covering most of the interior, including the Grand Prix bucket seats and custom center console. A custom penny-print graphic cleverly covers some of the dash and trunk panels to tie in the theme, and a custom billet steering wheel with the year 1955 and Abe’s portrait engraved on it tops off the fresh insides. Now that the ’55 is completed, this Bel Air has become Jarvis’ ultimate penny loafer.

Spec The Technique:

Performance: Original 265 V8; Powerglide transmission, headers and custom exhaust

Interior: Brown leather throughout; custom Grand Prix bucket seats; custom center console

Exterior: Sherwin-Williams copper and cream paint; copper plating; custom airbrushed trunk mural

Ice: JVC head unit, six 6½ coaxial speakers; two Kicker 12-inch L7 subwoofers; three PPI amplifiers; navigation in instrument cluster

Wheels/Tires: Dcenti DW19A wheels, 20×8 front, 22×10 rear; Kumho Ecsta tires


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