RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — If you’re a classic car fan, then you’ll love the latest creation from John Bohannon at Bohannon Concepts in Cookeville, TN. John has developed an all composite ’55 Chevy S-S which is a lightweight, retro version of the original Chevy shoebox.
Finding an actual ’55 Chevy with a decent steel body is nearly impossible these days, so Bohannon goes one better with an all-composite body with resins from Reichhold, the world’s largest supplier of unsaturated polyester resins.
Bohannon got into the custom replica business fabricating composite parts for Choo Choo Customers in Chattanooga, TN. Before that, he worked with corvettes which eventually led to manufacturing composites bodies for ’32 Ford Roadsters and the chopped ’55 Chevy.
In addition to the tricked out cars, Bohannon fabricates an SS front-end for El Caminos and also produces composite front-ends for 1988-98 Chevy trucks that gives them the look of ’47 – ’54 models. These parts are marketed by Honest Charlie and Newstalgia Wheels.
When you see Bohannon’s ’55 Chevy, it’s obvious that this is not a stock restoration or replica. His creation is a 14-foot long, chopped-appearance body that cries out for a 1/4-mile run. If you’re a builder / enthusiast, you can choose from a variety of options when purchasing the ’55 replica from Bohannon Concepts.
Experienced builders can purchase a body by itself, or a body on a chassis. For those ’55 lovers who are more hands off, Bohannon will provide a complete car ready to drive.
From Steel to Glass
Bohannon says he’s always liked the style of the ’55 Chevy, but with that mean, chopped look.
He began the ’55 Chevy project by first building a “plug” car out of steel. Then, using Reichhold’s zero-shrink POLYLITE PROFILE Tooling System, he produced the molds for the ’55 which he gets from Reichhold distributor, Advanced Plastics.
Bohannon molds the body out of three pieces, all through hand lay-up, using DION(R) 6631 corrosion-resistant resins from Reichhold, also through Advanced Plastics, and then glasses them together. He puts down three layers of 1.5 oz fiberglass – COREMAT (60 mils) then lays down another two layers of 1.5 oz. glass.
Bohannon says this makes the composite body so strong you can stand on it.
He bolts the mold together and glasses the seams. He says he chose the Reichhold resin because of its consistency. “I tried other resins and got different viscosities that were inconsistent,” he explains. “With the Reichhold resin, I never have any junk or scrap parts. I haven’t had any trouble with it.”
The biggest challenge in producing the custom ’55 Chevy S-S replica is making it all fit together, Bohannon says. The largest parts of the car are the two sides and the top. The sides are almost 14 feet long and four feet tall. The doors to the ’55 are composite inner and outer structures, reinforced with metal on the inside. A sealed hinge kit is used to connect the doors to the ’55’s frame.
Of everything he has to do for these hand-built cars, Bohannon says the hardest parts to assemble are the doors. Unlike their original counterparts from 1955, Bohannon’s cars come with all the luxuries of power windows and locks. Great for passengers, but a real pain for builders.
In all, Bohannon says producing the composite parts for the ’55 Chevy takes about 40 hours. He then has to paint them with automotive paint. A body can be produced in about two weeks, but a customized, turn-key car that can be driven home takes about six months to complete.
Bohannon’s involvement with the ’55 project came through contact with the SPIKE television network’s hot-rod show, “Horse Power TV.” HPTV producers approached him about building a ’55 replica for their program. HPTV and associated vendors furnished all the parts.
Bohannon built the car which was featured on multiple episodes of HPTV. At the conclusion of the program, it became Bohannon’s “show car.”
Although it wasn’t built for weekly racing, Bohannon feels confident his composite ’55 will hit 105 m.p.h. in a quarter mile, thanks to the 502 cubic-inch engine donated to the HPTV project by General Motors. Unfortunately for the folks at HPTV, they weren’t able to get shots of the car doing the traditional smoking-tires burnout. Bohannon says the ’55 gets such good grip that it just “hooks and goes” with great traction.
Today, Bohannon has two completed versions of the ’55 Chevy S-S and three partials: 3 bodies and one combination body / chassis.
Bohannon is somewhat surprised that he hasn’t gotten a lot of criticism from Classic Chevy purists who might not be happy that the car is composite (instead of the original steel) or that he’s changed the design with the chopped look. The “show car” has been featured on television, at car shows and the Street Rod Nationals.
For more information on John Bohannon’s ’55 Chevy S-S, visit his website at www.BohannonConcepts.com
“Horsepower TV” airs every Saturday and Sunday at 12:30 PM ET on Spike TV.
For more information on Open Mold resins from Reichhold, call Open Mold Business Manager Phil Bridges at (919) 990-7952 or e-mail: [email protected]
NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos of Bohannon Concepts’ composite ’55 Chevy replica can be obtained by calling Phil Bridges at (919) 990-7952 or sending e-mail requests to: [email protected]
–Bohannon Concepts: www.BohannonConcepts.com
–Advanced Plastics: www.Advanced-Plastics.com