In the early 1980s, Van Halen was one of the most successful vans in the world. The album 1984 had huge commercial success with 10 million copies sold. Their music could be better associated with 80s cars such as the Ferrari Testarossa, C4 Corvette, or Camaro IROC-Z. But that’s not what legendary musician Alex Van Halen spent his money on; no, he got a Tri-Five, specifically a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air.
We’re big fans of the Tri-Five, which looks classy in every driveway. It could be the car with the widest appeal in the world: old, young, men, women, fully custom, stock, wheels lovers, rappers, drag racers, etc. Even the Ford guys seem to like it.
This particular 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air was first owned by five-time NHRA champion Joe Amato. This legendary dragster driver passed it on to Alex Van Halen in 2013 according to the seller on Bring A Trailer. The auction just started, and it will be interesting to see how high it goes. The car is worth at least $150,000 in mind even without being associated with a legendary rocker.
At first glance, it looks pretty normal, a black and white with all the nice Bel Air trim. However, a quick look at the wheels tells you it’s been customized. The 55 Chevy now rides on a new chassis from Art Morrison, which comes with independent front suspension and a 9-inch rear axle with 4.11:1 gears.
It’s got all the usual restomod upgrades, including a set of Strange Engineering coilovers, Wilwood disc brakes, and a lovely set of ET Classic five-spoke wheels with modern rubber (325/50 Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R tires out back).
The 55 is the most restrained of the three Tri-Five model years. However, it’s still got a “hood bird”, chrome spears down the side, and Bel Air badging to let you know it’s special. Modest cosmetic upgrades have been made, including tinted windows and LED taillights.
You don’t install a custom chassis if you want your Bel Air to keep its stock engine. The most powerful engine back in the day was the Super Power Pack 265 cubic-inch V8 making 195 hp, but it arrived late in the model year, so most cars had the 162 or 180 hp output from the same block. This has double the displacement.
That’s right, Alex Van Halen’s car has a big-block, specifically a 540 cubic-inch that’s reportedly been installed during previous ownership. The 8.85-liter monster features an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold, MSD electronic ignition and billet distributor, braided fuel lines, RHS cylinder heads, tubular exhaust headers, and an aluminum radiator with dual electric fans. These are not the latest parts, but the setup probably still makes 650-700 horsepower sent to the rear via a Tremec TKO five-speed manual transmission.
As for the sound, just check out the video below. It’s like one of the BAT comments put it: I can only imagine that this beast idles like Alex’s intro on “Hot For Teacher”!