NOTHING LIKE A STICK-SHIFT '55 CHEVY
It’s never good to covet another person’s possessions, but for Gary Howe of Gig Harbor, Washington, he couldn’t help it.
From the first time he saw Carl Downard’s 1955 Chevy, he had to have it. The interesting part of the story is he first saw the shoebox in a video.
“I happened to see him on a video that Larry Pfister made, and I called our division director Mike Rice at the time and asked him who had that beautiful blue 55 Chevrolet,” Howe recalled. “He told me it was Carl Downard, and I said, “I have to have his phone number, I have to call him.”
Howe reached out to Downard, where they spoke at length about the history of the car.
“I told him how much I loved it and wanted to see it run,” Howe explained. “Six months later, I was at the drag strip with Carl, and we became friends. I started racing around our [NHRA] Division 6 with him, and in 2004, he offered it to me for sale. So I bought the car in 2004, and I’ve been running it ever since.
The story behind the classic Chevrolet is enough to make the most avid class car restorer cringe. Up until 2000, the ’55 Chevy was a daily driver, complete with the stock 265-inch engine and three-speed transmission. It was then Downard converted it to race NHRA Super Stock.
“Carl was an avid class Racer for years and had many cars before this and just decided to turn his daily grocery-getter into a Super Stocker at that time of his life.”
Howe is more than thrilled Downard did, as are a number of race fans who live vicariously through his gear-jamming antics in the 3,300-plus pound beauty.
“It kind of reminds me of the old days when you could pull into a hamburger stand and the girls would roll out on the roller skates and put a tray and a hamburger plate down and when you were done eating you’d go back out on the street and drive around,” Howe said of driving the car in competition. “I’ve always loved the ’55 Chevrolet’s and going down the track, it’s a ton of fun, and it just brings back memories of yesteryear.”