"Have $500,000 to spend? That was the estimated total cost of this 1955 Chevy built by Tom Nelson of Nelson Racing Engines (NRE) for a client's 16-year-old son. You might know Nelson for his twin-turbo builds, including the almost-8-second F-Bomb Camaro, and a series of really fast, and oh-so-nice street and race cars." - HotRod.com

"Have $500,000 to spend? That was the estimated total cost of this 1955 Chevy built by Tom Nelson of Nelson Racing Engines (NRE) for a client's 16-year-old son. You might know Nelson for his twin-turbo builds, including the almost-8-second F-Bomb Camaro, and a series of really fast, and oh-so-nice street and race cars." - HotRod.com

You might have already seen the clickbait on your Facebook feed, "A $500,000 dollar 1955 Chevy built by Tom Nelson at Nelson Racing Engines (NRE)!" It's not fake news—owner Matt Swanson "poured the hours into this thing" to get every detail perfect and match his son Jack's vision for a street sleeper that looks like something from 1955. After we heard about the re-chromes, the changes, the repaints, and hundreds of hours of metalwork, we began to see where the money went. Then we heard about how they knocked down the crowns on the fenders, doors, and quarters just to get light line perfect, then built a screaming, big-inch LS that looks old but makes 700hp. Now we are believers.

Matt Swanson is from Turlock, California, a small town south of Modesto made popular in our world by the George Lucas movie American Graffiti. Swanson was in high school during the zenith of main-street cruising and drive-ins, living in the town made for it. The car he chose for late-night shenanigans was, of course, a 1955 Chevy. The plates stated "1TRIK55" and the rearend was narrowed for what he calls "wrinkle walls." All state-of-the-art in 1983.

Make + Model

'55 Chevy Bel Air

Engine Combo

Naturally Aspirated LS

100% Dyno Tested

700hp +

Technical Specs

The cam checks in with 0.680 lift and 250/257 duration, and is still working at the 6,700-rpm deadline, so you can imagine how that sounds. It's all powder-coated with a wrinkle finish.

  • 700 Hp on the Motor 1200 Hp on the bottle
  • 496 cubic inch All Alloy Small Block LS7
  • 8.1 litre All Aluminum LS7 Engine
  • Weighing only 400 lbs
  • Starting with a RHS Aluminum 9.75 Tall deck raised cam block
  • Callies Magnum 4340 Forged 4.5 Stroke Crank
  • Callies 4340 Ultra Connecting Rods
  • Custom NRE 10 to 1 Je pistons
  • Custom NRE Hydraulic roller cam and lifters
  • Fully CNC ported Ls7 heads
  • Fully CNC ported 2 piece Intake manifold
  • NRE Fabricated Trap door steel road race pan
  • Custom Individual Fogger Nitrous system 500 HP Capable 
  • One-off Cad designed Functional Cold air Real Cowl induction system cut from solid billet

Like in most cities, Turlock's cruising scene was killed in the early 1990s by city councils and police. Swanson sold the '55 for a wedding ring and focused on family and the livestock-feed business that was started by his father in 1971.

Today, Swanson has four children and several thriving agriculture endeavors. His son, Jack, had seen photos of the '55 and wanted one for his 16th birthday. Dad went to Barrett-Jackson and purchased one from none other than Richard Rawlings from Gas Monkey Garage. Shortly after, he found himself in front of Tom Nelson, owner of NRE, with a modest wish list that would soon spin out of control.

You've seen the gas-door trick, but not like this. There are more than 20 pieces of billet track and limit switches, plus an electric motor triggered by a key fob to roll it open. Why not?

The car was blown apart, the body dipped, and the rust fixed before being powdercoated semi-gloss black as a primer. "Most of the time was spent doing metalwork," Nelson says. "The entire body was heated and shrunk to 1 inch by hand to get a constant body crown around the entire car." It was looking like a nice restomod, then came the extra requests.

"I wanted a new frame, great brakes, show paint, and a great engine," Swanson says. "Nelson would take it apart, put it back together, and take it apart again. Jack wanted it to look like a real '55 Chevy—but a sleeper, with crank windows and steel wheels."

Fresh air is fed to the engine through a handmade aluminum cowl induction system. Compare this firewall to a stock '55 and you begin to see how much work was involved here. The tubing is for the nitrous purge.
Nothing to see here. Except for the hand-bent and brazed steam vent lines and an eight-pack of nitrous foggers, all sort of hidden under the two-piece Mast Motorsports CNC single-plane manifold.
Inside is the finest leather, of course, with the edition of Mercedes carpet, and a complete sound system that is completely hidden from view. Under the stick is a Tremec six-speed.
Why are we showing you the steering wheel? It's stock-appearing but 2 inches narrower to get it out of the way, yet still look and feels like 1955.
The factory wheeltub bead was hammered into the panel behind the seat to make it match. Nelson calls it a pinstripe in the metal.
The grille is new, but that didn't matter. Nelson's guys stripped and hand straightened each stainless-steel bar before plating and chroming them. It represents 100 hours of work.
You're not going to get stance like this using a torch on the springs. Behind the 19-inch Forgelines is a chassis from The Roadster Shop, Baer 14.25-inch brakes, and a Mark Williams 9-inch.
Stare at this for a minute. The bumper was cut, sectioned, and rolled—then straightened and chromed. The rear bumper on a '55 is tough because there are several different angles that need to be shaped at the same time. We'll leave it at that.

On top of a level of purity required to both perform and look like an old car, the timeline had to be 14 months so the car could be ready for Jack's 16th birthday.

But wait. Isn't Tom Nelson known for building turbo engines? Nelson is from the same era as Swanson, but instead of Turlock, he was raised in the San Fernando Valley, the West Coast cradle of street racing. Back then, Nelson was into viscous nitrous small-blocks in a lightweight Nova that was less cruise and more business. Therefore, when he was told to keep the engine bay clean and original-looking, he deleted the basket of snakes plumbing and a set of twins and went for a hidden 500 shot with eight foggers on top of a rowdy 700-NA-horsepower LS.

Now what? If you asked us, we'd be living in this thing. The Swansons have decided to race it against a yet undisclosed brand of supercar on a road course... Read More

BADA55 in the NEWS

"The Baddest Dodge Charger You’ve Ever Seen" - CarScoops.com
MAXIMUS on the cover of April 2020 of Hot Rod Magazine
"Maximus is not just a movie car, but a beast on the street." - StreetMuscleMag.com
MotorAuthority.com - Toretto's 1968 Dodge Charger from "Furious 7" is for sale
← Back To Projects