Rudi Van Der Merwe from Pretoria is the proud owner of this interesting 1955 Chevy 210 4-door badass, that he calls Lucky Lucile. Rudi tells us the story of his beloved Lucky Lucile.
EDITION15. Built by Rudi van der Merwe
When you think of a 1955 Chevy 210, you think of beautiful body curves, huge chrome bumpers, immaculate paint job and expensive wheels. All perfectly put together, cruising down the road looking all pretty and shiny. It is the same feeling you get when you see a beautiful woman in an elegant evening dress walking past. Lucky Lucile is not an elegant beautiful woman, she doesn’t show a bit of leg to teas the boys. NO. Lucky Lucile is the woman your Mommy warned you about, she body slams you and rides you like a Harley.
When I was 16, I heard a V8 for the first time and I fell in love, I just knew I had to have one! I grew up in a small Freestate town called Heilbron (about 120km from Joburg). I had my first bike when I was 8 and my first car at 16 (a 1972 Toyota Carona bakkie), My dad helped me to buy my first V8, a Chevy small block that was in pieces for R700 bucks. With the help of local gear heads and the engineering shops and a lot of school fees paid on “bargain parts,” we finally got her running on the engine stand! What a feeling! Hearing that V8 rumble for the first time without mufflers was amazing.
Well, now I had the engine and was looking for a car to put it in. I spotted an old car sitting under a tree. I just had to have it. So I sold the Carona bakkie and bought the 1955 Chevy 4-door sedan for R6500. It had very little rust and still had the old straight-six blue flame motor. Before tearing her apart, my mates and I used to hunt rabbits with a shotgun through the mielie fields with that car! Well the V8 had to go somewhere. So we stripped her down and put the V8 in with an auto box and an El Camino diff.
That was nice for a while, but later I got that itch to go faster. So in went an Iskenderian cam, Rhoads lifters, Edelbrock Performance intake and a Holley 600 carb. That made a huge difference. The car took me to Pretoria for 3 months, back in the day when I was doing my diesel mac apprenticeship.
I still remember scaring people in the car because when you push the brakes(drum brakes) it used to be all over the road!
After I qualified as a diesel mac, I went to work in England and I had some time to obsess about what I want to do with my Chevy! At the time the car was the typical SA 80s Rod and I began to realize that it wasn’t me. I wasn’t happy, it was still too slow, looked way too tame and just not getting the juices pumping!
I bought a book about turbo-charging and became interested in the idea of doing a turbo conversion on the Chevy. Then I saved up some cash in the UK and the first thing I did when I got home was to swap the El Camino rear for a shortened Ford 9inch. This was to be able to fit some nice fat BF 275’s under the wheel wells. It was also a nice basis to be able to handle the power I was planning to put down on the tar.
Next was a suspension rebuilt with polyurethane bushes and disc brakes front and rear. I also lowered and moved the engine back for weight transfer purposes. Then came the new seats, roll-cage, battery relocation, polycarbonate windows, locally fabricated throttle body fuel injection, Gotech Engine Management Systems and the big turbo conversion.
The car keeps evolving as we speak, it first had a medium-sized RAJAY Turbo Products on. Now it has a ginormous Schwitzer turbo on. It is from a Mercedes Actross truck and a massive custom made inter-cooler.
The inspiration for Lucky Lucile came from the fifties bomber aeroplanes! Those old big planes were tough as nails and the pilots were real characters and definitely lived life to the fullest! Not this bullshit white-collar, Greenpeace SUV-driving society we living in today! That was a time when gas was cheap, Hot Rods were badass, rock and roll ruled, and whiskey on the rocks was the drink of choice!
I feel if you build a car, it’s like an artist painting a picture. It gives you freedom of expression to do anything you want. Respect!
The car is named after an actual bomber plane that flew during World War II ! Lucky Lucile!
The car now makes about 300kw at 0.8 bar boost. Thanks to all the gear heads who helped me with Lucile.
@JacoFerriera (stainless work)
@LauHerne (aluminium fabrication)
@Micheal de Carvalio (bonnet)
@Maurits Lourens (decals)
@Leon van der Merwe (general technical ‘guru’)
Future plans are a Forged rotating assembly, with a 1.2 bar boost and a 10-second Quarter mile!