Konnie’s dad purchased the car in 1990, and it has spent most of the time since then parked in a barn on the family farm in Idaho.
Konnie and I are excited to meet with other members of the club. We were planning to attend the September meeting, but we both had colds and decided not the share them with the group. We also caught the tail end of the Annual show in August. It was great to see so many Tri-Fives in one place, I wish we had gotten there earlier.
I don’t know much of the history of our 55 Bel Air. I do know that it was purchased by Konnie’s Dad in 1990, and it had been partially restored before he bought it. At the very least, it seems the engine was rebuilt and the upholstery replaced. The car spent most of the next 27 years sitting in the garage on the family farm in Southern Idaho. There is no odometer reading on the title, it has most likely flipped over at least once, but I have been told it was rarely driven since it was purchased in 1990. In fact, according to the Les Schwab contract we found, new tires were purchased for it in 1996 when the odometer read 12,612. Today the odometer reads 13051, just 439 miles in 21 years, and we just recently put about 200 of those miles on it.
Konnie’s dad passed away 9 years ago, and we know it has not been driven since. Two years ago, Konnie’s Mom very kindly gifted the car to us while we were visiting. We did an initial inspection, at that time, and we were able to rotate the engine by hand. So we inflated the tires, changed the battery, replaced the fuel pump and filter, cleaned the plugs, changed the oil, and tried to start it. Surprisingly, it wanted to run but only when starter fluid was added down the throat of the carb. We suspected it needed a new carburetor but our time visiting in Idaho was over, so it sat in the garage for another 2 years.
This summer we finally got back to try again. The tires were still inflated and the battery had a charge, so I put a purchased rebuilt carb on it and turned the key. It fired right up and I drove it out of the garage for the first time in a number of years. I had Les Schwab do a road inspection on the tires; they were a bit surprised to realize the 21 year old tires are still under warranty. They passed the inspection and everything else seemed to be working during our short test drives.
We decided to gamble and attempted to drive it home to Washington. However, the 107 degree heat and a poorly rebuilt carburetor proved too much and she kept stalling on the hills. After about 150 miles, we trailered her home the rest of the way. Since we got her back to Washington, I discovered issues with the rebuilt carb but decided it had too many issues to fix. Instead, I rebuilt the original carburetor and again she is up and running, but still in need of some tuning. I also replaced the gas tank, sender unit, and filler pipe as they were corroded and the tank had a pinhole leak. Next, I will be replacing the fuel lines, adding seatbelts and, perhaps, a few new emblems. I am also on the lookout for an oil filter assembly. Overall, I am pleased she seems to have held up pretty well over the years.
I would say the phrase 20 Footer applies to our Bel Air. She looks pretty good for her age, from a distance. Initially, we are planning to restore her to as close to stock as possible. I suppose after that we may look into upgrading a few things.
I had meant to keep this short but, as a first time Tri-Five owner, I guess you can tell I am a bit excited about it.
Welcome to the NWCCC.