Road Rules! Jeff Thisted Cruises America in a ’55 Chevy Wagon
From Death Valley’s Badwater Basin, to the summit of Pikes Peak, Jeff Thisted and his ’55 Chevy 210 Handyman has been everywhere – and you can follow along with him on his very active Instagram page – @jeffthisted.
Goodguys regulars may know Jeff as the AutoCross announcer at many Goodguys events. Or perhaps you recognize him as a host for the Hot Rod Power Tour, the C10 Nationals, or one of his many television show or commercial gigs. He’s one of those guys who turns up in a lot of places – most of the time behind the wheel of his ’55 Chevy.
Jeff found the ’55 a decade ago on eBay after selling a rusty ’68 Chevy wagon. “It was in good condition, and the paint and interior essentially looked the same as they do now,” Jeff says of the Handyman. The two-door wagon seemed like the perfect candidate for Jeff’s plan, which was to build a hot rod he could drive anywhere.
He did build it – and does drive it. Jeff frequently pilots the Chevy to Goodguys events all over the American West, typically finding the most scenic route possible to get there. Whether it’s an organized hot rod cruise or a solo trip, Jeff is game to hop in and go.
“My favorite memories are driving the ‘55 out to Colorado to visit my family,” Jeff says. “I’ve hit the old Route 66; the north and south rim of the Grand Canyon; Mesa Verde National Park; the Four Corners; the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park; Pikes Peak summit – 14,115 feet; Bryce Canyon National Park; Capitol Reef National Park; Zion National Park; Death Valley National Park; Badwater Basin (-282 feet below sea level); Great Basin National Park; Sequoia National Park; Kings Canyon National Park; Yosemite National Park; Pinnacles National Park; Joshua Tree National Park; Saguaro National Park; Guadalupe Mounatins National Park; Carlsbad Caverns National Park; and Petrified Forest National Park.”
An impressive list, for certain – and those were in just over one year! Other travels have included White Sands National Monument, the Cadillac Ranch in Texas, the Bonneville Salt Flats, The Texas Motor Speedway, The Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, San Francisco, and many more destinations well beyond his Southern California home. Jeff even started a website to chronicle his journeys – Idrivea55.com. An avid planner, he carefully maps out routes for his trips, taking in as many landmarks, scenic stops, mid-century hotels and diners, and other interesting sights he can find. To date, he has logged more than 60,000 miles on the gold Chevy.
The secret to high-mile longevity started with a basic, reliable 350ci small-block Chevy with an Edelbrock intake, Blueprint heads, and Holley Sniper EFI, backed by a 700R4 transmission. That changed last year with the installation of a 2002 LS and 4L60E combo, bringing the car a little more up to date. The LQ4 engine was bored and stroked to 408c.i.with a forged bottom end. It’s upgraded with a Comp camshaft, Holley accessory drive components, and Holley Terminator multi-port fuel injection, and installed using CPP engine mounts. A TCI Outlaw shifter was used to control the electronic overdrive transmission as well as the line-lock and the nitrous purge buttons.
Chassis upgrades to date include CPP tubular upper and lower control arms, QA1 shocks, Wilwood front disc brakes, and American Racing Torq Thrust wheels on Continental Extreme tires. None of the suspension is very exotic, but it has been reliable and has served Jeff well over all sorts of roads in various conditions. He admits that a Roadster Shop chassis is on his wish list for making the wagon an even more enjoyable driver.
After getting his new engine and transmission combo dialed in last winter, Jeff was eager to hit the road for Goodguys events this spring. Like the rest of us, though, he’s had to wait it out and stick to local cruising for the time being. But rest assured that when the time is right and events get rolling again, Jeff will be ready to start racking up more road miles, creating more YouTube videos and enjoying the journey in his classic Chevy.
Photos by Jeff Thisted & Olivia Scaffidi