He is known in many racing circles, but his love for vintage Chevrolets was also apparent at this year’s Tri-Five Nationals. He and his wife drove Chevrolet Performance’s 1955 Bel Air featuring an LS3 E-ROD crate engine to the popular event at Kentucky’s Beech Bend Raceway. The ride was a labor of love, as it is a 500-hundred mile trip from the Martens’ home near Detroit to the track in Bowling Green.
“This is my first time at the Tri-Five Nationals … I am blown away,” Bill Martens said. “The event is much bigger and the cars are more spectacular than what I could have really envisioned. I knew it was big, but you’ve got to see it to really comprehend it.”
The car that Martens drove certainly falls into that category of “spectacular” vehicles at the event.
It was built about eight years ago and has undergone a series of incarnations as a show platform for LS-series engines. The current LS3 E-Rod crate engine it employs is California Air Resources Board (C.A.R.B)-approved (E.0.# D-1260-32) and 50-state emissions legal.
However, the LS3 E-ROD, a 6.2L V8 rated at 430 horsepower and 425 lb-ft of torque, is just one of three E-ROD crate options. The others are the LSA and LT1 E-ROD editions. These power plants are all certified for 1995 and older vehicles and meet California emissions requirements.
That means their owners can adhere to stringent regulations that may not have been in place when some older vehicles were first built. The 1955 Bel Air featuring the LS3 E-ROD is a perfect example of how the engine can be used in classic builds featuring Chevrolet power.
The engine utilizes an aluminum block and heads and a composite intake manifold to create less weight over the front axle than competing options. It is backed by a Hydra-Matic 4L65-E four-speed automatic transmission and a SuperMatic transmission controller. The transmission can accommodate up to 430 lb-ft of torque. The power plant also features a custom 2.5" dual exhaust with Dynomax mufflers and a Be Cool aluminum radiator. The driveline includes a GM 7.5" S10 rear axle with a 4.10:1 ratio and an Eaton limited-slip differential, along with an aluminum driveshaft.
The chassis utilizes production control arms in the front along with Eaton reproduction coil springs, Monroe front shocks, a larger sway bar, two-inch drop front spindles and a Saginaw 605 power-steering gear.
Out back are Eaton reproduction leaf swings, an aftermarket sway bar and Monroe rear shocks.
Both the front and rear feature C4 Corvette brake calipers and rotors along with 14mm wheel studs.
The original body was repainted a custom green and white with blue accents at GM using PPG Waterborne paint. The interior meanwhile is light beige and green and incorporates custom upholstery originally used in convertibles. The original stainless steel moldings were polished and re-used, and the bowties in the original front and back emblems were replaced with the 2010 GM design to provide a modern feel.
Both the complete interior and all additional new exterior components were provided by CARS Inc. The interior also features an IDIDIT eight-position steering column and a Grant reproduction Corvette wood steering wheel.
“Especially this weekend at the Tri-Five Nationals, it’s so representative of the thousands of cars that are out here,” Martens said. “We just like to show what can be done with not just a hot rod power plant, but with an emissions-certified package.”
The car rides on 18 x 7.5" Camaro steel wheels in the front and back with a custom center cap and the center moved 1.25" back. The rear wheels are also widened one inch to 8.5 inches. The rubber consists of 245/55R18 BFG G Force T/A Tires in the rear and 245/50R18s in the front.
Suffice to say, this is a pretty killer ride.
But although Martens was showcasing the E-Rod at the Tri-Five Nationals, he is also a true fan of the classic car.
His first was a 1957 Bel Air hardtop he owned at the end of high school. He continued to own other ’57 models over the years and today has a ’55 Nomad in his garage.
“It’s a stock 265 car, an original car that is going to be my next hot rod,” he said.
Martens notes that compared to vehicles today the spaciousness of the Tri-Fives stands out, and that he loves the two-tone nature of the vehicles from that era. Chevrolet Performance’s Bel Air incorporates that theme.
“I like just the style of the car; it’s very representative of a time gone by,” he said. “I think this car, while it might not be as highly modified as a lot of cars at this show, is a real driver and it shows people what you can do in the real world. As far as anything else, I’ve always liked all of the Tri-Fives designs. They’re just cool! They are fairly simplistic but each have their own personality.”
The 1955 Chevy Bel Air E-ROD certainly does.
Keep watching The BLOCK and @thblockdotcom on Instagram for more from the fourth annual Tri-Five Nationals.
*Manufacturers of add-on and modified emissions-related parts (aftermarket parts) that sell their product for use in California vehicles must obtain an exemption from the California Air Resources Board (CARB). This exemption is called an Executive Order (EO) and allows the part or modification to be installed on specific emission controlled vehicles and used in vehicles driven on public streets and highways. An exemption is granted if the product has been determined not to cause an increase in vehicle emissions from the production vehicles for which the part is intended, nor otherwise cause vehicles to be non-compliant with the vehicle emissions certification and anti-tampering laws.
Every EO part or modification comes with a unique assigned number and comes with limitation and restrictions on the installation and use of the part. The EO number will appear on a special exemption label affixed to the part or its packaging. Consumers are advised to familiarize themselves with the EO and its limitations and restrictions to ensure that such parts are installed and used properly. The product descriptions for some parts listed on the Chevrolet Performance website are accompanied by the “50 State” icon and the following notice:
The “50 State” icon means that this part has undergone an evaluation by CARB and that CARB has determined that the part or modification has been shown to not increase vehicle emissions when installed and used properly in the application(s) identified in the product description. CARB policy authorizes consumers to install and use these parts in vehicles driven on public streets and highways. Parts that have an exemption include the EO number and a link to the CARB website so that customers are informed of the requirements and limitations of installation and use contained in the EO.