When Skip Tubbs came across his 1955 Chevrolet 210 Townsman station wagon, the vintage cruiser had become quite accustomed to remaining stationary. “I found it in Wheeling, Illinois sitting in a back yard lot where it had stayed for nine years. The previous owner was going to do something with it but never did, ‘ said Skip. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the hauler’s first time of being parked for years on end – another former owner with stalled plans for an overhaul had left it to sit for 23 years in Fox River Grove, Illinois. Luckily, the car’s long history of inaction was about to radically change.
“I ended up knowing the previous owner who sold me the car. As it turns out, I hung out with his older brother when we were teenagers,’ said Skip. The special connection sealed the deal and a sale ensued. After he had dragged the tired wagon home, Skip found out its condition was less than ideal. “I had to share it with a lot of mice, the rocker panels were completely rusted and a fire had occurred at one point in the dome light housing. Everything on the inside was gutted. The gas tank was gone, the tailgate was rotted and the car had a blown transmission. Needless to say, it was in rough shape.”
At the start of the build, Skip’s plans were mild. “I just wanted something to take to the local hot dog stand – nothing like how it sits today.” Those scaled back aspirations lasted for a few short years. “I fixed a couple things here and there but nothing major. I drove it how I got it for a while, blown trans and all. I was only able to use second, third and reverse but it got me where I wanted to go.”
One of the locations that Skip took his Chevy classic to was Bill’s Auto Body and Restoration, in Wheeling, IL. “In 1995 I brought them the car and had them do all the bodywork and sheet metal repair. I wanted something to cruise in, a driver and not with a show car finish. But all that changed.” Skip wasn’t one to stick with originality when it came time to decide on an exterior paint color, opting to go for something that would turn heads. “The factory color was Skyline blue over Glacier blue. It was a real yawner. When I got it, those colors were faded and boring with rust brown covering up most of the bottom.”
He opted to have a 1992 General Motors quasar medium metallic blue paint sprayed on which was the first step in a multi-year frame-on restoration. With the exterior good to go, the next step was finding a suitable shop to tackle the charred cabin and upholstery. “I went to a couple guys I grew up with in Cary, Illinois. Ray and Ralph Mory, of Restorations Unlimited, did the interior and they really knocked it out of the park. At the time, the car had a four-speed which was great when I had a good clutch leg. Now that’s not the case but I didn’t want a bench seat shifter. They were able to notch the seat and install a Hurst Ram Rod shifter sitting between the gap. I saw that on a show vehicle at the SEMA show in Las Vegas and wanted it done on mine.”
A built 327ci V8, bored to 331ci, with 11:1 compression was what Skip originally put between the front fenders of the Townsman. “I was running tunnel ram and nitrous but after 17 years realized I needed to do an upgrade. I started to pull the cylinder heads and then just the whole motor wanting to start from scratch.” Skip, an avid racer, had several other motors at home in his garage and had Advance Engine Rebuilders, in Wheeling, Il, put together a new powerplant for the wagon. “I cloned the engine I have in my 1956 Chevy racecar. It’s a 360ci V8 with Patriot Performance heads and a whole host of other special parts. It’s real nasty and I’m still breaking it in – it was just put in May of this year.”
The gearhead estimates 500 horses are galloping out of it but he’s still dialing it in for exact numbers. “I’ll take it to Great Lakes Dragway in Union, IL, to do some fine tuning. There’s always that element deep inside inquiring minds what it can run and I aim to find out.” For those times he needs to bring his classic to a halt, Skip installed four-wheel disc brakes.
“The driving experience is truly indescribable. I’ve been into this type of stuff since I was 13 years old and the first time I got in my father’s hotrod – a 1964 Ramble with a 327ci V8. No matter what car I’ve had since, I have the same sensation deep down – the feeling hasn’t changed. It feels like the first time my father let me drive his car down the road.”
Skip’s son, Ross, lended a hand to put the vintage wagon together and despite some mighty high cash offers, they’re not letting go of the Chevy. “I’ve had many stellar numbers thrown out by interested buyers but I just couldn’t sell it. It’s so reminiscent of my dad. I wear him on my arm here with this tattoo. This car has been a good bonding experience with my son and I, taking me back to the times with me and dad.”
During the summer months you’ll find Skip behind the wheel, happily piloting his custom machine to the downtown Palatine and Mount Prospect cruise nights. He’s also not afraid to pull it out during the off-season. “In 1999 Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, was supposed to drive it out on the stage of a local Chicago performance. A friend called me and said Brian wanted a woody wagon but no one would bring one out in March. Right away I had mine cleaned up and even put a surfboard in the back for the whole California look. On the day of the performance the fire department announced vehicles couldn’t be brought inside. The car portion of the night got axed from the opening scene.”
The wagon’s stage debut may have been deferred but Skip doesn’t let it get him down. He’s found, like so many other classic car enthusiasts, that the best way to have fun, fun, fun with a sweet ride is plain and simple: to keep it moving. So whether it’s pointed down a track or down an empty highway, this classic Chevy’s days of sitting parked are long over. And that, is a very good thing.
Check out our photo slideshow below for more images of this classic Chevy.
Historical photos courtesy of the Tubbs family.
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