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1955 Bel Air “EYE CANDY”

BOB RYDER May 30, 2022 All Feature Vehicles

’55 Chevy Bel Air

IRA Horwitz from Upland, California, has owned many immaculate custom cars and trucks that have taken awards at shows and have been featured in a variety of automotive publications throughout the years. One vehicle Ira had always wanted to build, but hadn’t so far, was an iconic ’55 Bel Air. He began his search for a project and stumbled upon this specimen that had been languishing in a warehouse for 30 years. The body was rust free, straight and unmolested, so he bought it and trailered the beast home. His wife Sharon just rolled her eyes, she’s seen her fair share of Ira’s “treasures” throughout the years.

After a year of designing and redesigning, a cool, clean ’55 Chevy Bel Air with innovative performance and styling emerged. To get there, Ira approached Mike Thieker of Thiekers Street Toys in Muscatine, Iowa, to transform his 59-year-old mass of American steel into a showstopper.

The leading edge was given a facelift with a Tiarra custom grille flanked by a pair of frenched amber turn indicators. The front bumper was also narrowed for a snug fit.
Spinning style and grip comes from the Raceline Explosive 5 polished aluminum wheels consumed in Nitto 555 rubber.
The factory door handles were removed and replaced with a pair of frenched Kingdig-It Design handles.

An Art Morrison GT Sports frame and chassis constitutes the foundation equipped with a pair of Wilwood 2-inch dropped spindles and Morrison adjustable gas-filled shocks and sway bar. A pair of Wilwood 14-inch cross-drilled, ball-milled and vented rotors and six-piston calipers deliver incredible braking up front. Out back a Ford 9-inch rearend housing was stabbed with 31-splined axles, while the third member is stuffed with 3.56 gears and a posi-unit. Wilwood 13-inch cross-drilled, ball-milled and vented rotors and four-piston calipers are responsible for halting the rear. The rearend housing was anchored with a Morrison triangulated 4-bar setup, sway bar and Morrison gas-filled coil-over shocks. Eye Candy’s rolling stock is a set of Raceline Explosion 5 polished aluminum wheels (18 x 8 front, 20 x 10 rear) wrapped in a set of Nitto 555 (245/40-18 front, 285/30-20 rear) rubber.

The factory gas filler door was removed from the driver’s side rear quarter panel. A very cool Rocky Hindge 1955 gas filler neck kit was installed behind the driver’s side taillight.
A lowered stance was achieved with Art Morrison coil-over adjustable shocks at all four corners. The rear bumper was shaved and narrowed to provide a snug fit next to the body.

Ira wanted performance under the hood as well, so he had a GM Performance LS-3 376-ci 6.7L Hot Cam crate engine dropped between the frame rails that produces 500 hp and 475 lb-ft torque at 4,500 rpm. The LS-3 engine receives air from a unique Holley high-rise intake system that was merged with the GM EFI. A pair of Doug’s long tube headers, merge into a 2 ½-inch exhaust that flows into a pair Flowmaster 18-inch mufflers. The engine rpms are controlled by a 4L70-E four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, and gear selection is obtained by a unique Master Shift push button control panel conveniently mounted on the center console.

Raising the hood with help from Eddie Motorsports billet aluminum hinges exposes the GM LS3 376-ci Hot Cam engine producing 550 hp. A unique Holley high-rise intake manifold was incorporated into the GM EFI system. The hot exhaust gases exit through a pair of Doug’s 2 ½-inch headers that merge into a 2 ½-inch stainless steel exhaust that flows into a pair of Flowmaster 18-inch mufflers.

The ’55 Bel Air sheet metal features many mild body mods performed by the crew at Thieker Street Toys. The roof has been lowered a subtle 1-inch and the shaved drip rails receive numerous double takes from admirers at shows. To improve the overall bodylines of the driver’s side, the factory gas filler door was removed and shaved. A Rocky Hinge gas filler relocating kit was installed behind the driver’s side taillight, like the factory gas filler found on the ’56 Bel Air. A pair of Kindig-It Design flush door handles contribute to Eye Candy’s clean, smooth overall appearance. The front and rear bumpers were narrowed to fit snug to the body, and the carriage mounting bolt holes were filled and then shaved smooth. A very cool Tiarra grille insert is mounted behind the grille shell. After covering the body with multiple coats of primer the sheet metal was block sanded to achieve a straight, smooth surface before Sikkens Cyber Gray Metallic basecoats buried in multiple coats of clear were layered on. After some time to cure, the clear was cut, buffed and polished to achieve the endless glistening depth of the Cyber Gray Metallic. Jeff Roberts used his steady hand to lay down the precise pinstripes.

Mark Lopez and his crew at Elegance Auto Upholstery were responsible for the beautiful interior. The seating was created by removing the headrests and cutting down four 1988 Cadillac Eldorado electric bucket seats that were then covered in peanut butter leather and reverse tan suede with graphite inserts. Matching peanut butter leather with reverse tan suede and graphite door panels and headliner were installed.

Mark Lopez at Elegance Auto Upholstery was responsible for the leather and stitch work on the peanut butter leather and reversed suede interior. A pair of 1988 Cadillac Eldorado bucket seat headrests was removed and cut down. A custom waterfall center console flows from under the dash between the front buckets and continues between the rear custom Caddy buckets. The leather and reverse suede treatment continues into the trunk

A Billet Specialties Waterfall leather-wrapped steering wheel caps the ididit chrome steering column.

Ira’s road tunes are orchestrated by an Alpine IVE W530 head unit powered by an Alpine power amp. For clarity and base, four Fosgate tweeters and one 10-inch Fosgate subwoofer were installed by Carlos Rodriguez at Art of Sound. The system delivers a powerful concert hall sound.

Wherever Ira and Sharon cruise and show Eye Candy the Bel Air definitely receives a lot of thumbs up and award hardware. At its first two outings it received First in Class (Grand National Roadster Show) and the Innovation Award (Goodguys Del Mar Show).

A custom Waterfall center console runs from under the dash all the way between the back bucket seats. A push button Master Shift panel on the center console takes care of gear selection.
The trunk was finished off with peanut butter leather, reverse tan suede and graphite with black carpet.


Owner: Ira Horwitz, Upland, CA
Builder: Mike Thieker, Thiekers Street Toys, Muscating, IA
Time to build: Three years
Frame: Morrison (GT Sport)


Front: Upper/lower control arms: Morrison
Spindles: Morrison/Wilwood 2-inch dropped
Steering: Morrison power steering rack-and-pinion (20:1 ratio)
Shocks: Morrison adjustable coil-over gas filled
Sway bar: Morrison
Rear: Triangulated 4-bar
Rearend housing: Ford 9-inch 3.56 gears
Shocks: Morrison adjustable coil-over gas filled
Sway bar: Morrison


Owner: Cisco Farias, Laguna Beach, CA
Builder: Bill Schuster & Sons Laguna Beach, CA and Ponch “The Bag Man” Silva, Anaheim, CA
Frame: Stock
Rear frame rails: The Bag Man 2 ½-inch C-notches


Front: Bag Man control arms kit, 2-inch dropped spindles and bellows-style airbags; Pete & Jakes gas-filled shocks; Bag Man solenoids, manifold, valves, compressor, air tank and air-lines
Steering: Manual
Rear: Total Cost Involved (TCI) 4-link with track bar, Bag Man bellows-style airbags, Pete & Jakes gas-filled shocks
Rearend housing: Ford 9-inch stuffed with 2.47 gears


Front: ABS 12-inch disc brake rotors, single-piston calipers and electric master cylinder
Rear: ABS 12-inch disc brake rotors and single-piston calipers


Front: Wheel Smith chrome Smoothies (15×7)
Rear: Wheel Smith chrome Smoothies (15×7)


Coker BF Goodrich Silver Town whitewall radials
Front: P185/70R-15
Rear: P185/70R-15



Front: Wilwood disc brakes
Calipers: Six-piston
Rotors: 14-inch cross-drilled/ball-milled
Rear: Wilwood disc brakes, four-piston calipers
Rotors: 13-inch cross-drilled/ball-milled
Master cylinder: Wilwood


Raceline Explosion Five polished aluminum; front: 18 x 8; rear: 20 x 10
Tires: Nitto 555; front: 245/40-18; rear: 285/30-20


2011 GM LS3 376 ci Hot Cam crate engine
Horsepower: 550 hp, 475 lbs-ft torque
Built by: Mike Thieker
Block: Aluminum
Heads: Aluminum
Intake Manifold: Holley Hi-Rise aluminum
Induction: GM EFI
Ignition: GM electronic
Headers: Doug’s long tube
Exhaust: 2 ½-inch diameter in stainless steel
Mufflers: Flowmaster 18-inch


4L70-E with push button by Master Shift
Rearend gear ratio: 3.56 with posi-unit



Body Mods: Thiekers Toy Shop roof chopped 1-inch, shaved roof drip rails, gas door relocated behind the taillight on the driver’s side, shaved door handles, frenched turn indicators
Door handles: Kindig-It Design Salt Lake City, UT
Bumpers: front sectioned and smoothed, rear sectioned and smoothed
Grille: stock smoothed, Tiarra Custom Grilles insert, Eddie Motorsports billet aluminum hood hinges with actuators
Trunk hinges: Eddie Motorsports
Body prep: Thiekers Toy Shop
Paint: Sikkens water base in Cyber Gray Metallic by Thiekers Toy Shop
Pinstriper: Jeff Roberts, Upland, CA


Shop: Elegance Auto Upholstery Upland, CA, Mark Lopez
front seats: 1988 Cadillac Eldorado buckets (no headrests) cut down, peanut butter leather with graphite inserts
Rear seats: 1988 Cadillac Eldorado buckets (no headrests) cut down, peanut butter leather with reverse suede and graphite inserts
Center console: Waterfall front to rear
Air Conditioning: Vintage Air with Dakota Digital controller
Door panels/kick panels: Peanut butter leather with reverse suede and graphite inserts
Headliner: Peanut butter with reverse suede and graphite inserts
Carpet: Black pile
Dash: Custom passenger side hump removed and smoothed
Gauges: Dakota Digital VHX series analog/digital gauges
Pedal assembly: Billet Specialties with gas pedal-pad used on brake pedal mounted vertically
Wiring: Thiekers Toy Shop
Steering: ididit chrome column with Billet Specialties Waterfall 14-inch wheel, peanut butter leather wrap


Audio System: Art of Sound Upland, CA
Head unit: Alpine IVE W530
Amplifier: Alpine
Speakers: Rockford Fosgate
Subwoofer: Rockford Fosgate 10-inch


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