Don Barton’s 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air
Race cars are more than fast moving machines, they can be an important part of a family and its history. Don Barton’s 1955 Chevy Bel Air is one of the coolest Super Gas cars you’ve ever seen, it’s also one of the first cars that helped pioneer the class. The Barton family’s special bond with this car goes far beyond the slips of time and wins enlightenment.
Barton’s dad had a garage where all of his friends would get together to work on hot rods and have a good time. This garage was a place where Barton spent a lot of time as a child, he learned a lot about cars there, and it was also where he discovered drag racing. Barton would work on his 1957 Bel Air in the garage so he could go run it every week on the legendary Lions Drag Strip.
Ultimately, Barton wanted an all-round racing car and that’s where the 55 comes in. Barton built the car himself and drove it wherever he could throughout the state of California.
“I built the car in 1970 and raced at Lions, Orange County, Freemont, Carlsbad and Irwindale. The car has made countless passes on the track since I finished it. I rode the car exclusively until my son Todd was 16 and then he started racing too. We drove the car until the NHRA introduced Super Gas and we decided to give it a go. This car was actually part of the group that started the Super Gas class and has been raced ever since, ”Barton said.
When the Bel Air needed an update to its chassis, Brian Pearson was selected to bring the car’s steel roof and quarters into the era of modern racing cars. Ray Zeller built the 598 cubic inch big block Chevy which is supported by a powerglide transmission and torque converter from Abruzzi Racing Transmissions and torque converters. The Bel Air will run deep into 8.20 when Barton deactivates the throttle.
Nowadays, Don’s son, Todd, is the main driver of the Bel Air, keeping the car in the family and adding to his racing legacy.
“It was great to start driving this car when I was a kid. The most memorable moment for me with this car was the first time I got a national victory behind the wheel in Phoenix. I had won a national event in our super competition car, but to win one in the car I watched my dad run when I was a kid, it was really cool. We’re at a disadvantage compared to all topless cars, but that’s what makes it so special when you’re having a good weekend and touring, ”Todd said.
The great thing about drag racing is that you can line up and run a piece of the sport’s history any Sunday. The Barton family aren’t planning to retire the Bel Air anytime soon, and there’s a good chance you’ll see a third generation of the Barton family behind the wheel in the near future.