Danny Canizales Continues Cruising the Family 1955 Bel Air – With Trailer in Tow
Many an old car or hot rod has been in the family for multiple generations, but how many of us own a car that our father received as a wedding gift back in the day?
Count Danny Canizales of San Diego as one the lucky few to own a hand-me-down ’55 Chevy hardtop. Years ago, Danny’s uncle gave the 1955 Bel Air and an old travel trailer to his dad as a wedding gift. By the time the Chevy was handed down to Danny, the travel trailer was gone, though fond memories of it remained. Twenty-five years and a lot of work later, the green-and-white Bel Air cruises with a different travel trailer in tow – a 1955 Aljoa/Aljo “canned ham” model – sporting matching green and white colors.
After years of driving the Bel Air as a survivor, Danny put the Chevy through a full, frame-off rebuild in 2009. The rusty areas of sheet metal were replaced. Chrome was replated. Stainless trim polished. And the original white-and-green color combo was replaced with a brighter shade of green – “Money Green” Danny calls it.
Danny opted to replace the old inline six with a 350c.i. V8 mated to a 700R4 four-speed overdrive automatic. “My father always ran it with the six, but I have a little heavy foot, so I put the V8 in it,” Danny says. An Edelbrock air cleaner and valve cover combination added some flair to the function-over-form engine compartment.
Danny also upgraded the exhaust with Hooker headers mated to a dual exhaust system with Flowmaster mufflers. Air springs and four-wheel disc brakes upgraded the suspension, with a CPP Hydrastop master cylinder providing the power assist. Coker whitewalls with stock steel wheels and covers hold the car solidly on the pavement. Fender skirts and accessory bumper guards add to the period-perfect styling.
The reupholstered interior mimics the convertible-style designs of the Tri-five era. Other interior features include a push-button radio, chrome tilt steering column (topped by a stock wheel painted to match the exterior green), and a chrome glove box cover, a popular old-school custom touch for Tri-five Chevys.
There are still thousands of ’55 Chevys on the road, but few hit the road with a vintage 1955 travel trailer in matching green and white paint, as well as a color-matching pedal car – a ’55 Chevy, of course.
The trailer behind the ’55 is also part of the family story. Although the trailer that was given to his father didn’t hang around as long as the 1955 Bel Air, the idea of adding a trailer always stuck with Danny. A few years ago, while on a job (he’s a roofer), Danny spotted a rough-looking trailer and asked his customer what he planned to do with it. “He said he was going to chop it and throw it away,” Danny says. “I asked him if he wanted to sell it to me. He said no, just take it.”
The trailer – a 1955 Aljoa Sportsman – was in bad shape, Danny says, pretty much just a frame and shell. With the help of friends, Danny restored it. Even the interior cushions were covered in the same colors, pattern, and upholstery materials as the Bel Air.
The Sportsman is a classic postwar travel trailer. This style and design, often called a canned-ham trailer because of the shape, populated the predecessors of today’s massive RV parks. In the tourist destinations of the era, travel trailer campgrounds were often called tin-can camps.
Danny’s Ajoa was the brainchild of C.T. McCreary, who set up shop in Gardena, California, after World War II, building these small, practical trailers for budget-minded families. The canned-ham design was an efficient use of interior space and fairly easy to construct, unlike the more complex aircraft designs used by Airstream and others. The Aljoa trailers were offered in different sizes – some featured optional toilet and shower – and were produced until the 1960s, when new models appeared with a more squared-off profile. Aljoa and other smaller vintage trailers remain popular across the country, particularly with vintage car owners and hot rodders, since they are relatively easy to restore and tow.
Danny says he plans to start using his trailer for camping trips, not just car shows, so don’t be surprised if you see Danny’s 1955 Bel Air and matching trailer cruising the highway or parked by a lake or the beach in a campground.
Photos by Marc Gewertz & Steven Bunker