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Photos Rick Kowalczykowski & Story by Terry Denomme

Since 1978 Mark Rogerson’s 1955 Chevy 210 sedan has been prowling the streets of London, ON and it still puts a smile on his face every time he punches the throttle. It’s a part of his past but after 35 years he’s still building memories with his Street Sweeper.

It was Butternut Yellow with rally wheels, a 283 and 4-speed Muncie. It was 23 years old but not showing too much wear and tear save for a prominent scar on the driver’s side front fender perhaps received in a parking lot scrap of unknown place or time. The firewall looked like it had been hammered in a bit with the explanation that the car had a drag racing history and a BBC was once stuffed under the hood. It was a running and driving car, but since it had been brought up from the US just one year before it was not yet certified to drive on Ontario streets. It was perfect.

London, ON’s Mark Rogerson was 19 and sold his 1969 Camaro and ’60 El Camino so he could buy a 1955 Chevy. He found the Butternut Yellow ’55 Chevy 210 in the local paper’s Classified section. “I always thought they were cool,” says Rogerson of ’55 Chevys. “American Graffiti had come out a couple years before that and I thought Falfa’s ’55 was cool. This one showed up and it was a good one. I paid $2,200.”

At the time, 1978, Rogerson didn’t realize he and the ’55 Chevy would be together 35 years later but as the memories and modifications piled up it became more and more inconceivable it would ever be sold.

It cost him $400 to get the car safetied and legal to drive in ’78. Though the 283 (block casting numbers indicated it was 1962 engine) mill was a good runner in the fall of 1979 Rogerson decided to have it rebuilt and took it to Dave Dickout at Answer Performance in London, ON. The cylinders were bored out .60 to make it a 292ci and a set of 11:1 Venoila slugs replaced the stock pistons and 327 Chevy rods replaced the stock 283 units. A Chevy steel crank was sourced and the entire rotating assembly was balanced. An Edelbrock Tarantula intake was replaced by a mid-70s vintage Edelbrock dual quad tunnel ram unit. Twin 500cfm Edelbrock carbs were perched on top and fed by a 1976 vintage Holley mechanical chromed fuel pump. An old Isky cam with .528 lift/.320 duration was installed. The 461 Chevy heads cost a young Rogerson a pretty penny in 1979. “I saw them in the window of an old machine shop and they wanted $550 and that’s what I paid,” says Rogerson. Also known as “Camel Hump” or “Fuelie” cylinder heads the mid-60s castings (2.02 intake valves and 1.60 exhaust valves) were ported and polished by Answer Performance (now Answer Engine Works). Crane roller rockers (1.5 ratio) and high lift valve springs were installed. “It was built to rev,” says Rogerson. “It probably makes around 380-390 horsepower with 440ft/lbs of torque.” The engine happily revs up to 7,500 rpm and was disassembled once since ’79 when Answer Engine Works did a basic teardown and checkup in the late 1990s, replacing only the crank bearings in the process. “I haven’t drag raced it a lot but I remember doing a 12.88 in it and for the time that was a quick car,” remembers Rogerson.

After the engine rebuild, Rogerson decided reinstalling the hood wasn’t necessary so 1979 was the last year the car was driven with its hood in place. “I always thought it looked tougher without it,” says Rogerson. So did others. The car’s now iconic Street Sweeper moniker came shortly after the engine rebuild. “We had a club called the Gear Pullers and the car was parked in the corner of the shop and I remember some guy came in and he saw the car and said ‘’ve got a real Street Sweeper there. It’s awesome.’ A couple of the guys heard that and loved it and the name stuck with it for a while.”

With a fresh engine the adventures began with the car. There was a lot of stop light shenanigans and cruising the strips and a few standout moments including a milestone backseat rendezvous with a girl who couldn’t resist the ’55’s allure or its driver’s charms. “I was cruising downtown and was at a stoplight and there was a long lineup outside one of the popular bars. A girl came over and said “cool car” and next thing you know we’re driving around and one thing led to another,” says Rogerson.

Another memorable incident came on a return trip from Kitchener to London that included Rogerson being stranded on Highway 8 between Kitchener and Stratford.

 “I took a date to a drive-in in Kitchener and on the way home I got a flat and of course didn’t have a spare,” Rogerson remembers. “It was fall so I pulled on my coveralls and a large coat and crawled in the back seat to sleep and wait for daylight to get a ride. It’s about 3 or 4 am and I wake up to voices and noises. I step out of the car to the amazement of this guy looking up at me thinking the car was abandoned. They were trying to steal the rally wheels. They took off running and jumped in a truck and peeled out,” laughs Rogerson. “I think I was more scared than they were but I must have looked bigger than I was.”

 “I have lots of memories with the car including going to the Car Craft Street Machine Nationals  in Indy in the early ’80s with the car. I still enjoy driving the car. I don’t do a lot of shows but I’ll get up early on a Saturday or Sunday morning and put two hours on it driving around to wherever.” At one point, the car carried a baby seat for his son Ryan. “For about two or three years we had a baby seat in it and I’ve changed a lot of diapers in the backseat.”

As the years passed and the miles pile up, Rogerson resisted modernizing or radically altering the car though it wasn’t always easy.

 “My generation went through the birth of the pro street movement in the late ’70s and a lot of the guys in London were building cars that way. We were always going to the Car Craft Street Machine Nationals and guys kept saying ‘wouldn’t that be a sweet pro street car’ but it was so solid I never wanted to cut it up,” says Rogerson. He also had a passion for hot rod nostalgia and felt the ’55 Chevy was the perfect late ’60s hot rod.

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