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Heavy Metal Affliction - Tri 5 by Fire

John Schommer
Thursday, August 24, 2017


Some people go through life doing something mundane that pays the bills. A few of us are lucky enough to find a job that fulfills the gearhead soul and does more than allow us to get by. Jon Chase of Hoonigan Industries –Gamertag JChase7452 --is one of those lucky fellows and his Tri 5 by Fire 1955 Chevy Bel Air build is the culmination of both his job and passion for cars.


Thankfully for Forza Fans, we can all experience the awesomeness of this new age gasser in the Hoonigan Car Pack. This car brings a new element of car culture to Forza Horizon 3 as it is the first purpose-built gasser to come to the game. What is a gasser you might ask? These are a genre of cars from the 1950’s and 1960’s with a lightened and lifted front end with the sole purpose of hooking up and going fast in a straight line.



Chase’s Tri 5 by Fire is the fastest accelerating rear-wheel-drive car in the game and the only car that was designed to be able to drag its bumper when doing a real wheelie off the line. I’m not talking about a slap wheelie; I’m talking about a real wheel stander. Then, one look at its stance, primer, and patina will tell you this car is something special.


There are lots of cool details in this Hoonigan video, but some of the language is worth a warning.



The guys at the Donut Garage have dream jobs. Not only do they have access to the best shop equipment and the resources of Hoonigan in-house mechanic Brian Darnall, but the best companies in the automotive world are always looking to get their parts on what they know is going to be a hot build. For instance, Magnaflow built the custom fender-well header and the Tri 5 has been a booth car for them. Plus the paint and body work were proudly done by local experts South County Auto Body.


To watch these guys in their Daily Transmission videos you might think all they do is fool around and build awesome cars. Closer to the truth is that they are behind the Hoonigan Industries brand doing actual work as well. In Chase’s case, he has a split role between being the Brand Director and Art Director. Chase has always been a self-taught artist, and his work got him noticed by Hoonigan’s Brian Scotto. Now he puts his skills to work creating the killer motorsport lifestyle artwork that you can find all over their products and the garage itself. “So it's a dream job, to be honest,” Chase said. “I get to draw crazy illustrations and do fun stuff with cars.”



It wasn’t always that way though. “In 2002, I gave myself one calendar year to get a gig in the apparel world,” Chase said. He had been working in sales for an industrial rubber company. Since part of his job these days is to promote destroying tires, you have to wonder if fate didn’t actually step in too. Before becoming a Hoonigan Chase worked for a major apparel brand for several years. Later he found success as a freelance artist. “I made some noise with my own brand and got on the radar with Brian Scotto at Hoonigan,” Chase said. That was three years ago.


Being a gearhead came easily to Chase since his father was always working on something. One look at his car collection will give you a clue as where his roots lie. He still has his first car; the blue supercharged Chevy II you see doing a massive burnout on the dock at the garage. He daily drove his 1964 Chevy II wagon 105 miles a day before buying a Smart fortwo electric as a commuter. Then there is what looks to be a Chevy El Camino, but that is a GMC Sprint, vinyl top and all. His 1920 Ford Model T is waiting to become a family touring car.



One look at that collection of Americana tells you Chase possbily lives for smoky burnouts and a certain degree of eclecticism to build an image. However, whether he is rolling in silent solace in the Smart, or tuning the rumblings of a massive V8 at the garage, he is the same person on camera, behind the desk, or at home. “So you can see me doing my thing at the Donut Garage or in the parking lot at the grocery store,” Chase said. “I just hope I can help inspire someone to take a chance and follow a dream.” Like he did.


In the case of Tri 5 by Fire, Chase definitely took a chance. He found the well-loved, and used 1955 Chevy under a bridge outside Los Angeles. It was the unfulfilled dream of an older couple who had driven it across the country several times and had hoped to restore it to its former glory. As it sat, it was a pile of parts that someone had used as a shooting range -- hence the bullet hole in the body panel-- a remnant of its former existence Chase left intact.



The rest of the car has seen lots of work though. Within a couple days Chase had the rusting hulk rolling and began to sort out what the plan would be. Originally, he had planned to restore it with his father, but soon after digging in, his long-festering desire of building a gasser in the style of the ‘55 Chevy from Two-Lane Blacktop and American Graffiti – which are both the same car actually -- took hold. He bought his dad out and began to take the car his own direction.


Chase’s desire to build that car goes a long way back. When he was eight-years-old, his father said “come watch this movie, you’ll dig this” when he saw American Graffiti come up as the Sunday Night Movie, and the pair watched it together. “I thought Milner's car was cool” Chase said, “but when Falfa's car rolled up and it was Han Solo driving, I was hooked.”



On getting the car is to where it is today: “With old cars, I think you just need a very rudimentary understanding of auto mechanics and a ton of determination,” Chase said. While he was always mechanically inclined, the Tri 5 needed more work than anything he had yet taken on. There was rust to remove, an interior to build, wiring to redo, a full drivetrain to set up, and of course the whole gasser aesthetic. To get that lifted front end involves removing the more modern independent front suspension and installing leaf springs and a straight axle.



On top of that, the Hot Rod Power Tour was coming up in six months and they made it the goal to drive the Tri 5 on that 1,200-mile road trip. At the outset that seemed like a long time, but as it quickly approached the to-do list didn’t get finished until the night before. Without so much as a shakedown, Chase and Scotto – in his freshly built Napalm Nova – hit the road.


The trip was less than a total success, but they went out there and drove, without working windshield wipers. As the story goes, it rained cats and dogs every day. Despite the troubles that ensued keeping pace with the other cars of the tour, it lends a most powerful credence to the name the car was given and was the beginning of a new Hoonigan car legend.