When looking for a potential project car, do you, A) look for something that has been left untouched so you can start from scratch? B) locate a project someone else started but was unable to finish? Or do you C), find a ride that is already on the road and simply tweak a few things to give it a look that is all your own? When talking to Robert May of Liverpool, New York, we soon learned that his ’56 Chevy sort of falls somewhere between B and C.
“When I found this car, it was owned by Jason Barron of JT’s Custom Paint in Moravia, New York,” explains Robert. “The interior was bone stock, but the engine and transmission were really radical.” When talking to Robert, it immediately sounded to us like it might have been a “street car,” just not very streetable. Robert continues, “Jason had completed the laser-straight bodywork and then painted it the factory Matador Red and India Ivory.”
However, although the car was not “finished,” and it definitely pegged the cool meter when Robert found it, he felt he still had some changes he wanted to incorporate. Hence, the combination of categories B and C listed above. The first thing on the list Robert wanted to tackle, was to throttle-back the over-abundance of power. “When I first bought the car, it had a 383 stroker with a cam so wicked it shook the car at idle,” quips Robert. “I opted for something more streetable.” To accomplish that, he chose to install a new 425 horsepower ZZ6 Chevrolet Performance crate engine and 700R4 transmission. All we can say is if 425 horses is throttling back, the previous engine must have really been radical. To feed the fuel to the newly uncrated mill, a Fuel Air Spark Technology (FAST) 2.0 EFI unit was mounted atop of an Edelbrock intake. Accessory drives to spin the alternator and other accessories are available in many forms, and this ZZ6 now sports a Billet Specialties Revolver system. Other than that, the engine is as delivered.
Another upgrade he felt was necessary was to replace the stock rearend with something a little stronger. To accomplish that, he chose to utilize a Moser-built 9-inch and had it filled with 3.73 gears, 31-spline axles, and a posi unit. With the freshly built 700R4 separating the fore and aft mechanicals, this rearend combination is a perfect complement to drivability.
It’s no secret that a ’56 Chevy suspension is not the most technologically advanced way to accomplish a great ride. So, next on the list of “improvements” were a few suspension items. Robert started by adding a set of Classic Performance Products drop spindles and coil springs to the front and Hotchkis Sport Suspension leaf springs to the rear. A compliment of Viking adjustable shocks mounted on all four corners gives the car a great ride. Like all vehicles, the need to stop is bound to be a requirement at some point. To make sure that happens on a dime, Wilwood binders are part of the program.
As cool as the stock interior was—back in 1956—the factory feel just didn’t fit with Robert’s vision of the ultimate hot rod. To carry out what he planned in his head, he reached out to JMB Custom Interior in Canandaigua, New York. There, the two-tone-red Ultra leather was skillfully cut and sewn together to create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
Those with a keen eye will also note the seats are not of the Chevrolet variety. While they are from GM, a late-model Cadillac was the donor. The Flaming River steering column is topped with a Billet Specialties direction actuator, and a custom console was constructed to house the Pioneer touch screen stereo and requisite cup holders.
We asked Robert if there was any one aspect of the rebuild that he felt was the hardest to overcome. “The relentless task to complete all of the changes to the car,” he affirms. “I had a vision of how I wanted the car to look, and with the help of some talented friends, I think the results speak for themselves.”
Robert was able to take one cool hot rod that embodied another enthusiast’s vision and make a few changes to create his own. In doing so, he was able to create a hot rod that is not only capable of racking up many miles, but just as many trophies when the urge arises to show it off.