Roy Cardoza 1956 Chevy 2-Door Wagon

Tasty Two-Ten – Roy Cardoza’s 1956 Chevy 210 Wagon

Roy Cardoza of Livermore, California, grew up in a car-guy home, so it’s not much of a surprise that as an adult Roy would also live in a car-guy home based on his 1956 Chevy 210 wagon. “Growing up there was always some kind of build in progress in our house,” Roy says. “Or dad had us out at swap meets or junkyards hunting for that right project or parts. My brother and I were with my dad almost every weekend.”

In high school, Roy’s first car was a ’63 Nova SS with a six-cylinder engine. Teenage upgrades included a 283c.i. V8 and TH350 transmission. “I learned all that stuff as I grew up,” Roy says.

Roy Cardoza 1956 Chevy 2-Door Wagon

Several years ago, Roy broke his back in a workplace injury that required him to spend almost two years at home in a hospital bed. With all that time on his hands, Roy says it was an opportunity to search for another vintage car project.

“I was on the internet constantly,” Roy says. “I found a wagon in Arizona. The picture of it was at a Goodguys show with a for sale sign in the window. All of a sudden, the car was gone. Then I found the same car at a dealer near Detroit.” Roy reached out to the dealer, made the purchase, and the ’56 210 two-door wagon was on its way to California.

While thousands of Tri-five station wagons rolled of the assembly lines, the upscale Nomads were the rarest – slightly more than 8,000 were produced in 1956. The more modest 210 two-door wagons were still relatively scarce in 1956, with 22,381 manufactured. That may seem like a large number, but those 210 wagons amounted to barely more than one percent of the 1,623,376 Chevrolet cars produced that year.

Before pulling the trigger on the wagon, Roy’s father gave him some advice that influenced his decision and the direction of the project. “He said ‘build a driver,’” Roy says, “He said if you build something over the top, then you don’t want to leave it out.”

His father spoke from experience. At the time of his death in April of 2022, he left behind a fully restored ’57 Chevy convertible.

Following that fatherly guidance, the wagon Roy bought was a solid driver in good shape. The paint (it’s 17 years old, but still looks great) and interior didn’t require immediate attention, which saved Roy a lot of time. His efforts instead went into other upgrades – improving the suspension, wheel-and-tire package, as well as replacing chrome pieces and upgrading some engine components.

“I’m in the process. I want to keep it a driver,” Roy says, “I’m trying to do it my way. I’m not one of those guys who wants to tear his car down for a year or two. I do a little bit at a time, between winter and summer.”

With that goal, Roy began work on enhancing the wagon.

“It had Torq Thrust wheels and an old-school primitive air-bag system,” Roys says. “The car rode terrible. First, I changed some of the chrome, then the suspension.”

The suspension upgrades on the stock frame revolve around Ridetech Shockwave components in the front and rear, a 9-inch Ford rearend, and custom 17×7- and 17×8-inch Wheelsmith steel wheels wrapped in BF Goodrich rubber (215/45/17 in front and 255/45/17 in the rear). That beautiful color is Toyota Sunfire Red and is complemented by all the stock Chevrolet trim. One-piece smoothie style front and rear bumpers enhance the appearance, while optional top-of-fender trim pieces have also been added.

The mostly stock interior features Delray-style leather upholstery, a Classic Instruments gauge cluster in the stock dash opening, and an aftermarket stereo system. A billet steering wheel sits on a tilt column. Stock handles and pedals maintain the nearly original theme. A Vintage Air system keeps the passenger compartment cool. The dashboard and interior window moldings are painted to match the exterior red.  Roy says revamping the interior is high on his list of pending upgrades. He says he wants to add creature comforts like better cushioning, as well as different upholstery material.

Roy Cardoza 1956 Chevy 2-Door Wagon

Under the hood, a 350c.i. Chevrolet crate engine powers the wagon. A Holley Quick Fuel carb sits on an Edelbrock aluminum intake. Exhaust gases flow through Shorty’s ceramic-coated headers to a dual-exhaust system featuring Thrush mufflers. An aluminum radiator and electric fan handle the cooling chores. A dual-chamber master cylinder and booster control the braking components while the battery is relocated to allow for a relatively smooth firewall.

Roy says he just purchased an LS1 V8 that will probably be his next project for the wagon. He’s says he’s thinking of using an old-school intake system and aftermarket valve covers that hide the coil packs. “I’m trying to do it smart, but keep in somewhat looking like a ’56,” Roy says.

“My father was the biggest influence on me,” Roy says. That’s obviously why Roy has no intention of making the wagon a garage queen. It’s a true road-going cruiser. “I drive my wagon wherever I can.”

Photos by Steven Bunker

Dave Doucette is a long-time Goodguys member with a career in newspaper, magazine and website journalism. He was one of the founding editors of USA TODAY, editor of two daily newspapers and co-owner of a magazine publishing and trade show company. He owns and operates Real Auto Media. His first car was a 1947 Ford; he has owned Camaros, Firebirds, El Caminos and a 1956 Chevy that was entered in shows from California to Florida before being sold last year. He was one of the original Goodguys Rodders Reps and served as president of two classic Chevy clubs. Doucette grew up in South Florida, avidly following the racing exploits of local hero Ollie Olsen and, of course, Don Garlits. He remembers riding his bicycle to Briggs Cunningham’s West Palm Beach factory to peak through the fence at his Sebring and LeMans racers.