1956 Chevy

Stealth Mode – There’s Way More Than Meets the Eye on Gary Brown’s ’56 Chevy

When Gary Brown’s friend asked if he had seen this ’56 Chevy on Facebook, he said he had not. But as soon as he logged on and saw it he knew he had to inquire about it, and eventually made the purchase.

It was a finished car, and a special one at that. It had been flawlessly painted black by Charlie Hutton, and the side trim had been custom CNC machined from billet aluminum by Andy Leach of CAL Auto Creations. Closer inspection supported the claim that it had been built from a 15,000-original-mile car. All of the original body panels were intact, along with other indications that it had been built from a solid, low-mile vehicle.

It was rolling on stock wheels and powered by a 283c.i. small-block with a three-speed overdrive. Overall, it was a very neat car, and Gary really liked it. “But it was stock,” he said, “and stock isn’t exactly my cup of tea.”

With the outstanding exterior already in place, he chose to finish it out “old school style” and hot rod it with a 1960s and ’70s flavor.

The heart of any true hot rod is the engine, and while the 283 might have been the hot ticket when this 210 was new, it was lukewarm by modern standards. With all of the slick LS conversions happening today, one might think that’s what’s underneath the vintage pie-pan air cleaner, but it’s not.

Gary had acquired a set of special small-block cylinder heads GM made for NASCAR in the ’90s but had been outlawed. The canted-valve design was similar to a big block Chevy, allowing individual intake runners to each cylinder instead of the Siamese center ports of a traditional small block. He had noted drag racing champion Jeff Taylor of Jeff Taylor Performance build up a 427c.i. small block to utilize these exotic heads. In addition to custom big block-style valve covers, the heads required a special cam and valvetrain package from COMP Cams and one-off rocker arms from Jesel.

When Taylor was done the potent small block cranked out a solid 700 horsepower on the dyno. It’s fed with a monster 950cfm Holley carb and sparked with an MSD ignition. In a true hot rod fashion it was backed with a Muncie Rock Crusher four-speed. Gary decided to skip the flashy engine trimmings and kept things clean and simple. All of the wiring and A/C lines were neatly tucked out of sight and the valve covers were painted orange.

With the power increase came the need to use it safely, and the stock suspension wasn’t exactly up for the task. Bobby Alloway gladly took the car into his care and brought it up to spec. They decided to keep the original frame and simply added Heidts control arms and spindles up front and a Ford 9-inch rear out back on beefy new leaf springs. RideTech shocks were selected and big Wilwood brakes were hung on the corners. A Borgeson steering box helps straighten the curves out a little quicker. Bobby is known for building cars that drive well and Gary says this one is “unbelievable how well it drives.”

Upholstery maestro Steve Holcomb might also have had a hand in contributing to the drivability. The cool cruiser retains the bench seat up front and sports a black-and-white Del Ray interior. A LeCarra steering wheel adds a subtle bit of competition flavor and Classic Instruments crafted a cable-driven-style tachometer with modern electronics for the ididit column. Classic also converted the gauge cluster and Gary chose an under-dash accessory air unit for the Vintage Air system to keep him and his passengers cool. Of course, no other shifter but a proper Hurst would be appropriate for the Muncie below the floor. Three pedals and four speeds.

Finishing things off are a custom set of wheels. Gary couldn’t find steel wheels in the size and offset that he wanted anywhere, so he had the folks at Wheelsmith whittle a set based off the stock versions in aluminum in 16- and 17-inch diameters. They were then powder coated black and capped with factory dog dishes.

At a glance the ’56 appears to be a clean stocker with a proper stance. Upon closer inspection one discovers a world-class cruiser packed with cool details and enough power on tap to impress. This 210 is stealthy like a moonshine runner, and very well done indeed.

Photos by Todd Ryden

Brandon Flannery has a thirst for all things automotive, mechanical, and unique. He’s spent nearly two-decades in automotive journalism and ten years shooting and writing for the Goodguys Gazette. His early years learning about cars involved building hundreds of models as a kid and writing fan letters to his favorite car magazines, which they usually printed. Currently a Memphis resident, Brandon keeps it real with two VWs, a rail buggy, a 1946 Ford 2N tractor, and the legendary road-tripping Blue Goose, which has pulled a U-Haul trailer coast-to-coast twice.