Often the best changes are the ones that are subtle. An example is this '56 Chevy two-door sedan belonging to George Poteet of Memphis, Tennessee. At first look it appears to be a well-detailed and assembled Tri-Five; and it is. Upon closer examination you realize there's a great deal more than first meets the eye. If you stop for a moment and "get into it", and you know your Tri-Five Chevys, you understand this '56 is really a one-of-a-kind hot rod.
A special nod must be given to Dan Kemppainen of Kemp's Rod & Restoration in Hancock, Michigan, for his creative, meticulous craftsmanship that brings this once family sedan into the ultimate performance hot rod from the drawings of Eric Brockmeyer. Let's skip the obvious mods for right now and delve into the more subtle appointments.
While you are caught up in the tasteful uses of nickel plating (Sherm's Custom Plating in California) poured over the custom grille, bumpers, and trim work, your eye should then be drawn to the one-off EVOD Industries wheels. But stop and take a step back and look closely at the top. Do you see it? Possibly not but the normally "tall" roofline is pleasantly reduced, thanks to a 7/8-inch top chop by Kemp's. To this the rear glass is laid down while the rear section of the roof was gently massaged. Now, you see it! This slight modification, albeit a major job to tackle, adds an aesthetically appealing line to the '56.
Mentioned was the Kemp's-fabricated tube grille with a one-piece grille fender brow molding that was cast in brass and then nickel-plated. Closer examination will yield a familiar-looking front bumper but note it's sectioned 1-1/2 inches, shortened, and rolled inward, yielding a tight tuck appearance. Because of all of the mods to the grille and bumpers, the front fenders were also slightly reshaped as was the forward section of the hood. Beneath the hood, aluminum inner fender panels show off more of Kemp's handiwork. The shop also performed massive amounts of sheetmetal/aluminum work under the hood that includes a new firewall, which incorporates the cowl plenum for the air cleaner system that complements a pair of traditional (oil bath) and contemporary (element) air cleaners. The cowl area also serves as the fill point for the brake and hydraulic clutch. More sheetmetal work includes a great deal of aluminum work under the hood, such as the core support and fan shroud that wraps around a Bill Kidd aluminum radiator and Stewart water pump. The rear bumper was fabricated after the fashion of a '55 Chevy but flipped and fit tight to the body. The rear bumper guards and license plate cradle are more of Kemp's handiwork. The license plate on a '56 would normally rest on the decklid, except on wagons. (A popular trick with Tri-Fives is to use a wagon bumper and move the plate from the decklid to the bumper.) More interior sheetmetal mods include the freshly fabricated and 2-1/2-inch-widened inner fenderwells, as well as the new inner quarter side panels.
All of this bodywork was performed and expertly handled at Kemp's with Chad Holzberger and Kemppainen massaging the sheetmetal and then applying the Sikkens Jet Black in a two-stage paint, basecoat-clearcoat. More subtle hands-on is the minimal pinstriping with these lines laid down by Gary Hegman. The olive green pinstripe is used to separate the gloss black from the low gloss green within the engine compartment, along the trans tunnel and in the trunk. Also note that all the badges and stock trim was removed and what trim that does exist is custom fabricated by Rad Rides by Troy of Manteno, Illinois.
So much for the "pretty" side of this hot rod, let's get down to some serious nuts and bolts. The chassis is a Kemp's-fabricated one-off made from 0.125-inch wall steel that features dimpled holes for added strength. It also employs Detroit Speed Engineering (DSE) front and rear suspension components. The DSE tubular control arms that use C5 (late-model Corvette) spindles, antiroll bar, power rack-and-pinion (stock '56 Chevy steering column topped with a Quality Restoration genie wheel), and remote reservoir AFCO shocks. A Tilton master cylinder and pedal assembly operates the Wilwood 13-inch rotors capped with six-piston calipers.
In back a John's Industries 9-inch rear outfitted with 4.30 gears (hang on!), axles, and a Detroit Locker differential are used. More DSE, AFCO, and Wilwood can be found in the DSE four-link, Panhard bar, AFCO shocks, and Wilwood 13-inch rotors but this time with four-piston calipers. On the subject of "four" the EVOD Industries one-off wheels anodized by Indy Metal finishes measure 17x7 and 17x10 with Goodyear RSA 215/55R17 and 275/60R17 rubber.
The heartbeat of this Chevy isn't the original inline-six or the coveted first-generation 265 small-block but rather an '80s-era 355-inch Rodeck built by FX Engines. It's dressed for success with SB2 aluminum heads, a Hogan sheetmetal intake topped with a Holley HP 750-cfm four-barrel, a Powermaster alternator, MSD ignition and wires, and ARP hardware. Pumping the power ratings up to 510 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque comes from using a Jesel valvetrain, COMP Cams stick, lifters, and Manley valves. Exiting the spent gases are Kemp's-fabricated 1-7/8-inch primary tube headers that aggressively grow to 2-1/2-inch exhaust tubing that flows back to a pair of Series 40 Flowmaster mufflers. All of this sits forward of the Tremec TKO 600 five-speed, which works nicely with the 4.30 equipped rearend, custom shifter, and a John's Industries driveshaft.
Inside this Tri-Five rests almost too many changes to keep track of but we will try. The bench seat is a stocker, with four-point belts, but is now covered in Tuscan Green leather stitched at Rad Rides by Troy. Note the liberal use of Kemp's-fabricated aluminum work on the door panels with sheetmetal work on the steel custom dashboard that's outfitted with an FMP Metals dash insert. Corralled is a custom set of Classic Instruments gauges that feature the Camel Toe Racing logo on the center-mounted tach. Don't bother looking for the speedo, it doesn't exist. Other gauges are the obligatory water temp, oil pressure, volt, and fuel orbs. The gauges also favor custom bezels made from the machinery at Rad Rides by Troy. Bringing all of these electrics to life is an American Autowire system installed at Kemp's. By now you are probably asking, "Is that a rollcage?" And the correct answer would be, "Yes". More customization from Kemp's includes this eight-point rollcage made from 1-5/8-inch-diameter tubing with 0.125-inch thick walls.
Well, there you have it. It's a Tri-Five all right, and as fine an example of a '56 any of us would ever hope to find. Talk about a sharp-dressed man, well here's the ride to take any one of us to a black tie affair.