The classic Chevy model began its drag racing life in 1998 when Joe dropped off the rolling chassis to Jerry Bickel Race Cars, a famed Pro Stock and Pro Modified chassis shop. The company grafted a tubular chassis into the 1956 for severe drag racing action but kept the exterior factory appearing. The racing chassis enabled Joe to participate—and add flare—in the Heavy Street wars of the PSCA; a West Coast based street legal drag racing association. The lure of heads-up drag racing was strong for Joe as the rules were simple; a few limits on the engine combinations and a minimum weight of 3,500 pounds. The 1956 had been in its element with the racing inspired chassis ready to stick the near 2,000 horsepower to the ground with style. Heavy Street was littered with cars exactly like Joe's 1956 Chevy—full body models from the 1950s on, and even some late-model cars. Each one carried heavyweight, big nitrous motors, and exteriors that were highly detailed and more original than modified.
Joe would race up and down the Pacific Ocean and throughout the West as his car repeatedly dropped mid-to-low 7-second times for nearly four seasons. The Heavy Street party would end, unfortunately, as new SFI chassis certifications didn't address cars of that weight and running sub-7.50 times in quarter-mile drag racing. The officials of PSCA were forced to turn it into a 7.60 index category. "It was hard to go from heads-up racing to an index," commented Joe. The car was parked and he began talking with legendary street legal drag racer, engine builder, and tuner Chuck Samuel about his next move. The duo kicked around an assault on the NMCA category of Nostalgia Pro Street, which was built on a similar concept of Heavy Street but with lighter weights and nitrous-only combinations. "The car was too heavy for Nostalgia Pro Street, but around that time is when Drag Week was announced," he stated. The decision was made to put the "street" back in Pro Street.
Chuck immediately began building a better big-block Chevy for the rigors of street duty and a barrage of boost from twin turbochargers. The veteran engine builder tapped into his expertise from an assortment of racing genres from the 5-second Pro Mod ranks to even offshore racing where durability and power is paramount. Eclipsing 2,000 horsepower was the easy part, getting it to live on the street was the bigger goal. Joe explained, "Drag Week allows us to go out and compete, have fun, and also drive the car." And Joe certainly drives the wheels off of it as we cruised the Las Vegas strip for hours preceding this photo shoot and he regularly takes the 1956 to cruise nights and all around town. "I get to race it and instead of put it back in the trailer and go home, I drive it all around," said Joe with a smile.
At an estimated 2,600 horsepower the car still knocks down 12-13 miles per gallon—"it isn't bad because it runs on pump gas thanks to the 10:1 compression," as Joe put it. He is also quick to give credit to Chuck for being a big knowledge base on the entire combination from the transmission ratios, clutch set-up, and of course the solid engine program. The car rarely goes above 190 degrees. Joe also gave a big shout out to Joe Oplawski of Hyperaktive Performance Solutions. Joe (Oplawksi) is the tuner of the Big Stuff 3 EFI system as well as the designer and manufacturer of the boost controller—Hyperkontrol. As the car is on the verge of going in the sixes, Joe remains loyal to the appearance, style, and validity of a 1956 Chevy 210 Super Coupe, just with a 200-plus mph set of modifications.