In post-World War II America, few things captured the imagination of youngsters as much as the electric toy train. It could become a consuming passion even into adulthood, as toys gave way to branded scale model trains with different gauges, specialty cars, and elaborate layouts. Competing at the high end of that market was not only Lionel but also American Flyer, which was known for its extremely well-crafted and highly detailed engines and cars. We see those same characteristics today in another American flyer, namely Joe and Josh Bailey’s amazing ’56 210 Sport Coupe.
When first introduced, the ’56 210 was no toy. As a replacement for the best-selling Styleline Deluxe, it was an important stepping stone in Chevrolet’s product line between the no-frills 150 and the top-of-the-line Bel Air. Both attractive and affordable, the 210 could be ordered with many popular options and sold well. Buyers could choose between the Blue Flame straight-six or any one of three different 265ci V-8s. The three-speed manual transmission was standard fare, but the two-speed Powerglide automatic was an option.
As the kids of that era grew up, some saw their interest in mechanical marvels transition from model trains to cars. Many young gearheads were enamored with the affordable dual Rochester four-barrel 265 that was top of the line in the ’56 Chevy, with a rating of 225 hp. Joe Bailey was one of those, and he would eventually turn that passion into a career, which his son Josh would inherit as well. Working together at Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop in Marysville, Tennessee, they’ve worked on some of the hobby’s most recognized, award-winning hot rods. Eventually, they began looking for a project car they could work on together.
“A friend called me back in 2005 with the news that he’d found a junkyard that had over 50 Tri-Five Chevys in it,” Joe said. “I stayed out of work the next day to go see it with my friend early in the morning. There were lots of cars and parts, but nearly all of them were either four-doors or wagons. I found a 1956 two-door hardtop that I really liked, but my friend said he’d already bought it for $600. Since we were friends, we worked a deal where I bought the car off him. That’s when we got going with the ideas for doing this build.”
While the 210 looked rough from the outside, a complete disassembly revealed the inner structures were still sound. The Baileys used a Heidts drop kit with narrowed tubular A-arms that lowers the nose of the car by a full 4 inches. On the back end, a set of relocated Posies five-leaf reverse eye leaf springs drops the rear 3 inches, while providing for an oversized tire. Adjustable QA1 shocks provide ample damping, while oversized Wilwood six-piston caliper disc brakes work with Currie drum brakes on the rear to help reign in the car. One-off Boyd Coddington rims grace the machine front and rear, with 17x7 and 20x10 diameter rims, respectively, with Goodyear Eagle rubber.
CARS Inc. had nearly all of the new sheetmetal necessary, providing floors, fenders, hood, doors, decklid, and quarter-panels. CARS Inc. produced the five-piece stainless steel grille, and the molding assembly came from Danchuk. That, along with new factory green tint E-Z Eye auto glass, kept the UPS driver busy delivering parts to their home.
Josh and Joe have much more talent than the ability to bolt on stock replacement parts, however. Front fenders from a ’55 Chevy were cut and modified to provide more wheel clearance, while the center of the hood was peaked after the front emblem was removed. The braces for the floorboards and rear quarters were also molded and painted silver.
While the car’s flawless exterior is a work of art, special attention was spent inside the car. Gracing the padded dash is a United speedo with VDO gauges that sits behind a reproduction ’64-’66 Chevelle wood steering wheel. Modern tunes for this vintage car come from an Antique Auto Radio stock-appearing head unit that features an MP3 jack. Climate control is capably handled by a compact Vintage Air system.
Beneath that resides a ’61 Impala bench seat console with a Hurst shifter that’s been remodeled to resemble a vintage Muncie unit. Straddling the console is a reclaimed front bench seat from a ’65 Impala, with a matching bench complete with speaker grille in the rear. Along with the white perforated headliner, James Custom Upholstery of Maryville did a superlative job of reupholstering and covering this, as well as the door panels to provide an eye-catching—as well as a comfortable—office for the driver and company. Additional details include ’56 Buick door pulls and armrests, repro Chevy vent moldings, and stereo speakers in the door panels.
Keasler Racing & Machine in Maryville provided all the handiwork behind this Chevy crate engine, with a 4.250-inch bore and 4.000-inch stroke that displaces 454 ci. ARP fasteners keep the iron heads with 2.190-inch intake and 1.800-inch exhaust valves mated securely to the short-block. On the top end is an Edelbrock RPM dual quad manifold with 500-cfm Performer carburetors fed by a single pump. Jet-Hot-coated Sanderson exhaust headers connect to a 2.5-inch-diameter stainless exhaust system with Flowmaster 40-series mufflers.
A boxed radiator supports a custom Steve Long brass heat exchanger that sits in front of a Vintage Air serpentine Front Runner belt system. As much as possible, all connecting lines and hardware were rerouted or hidden to provide the cleanest possible look.
Sonny’s Driveline in Knoxville, Tennessee, modified the NASCAR-standard Richmond Super T10 countershaft helical gear four-speed tranny that transfers torque through a Sachs heavy-duty clutch and GM pressure plate to the Currie custom 9-inch rear with 3.70:1 gearing.
The passion and workmanship from both father and son filled six long years before their car made its public debut to multiple awards and accolades (and they built it in their home shop, not at Alloway’s). Yet, even though it’s now finished, looking at, sitting in, and even just being in this car can take them back to some good memories—just like a kid might remember a favorite toy train. We’d say that’s a ride that’s totally worth it.