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A 1956 Chevy Built To Fulfill a Teenage Dream

Joe Greeves Sep 3, 2015
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Larry Coleman grew up in the automotive hobby, owning several cool customs over the years. He bought his first ’56 Chevy when he was 16 years old, but as a kid with very little money he couldn’t do much when it came to customizing. Half a century later however, the situation is quite different. Larry decided to create another 1956 Chevy convertible as a tribute to the one that he had when he and his wife, Becky, were married, 56 years ago.

Currently, Larry divides his time between his home in Plant City, Florida, and his ranch in Havre, Montana. Retired from running the family industrial supply and construction company, he leaves the day-to-day operations to his son TC. With more time to play, (and with help from TC) beautiful creations like this ’56 Chevy are the result. After beginning the search for a suitable project vehicle, Larry found this ’56 ragtop in Riverview, Florida. It was primered and equipped with a 350/400 powertrain, supposedly in need of just a few final touches. All the chrome and stainless steel trim pieces were there, but needed to be refreshed.

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Beginning with a firm foundation is always the key to success, so Larry chose an Art Morrison GT Sport Tri-5 chassis, with lots of chrome additions like the shiny four-link, tubular A-arms, sway bars, 2-inch drop spindles, and Strange 3.73 rearend along with their racing rack-and-pinion, 20:1 steering. Wilwood disc brakes snub all four wheels and chromed Strange coilovers guarantee flat cornering. Larry had the chassis powdercoated, adding the specific Art Morrison headers required for proper routing of the steering shaft with the planned 572 V-8. Why such a big engine? “You don’t see very many 572s around and everyone has fuel injection,” Larry told us. “I am a fan of big-blocks and this motor was on display at the Detroit Autorama in the GM booth, built by their race division.” After some serious negotiations, Larry was able to buy the engine and install it in the new chassis. The transmission is a highly modified 4L80E, beefed up by Larry Hart’s Transmission in Plant City, Florida, which enables it to cope with the impressive 644 wheel horsepower and 680 lb-ft of torque the engine produces. The sanitary engine bay showcases the engine, accented with an oversized Billet Specialties air cleaner and 572-engraved valve covers, both powdercoated to match. All the plumbing is beautifully routed with braided steel hoses and stainless steel tubing for the air conditioner. The polished Be Cool radiator and twin 10-inch electric fans keep the big mill cool while the Billet Specialties pulley system runs all the accessories. The SLC75 rims are also from Billet Specialties, using 18x8.5s up front and 20x10 versions in the rear, all wrapped in 35-and 40-series Pirelli rubber.

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While the chassis work was underway, the body was sent off to be mediablasted; the results were not good. Unfortunately, the true condition of the car revealed itself and every piece of sheetmetal had to be replaced with the exception of the dash and a portion of the firewall. Bobby Bauman from Mad Mods in Palm Beach, Florida, did the metalwork, and once the body was sound, added custom touches like shaved door handles, shaved trunk, and a shaved and re-contoured hood. The peaks were eliminated from both front fenders in an effort to give it a slick look, hence the name: SLICK 56. The one-piece chrome trim on the rocker panels is from a ’57, replacing the two-piece on the ’56. Nomad smoothie bumpers dress up both ends. The final step with the exterior was Bauman spraying the distinctive combination of Mercedes silver metallic and Mazda gray. Larry’s wife, Becky, chose the colors and fabrics for both the interior and exterior.

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With the top down, it’s the elegant interior that catches everyone’s eye. Stitched by Interiors by Jesse in Clearwater, Florida, it’s a blend of several designs that Larry researched before deciding on the current look. Seats that originally came from a Dodge Challenger SRT8 were cut to fit, then bolted in place on the modified floorpan, which was trimmed for additional clearance. The door panels were custom-designed and hold component sets for the stereo. The rear seat began as a plain block of foam, contoured to fit with an electric knife. Providing a tactile connection for the driver is the Billet Specialties Rat Tail steering wheel and a B&M Ratchet shifter for the automatic trans. The smoothed dash holds analog gauges from Classic Instruments on the driver side and an appropriate 50th anniversary script on the passenger side. Several custom-made billet accessories, created by Tom at Billet and Acrylic Fantasies in Vero Beach, Florida, add to this car’s elegant theme. Larry’s son TC is the stereo expert in the family. He installed the Kenwood 516 flip face receiver that controls the pair of JL Audio amplifiers hidden from view in the trunk. The first is a JL XD1000 that energizes the pair of JL 10W6V3 10-inch subs in their own trunk-mounted enclosure. The second JL XD200 drives the Focal K2P Power components in the door panels. The system looks great and sounds even better!

Is Larry happy with the finished results? “I always wanted to build a car exactly the way I wanted to and this car is exactly what I wanted! And, it only took five years,” he says smiling. Are there plans for the future? Although it doesn’t look like a single improvement could be made to this already amazing car, Larry is planning to narrow the rear axle so that he could add 2-inch wider wheels, putting a little more rubber on the ground when he does burnouts! A special thanks goes to Jimmy’s Rod and Custom for plumbing, wiring, and assembly, along with Charlie O’Neal at ASI for the final finish work.

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