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A Highly Customized Vintage Car is a Great Way to Celebrate Retirement

It’s time to enjoy one of the biggest items on the bucket list

Joe Greeves Jan 16, 2019
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When you finally arrive at that moment in life when it’s time to build your ultimate dream car but you realize your personal talents are not quite up to the task, finding a builder who can deliver becomes the biggest challenge. Creating a specialty ride in a timely manner and at a price you can afford generally demands some serious research if success is your goal. One of the best ways to make that decision is to see examples of a builder’s work. It allows you to assess both the quality and imagination involved, and with a careful discussion, you might even get an idea of the cost. That’s how it began for Art Reddick from Crescent City, Florida.

Recently retired, Reddick had a car on his bucket list for some time, a restomod 1956 Chevrolet that would be outfitted with all the latest upgrades appropriate for the new millennium. The long list of specifics meant that he had to find just the right person for the job. His search ended when he attended Florida’s famous Turkey Run last year in Daytona Beach. That’s where he came across a highly customized 1957 Buick Special built by Classic Muscle Motor Company (CMMC) in Daytona Beach. Loaded with detail, the car made an immediately positive first impression. In fact, he inspected it for several hours while chatting with the staff. Deciding to move forward, he visited CMMC about a week later and met the owner/builder, Paul Newman. Newman has been creating distinctive rides for individuals and friends since 1995, finally opening the CMMC Garage to the public in 2011. He and his team create an average of five or six big builds a year along with dozens of smaller ones.

004 1956 Chevy LS Custom Bel Air 2/22

The two men quickly got down to basics and it turned out that Reddick, not a fan of cookie-cutter rides or 60-year-old technology, wanted his ’56 upgraded with a challenging list of luxury and performance additions. The first step was the search for an appropriate donor car, which he found as a barn-find, two-door post Chevrolet 210 in northern Georgia. It was minus the engine and transmission with much of the car in boxes, but just right for the build. Next came a rendering, with the most significant exterior change being the swap of the single chrome spear with the Bel Air version that would allow a two-tone paint scheme. Fortunately, the folks that handle polishing for CMMC, J&N Stainless in Bunnel, Florida, had a complete set of 1956 OEM side trim pieces, simplifying that problem.

With the donor car in hand and a clear charter to proceed, the team began by separating the body from the frame, scrapping the original chassis and replacing it with one from Art Morrison. When it arrived, Reddick liked the raw steel finish with just a hint of patina so the frame was sprayed with multiple coats of clear to preserve the look. It has a fully adjustable coilover suspension with a four-link and Panhard bar in the rear holding a Ford 9-inch with 31-spline Strange axles and 3.50 Truetrac posi. Up front, CMMC fitted the Art Morrison tubular A-Arms with Corvette C5 drop spindles.

006 1956 Chevy LS Custom Bel Air 3/22

Stopping power begins with 13-inch Wilwood power disc brakes, activated by six-piston calipers up front and four-piston versions in the rear, along with a Wilwood master cylinder. Since the plan was to incorporate an LS engine into the build, CMMC knew from experience that a Hydroboost was the best choice, augmented with a separate reservoir from Performance Steering Components. Since the Hydroboost shares fluid with the power steering, hard braking could cause the fluid to boil. The PSC reservoir solves the problem with additional fluid and cooling.

A set of 20-inch Coys classic five-spoke wheels got the chassis rolling with 8.5-inch-wide rims up front and 12-inch versions in the rear, all wrapped in Nitto rubber. Looking at the car on the lift, the attention to detail makes the completed chassis look like a work of art.

012 1956 Chevy LS Custom Bel Air 4/22

The journey from crude to cool continued with the choice of power, in this case a thumping new GM Performance LS376 making 525 hp out of the box. It was mated to a 4L65E trans with GM’s Connect & Cruise package that simplified the installation. In order to properly showcase the engine, custom work began with smoothing the inner fender panels, shaving and recessing the firewall, then painting it to match the exterior.

The engine itself was highlighted with a Billet Specialties Tru Trac serpentine system complete with a polished alternator and A/C unit. Covering the coil packs, CMMC used Corvette valve covers, two-toned and personalized with the original chrome Bel Air logo pulled from the fenders. To minimize clutter in the engine room, air conditioning and heater core lines were hidden behind the inner fender panels on one side while the wiring was routed to the opposite side. AutoRad built the polished radiator core support with a fan shroud, two electric fans, and A/C condenser. The package looks great and the highly entertaining engine with its distinctive Detroit soundtrack can throw down a serious grip-challenge to the 12-inch wide Nittos!

020 1956 Chevy LS Custom Bel Air 5/22

Moving inside, the refinement of the old-fashioned space began with seats from a Cadillac Eldorado, trimming them to make them even with the window line, then adding a distinctive two-tone pattern using soft Italian leather. Custom door panels were fabricated to match with everything stitched in shades of Peanut Butter and Vanilla, a perfect complement to the exterior.

Major changes transformed the dash, welding up all the original openings and retaining only the recognizable pair of Chevrolet chrome bezels. The one in front of the driver incorporates a modern gauge cluster from Classic Instruments while the one in front of the passenger features a matching electric clock. Oval A/C vents were cut into the center and a larger pair added to each end with a Vintage Air unit generating the cool breezes.

018 1956 Chevy LS Custom Bel Air 6/22

Between the bucket seats, the new center console holds the Lokar floor shifter that features an electronic digital readout on the dash. Since good music was high on Reddick’s list, the console also holds the double DIN Pioneer stereo receiver with 7-inch monitor, NAV, DVD, CD, and Bluetooth. It fills the car with golden oldies, thanks to a trunk-mounted Hertz five-channel amp. It powers 6.5-inch component sets in the kick panels and rear package tray along with a pair of 10-inch subs in a custom enclosure behind the rear seat. Wire mesh inserts in the package tray and back seat allow unobstructed sound.

The trunk is equally distinctive, outfitted in the style of a vintage steamer trunk. Going the extra mile, CMMC contacted Col. Littleton’s Great American Leather Company in Tennessee to obtain the beautiful leather straps and buckles for this one-of-a-kind look. With the exception of 2-inch mini-tubs, flat trunk floor, and the subtle one-piece side glass in the doors, the body is factory original, just the way Reddick envisioned it. The final touch was the eye-catching two-tone paintjob, separating the Axalta Mango Tango Orange and Cool Bean Vanilla with Bel Air chrome.

Everything was done in-house with CMMC Garage accomplishing the bodywork, metal fabrication, engine work, electrical, LED lighting, stereo, upholstery, and paint. The combination of blistering performance and the latest technology upgrades makes this ride perfectly suited for luxurious travel in the years ahead.

It’s as much fun to drive as it is stunning to look at. For Reddick, it’s just the beginning with two other items still on his bucket list. Plans are afoot for a custom pickup truck and trailer to tow the ’56 on the show circuit, all running the same wheels and painted to match. Sounds like a great way to begin an amazing retirement adventure!

Photography by Joe Greeves

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