The Mona Lisa is just a woman grinning, right? And Andy Warhol merely painted pictures of soup cans.
Fine art often appears simple to the uninitiated, but those who understand the medium appreciate the determination, passion and creative conceptualization behind it. Hey, it's the same thing with cars.
Dale Anderson's '56 Chevy is seemingly an example of just a clean, old street machine with nice wheels. Certainly, it's hard to fault it upon first impression: a classic body with the right stance, the right wheels and the right amount of chrome. But like so much fine art, there's was a fervent and carefully planned concept behind the execution.
"It's exactly the car I wanted," says Anderson. "Everything on it was planned out-a true hot rod with a street appearance." Even the basic form was what he was looking for. "I liked that year and body style," Anderson says of the '56 two-door post. He acquired the shoebox Chevy through a friend. It was a plain-Jane model with a standard inline-six underhood and a three-on-the-tree tranny.
"I had it in my mind how I wanted to have it restored and what it should look like," he says. "The body was in excellent condition-it even still had the dealership trunk emblem on it."
When it came to transforming the '56 into the vehicle in his mind, Anderson reached out to fellow Belvidere, Illinois, enthusiast Kerry Hopperstad, whose renowned street rod shop, Hopperstad Customs, had turned out countless show-winning and magazine-featured hot rods. It took Hopperstad about four months to transform the Chevy.
Starting with the stance, Hopperstad employed a set of Heidts drop spindles and a complementing set of 1-inch-shorter springs to bring the nose closer to the pavement and give the car a proper street attitude. Heidts also supplied a sway bar, which improved cornering. There's also a new power brake system comprised of Wilwood components.
Out back is a Currie Enterprises 9-inch, which is filled with a limited-slip diff and 3.90 gears-a good compromise between easy highway cruising and easy pavement stripe painting. A TCI rearend relocation kit also was added to help center the wheels in the fenders.
Interestingly, Anderson ignored the "dubs" trend in monster wheels and settled on a set of chrome 15-inch Torq Thrusts (15x7 inches in the front and 15x8 in the rear. They're wrapped in BFG rubber that, with the 15-inch rims, provide enough sidewall to enable a comfortable ride. The Americans also look natural within the '56's wheelhouses. Simplicity at its finest.
Another of the car's features that comes off as a simple choice yet reveals careful craftsmanship is the Ram Jet 350 crate engine under the hood. Its intake manifold is purposely styled like the vintage, Rochester-supplied Ram Jet fuel injection system of the '50s, although the 50-year-later version is eminently more reliable and functional. With 350 hp, 400 lb-ft of torque and a pump-gas-friendly 9.4:1 compression ratio, it's a stout performer with modern reliability that looks at home in a vintage shoebox.
A set of Sanderson block-hugger headers flow off the small-block and into a custom, stainless steel exhaust system. The engine also wears a Lokar front dress kit and turns an air conditioning compressor. It is backed by a TPI Performance-built 700R4 automatic overdrive transmission.
Inside, the clean and simple theme continues with a stock dash that's embellished only with a period-style chrome three-gauge panel, air vents for the Vintage Air refrigeration system and a Custom Auto Sound stereo in the stock radio location. A LeCarrera steering wheel carries the look of a vintage steering wheel and it's wrapped in the same green leather as the seats and door panels.
Village Upholstery Shoppe in Durant, Iowa, did the stitch work, including poking discreet speaker holes in the door panels. At a glance, the Chevy's interior looks mostly stock, but the more you look, the more you see the careful planning that went into it.
The same can be said of the arrow-straight bodywork and exquisite chrome. The body itself is all stock, but was carefully smoothed before the PPG green hue was applied.
More than simply the sum of its parts, Dale Anderson's Chevy displays the forethought of an artist. It may be simple looking to the uninformed, but for patrons of the hot rod arts, it's a detailed masterpiece.