Back in 1996, Bill Stowe attended the Pleasanton, California, Goodguys car show where he first laid eyes on a '56 Chevy. In fact, Bill actually sat in the Chevy, as it was the Goodguys giveaway car for that year. Yeah, you guessed it, it was this car, but the story isn't quite as predictable as you might expect. Bill didn't win the car-some other lucky stiff from Ohio did. Even though the '56 was a pretty basic example, including its original patina paint and upholstery, an updated chassis with a crate 350, and a TH350 trans, the machine left an impression on Bill, stirring memories of a similar car one of his buddies had in high school.
Bill managed to track down the new owner, who had little interest in the '56 and was looking to trade for a classic Mustang. Bill couldn't put that deal together, so the pursuit lost its momentum.
Meanwhile, the Ohio guy took his neat little Tri-Five to a classic car dealer and traded it for a Mustang. Then someone else purchased the '56, but he too sold it, this time to someone in Colorado. The new owner sent the car to Zoomers, a street rod shop in Denver, to lavish it with all sorts of trickery-a smoothed firewall, a detailed engine bay, a custom paint job and interior, and even a TPI induction system and a TH700-R4 overdrive trans.
Just as the '56's renovations were nearly complete, the owner decided to sell so he could put the money into another project. Bill spotted the car in the Goodguys classifieds, and even though it looked a bit different, he suspected it was the same car. This time, the deal was consummated. Bill flew to Denver and motored back to Northern California in this new '56.
But the story's not over yet. Despite all the affection bestowed upon the Chevy in Denver, it still wasn't quite where Bill wanted it. He swapped the 17-inch Americans for 18s, upgraded the brakes to Baer 13-inch discs, installed a freshly rebuilt '66 Nova rear axle, upgraded the headers and exhaust system, and added a Rock Valley fuel tank before topping the Chevy off with all new glass and power windows.
Bill tended to a lot of other details, and he's mostly satisfied with the results. While he loves the car's looks, he's already planning another '56, this time with Corvette suspension. If it can handle as good as this one looks, it'll be a keeper.
Car Craft Q&ACar Craft: Is this the first street-machine project you've tackled?Bill Stowe: No, I've been into cars my whole life. My first was a '40 Ford pickup. I had a '57 Chevy when I was about 22-it was a perfect, one-owner car, but we were starting to have kids, so I sold it.
CC: Have you wanted a Tri-Five ever since?BS: Yep. I actually prefer the '56-a friend had one when we were in high school and I always wanted one for myself. Now that my family is grown, I can get back to messing with cars.
CC: That sounded plural. What other projects are you working on?BS: I've also got a '72 Chevy pickup-a short-bed Fleetside with factory big-block, tach, tilt ... lots of factory options. It's lowered and rides on 20s, and the engine has a few speed parts along with a '71 Chevelle factory aluminum intake and stock-appearing chrome valve covers. I've spent a lot of time on that one too.
CC: Sounds like you might be running out of projects, since the '56 and the pickup are basically done, right?BS: Yes, they're both just about the way I wanted them, but now I'm planning another '56. The body will be very similar to this one, but it will ride on a Paul Newman chassis with complete C4 Corvette suspension. The ride and handling of that package is unbelievable. It should be done in a couple years.
The DetailsCar: '56 Chevy Bel Air
Engine: GM Performance Parts 350 H.O. crate engine
Heads: GM cast-iron Vortec, 1.94/1.50-inch valves, 64cc chambers (9.0:1 compression)
Induction: GM Tuned-Port Injection EFI system by Street & Performance