Bob Chubala, chairman of Piston Ring’s World of Wheels in Winnipeg, with his modified 1956 Chevrolet 150 two-door in Tropical Turquoise. (Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press)
Chevrolet cars from 1955 to 1957 have long been sought-after classics.
The 1955 model with its simple styling and newly offered 265-cubic-inch V-8 engine brought a new sizzle to the low-price field. The 1956 cars received a minor restyle, which included a new full-width grille with rectangular park lamps and ribbed tail-light housings with domed lenses. The driver’s side housing also had a latch that, when tripped, allowed the whole light assembly to tilt back on a hinge, allowing access to the gas tank filler neck. Available in three series, the base 150, middle-priced 210 line and the luxurious Bel Air, the ’56 Chevy was right with the times.
While the luxurious Bel Air, with added stainless trim and richly appointed interior fabrics, continued as the top model in the Chevrolet lineup, the 210 was almost as posh, and at a more affordable price. The base 150 model had less trim but all the style and optional equipment availability — making it the clear value leader.
For Bob Chubala of Winnipeg, the 1956 Chevrolet has always been a favourite.
“I had a ’56 Chev post car through Grade 12, then drag raced it at Bison Dragways and always wanted to get another and relive my high school memories,” Chubala says.
Like many things in life, the opportune time and place has a lot to do with things and in 2014, when Chubala looked at a ’56 Chevrolet 150 two-door in Dayton, Ohio, he knew he’d found the right car. One of 66,416 two-door 150 models produced, it easily lent itself to powertrain and suspension upgrades.
Finished in Tropical Turquoise, it had all the pop of a ’50s cruiser, only better. Rebuilt from front to rear with new chrome, mouldings, glass, wiring and weather-stripping, it was like a new car, only better. The stance and road ability come from a new air-ride suspension system from Air Ride Technologies. It rides on 17-inch Coys Wheels up front and 18-inch rears, wrapped in Nexen performance radial tires.
Power comes from a potent 357-cubic-inch V-8 built by the Engine Company in Dayton, Ohio. Producing 408 horsepower, it features a chrome Edelbrock Air-Gap intake manifold and 700 c.f.m. four-barrel carburetor. An MSD digital 6A ignition fires the plugs, while Sanderson Headers direct the spent gases to a custom-fabricated 2.5-inch dual exhaust system with Flowmaster mufflers, installed by Vern Hamill at Minute Muffler. Engine cooling is accomplished with the use of a four-core aluminum radiator.
Putting the power to the road is a Borg Warner T10 four-speed manual transmission, with Hurst floor shift, leading to a 3.55:1 posi-traction rear axle. Stopping power comes from front disc and rear drum brakes and steering is aided by a power-assisted GM 605 steering box.
Inside, the blue and white interior upholstery carries the ’50s theme along with an old-school Sun Super Tach. Nostalgia then meets the 21st century with Omega gauges, Ididit billet tilt steering column and Billet Specialties half-wrapped leather steering wheel, window cranks and door handles.
While the finned ’57 takes most of the limelight among the tri-five Chevys and the ’55s enjoy the first-born status with its simple design, the ’56 models show the styling progression. Marketing faced with keeping a fresh face to draw sales was a huge job in the ’50s and the ’56 brought a lot to the table to keep sales competitive.
The ’56 is a favourite ride for Chubala and his wife, Cindy, who also own a big-block powered 1968 Chevrolet Caprice Estate Wagon. Chubala, who is chairman of Piston Ring’s World of Wheels and the Harley-Davidson Winnipeg Cyclerama, held at the RBC Convention Centre, is looking forward to the big show, which hits town April 12 to 14.