'56 Chevy gets new lease on life

BY Larry D'Argis. Oct 27 04:00 am

Following the end of the Second World War, new vehicles were in high demand. Along with cars, there was also an increased interest in pickup trucks.

For the tradesmen and handymen, as well as those delivering goods and services, these trucks helped haul the goods in what would become one of the most prosperous times in our history.

By the mid-1950s, there was also interest in trucks being a multi-task vehicle. Style had come to the pickup and buyers wanted increased room in the cab and both style and comfort options.

For Chevrolet, its entire car and truck line received a total restyle and engineering upgrades for 1955. The plucky pickup had shed the utility persona and graduated into being accepted as a family vehicle.

For Dan Lemoine of Winnipeg, he eased into his 1956 Chevrolet pickup in the early 1990s.

“I first saw the truck at my friend Rick Fawcett’s autobody shop in 1994. At the time, it was owned by Rick’s brother-in-law Joey Grezenda,” Lemoine said.

“I saw it sitting in the corner of the shop and I thought it was the coolest thing.”

After finding the truck was for sale, Lemoine purchased it and used it as a summer driver.

Red in colour, it was equipped with stock suspension, a small-block Chevrolet V-8 engine and Turbo-350 transmission, leading to a stock 4.11:1 geared rear axle.

Over the next few years, Lemoine made small changes and became a member of the 567 Chevrolet Club in Winnipeg, where he met club member Jim Dickson.

“I met a lot of nice people and made lifelong friends, but I also learned a lot from the guys that knew so much about the 567 Chevys,” Lemoine says.

The truck saw many car shows here in the city, as well as in different locales as far away as Minneapolis.

Taking home a few trophies and enjoying the club outings, Lemoine says the truck was still a handful to drive. In the winter of 2000, he decided to make some major changes and stripped it down to the bare frame.

Lemoine met and became friends with Lorne Anderson, who helped him graft a 1981 Grand Prix subframe to the original chassis.

This gave the truck a great stance, power steering, power front disc brakes and independent front suspension.

A Chevy van donated the tilt-steering column for the pickup and it’s topped with a Lecarra billet steering wheel. In back, a ten-bolt rear axle with 3.56:1 gear ratio was installed on the remaining factory leaf springs.

Several leafs were removed to lower the truck and give it a softer ride.

The fuel tank was also relocated from the cab to under the truck bed. After sandblasting, the frame was painted at McBride Auto and new brake lines and an underfloor powerbrake booster were installed.

With the help of Jim Dickson, a 350 cubic-inch V-8 was rebuilt and attached to a rebuilt 700R4 overdrive automatic transmission. A mild 300-horsepower build, the engine features a 9.5:1 compression ratio, H.E.I. ignition, Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold, Holley Street Avenger four-barrel carburetor and aluminum-coated tube headers. Other under-hood features are a shaved firewall and four-core radiator with electric fan and chrome alternator. A custom dual system with Dynomax Super Turbo mufflers looks after the exhaust duty and the truck rolls on a set of 15-inch Cragar aluminum wheels, shod with Goodyear Eagle GT radial tires.

When Lemoine started on the body restoration, he had never welded a panel before, but equipped with a new Lincoln mig welder, he learned about body panel welding from his friend Rick Fawcett.

The next three years were spent welding and grinding the body panels — purchased from Softy’s Speed Shop. In the bed of the truck, Lemoine crafted a set of inner fenders to clear the wider rear tires.

“I used fenders I purchased at Princess Auto and cut them down to the size I needed,” Lemoine says.

The rear panel was then modified to accept new Billet Specialties tail lights. With the bodywork complete, it was time for a new Painless Wiring Kit and then a trip to Fawcett Auto Body where they laid down a new coat of Bright Silver Metallic paint. A new oak box kit with eight coats of clear finish make up the new floor.

Inside the truck, new tinted glass was installed, along with a Lokar accelerator, brake pedals and power windows. The doors were modified to accommodate one-piece glass units by removing the vent windows, for a cleaner appearance.

The soft blue interior features a new carpet and a bench seat from a 1998 Chevy pickup. At some point, the original cab of the truck was swapped for a GMC cab.

The GMC dash is different and allows for a larger gauge cluster than the standard vee unit on the Chevrolet. Lemoine had a new gauge panel laser cut from a piece of stainless steel and used a template to sandblast the etched detail lines and new Autometer gauges were installed.

The truck was completed in 2006 and has since been a great summer driver for Lemoine. “I’m still taking in shows and Sunday cruises and my plans are just to keep driving it and enjoying it.”

57ford@mymts.net

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