To say that selling something with sentimental family value is hard would be putting it lightly. To say that selling a truck with sentimental family value is hard would just be insane. But that was the predicament Larry Hilley found himself in a number of years back when he sold his '56 Chevy. Larry's father, Ralph, originally purchased the truck, his first, to drive back and forth to work and to haul his fishing boat to the lake on the weekend. Years later, the elder Hilley handed the keys over to his son, who continued using the pickup as a workhorse before deciding to sell it in the early '70s. Nearly 30 years would pass before Larry would see his truck again.
"For sentimental reasons I contacted the man I sold it to but turned out he no longer owned it," remembers Larry. "I set out on a quest to find the truck, but always reached dead ends."
That was until a few years ago when a family friend, Lee Baird of Arlees Custom Autos, called the Hilley home in Joshua, Texas, to see if Larry had ever owned a black '56 Chevy pickup.
"Turns out it was the same truck, (painted black instead of the original blue it wore when the Hilleys owned it) and still had my name on the title. Needless to say, after hearing the history of the truck, Lee sold us the truck and I immediately began restoring it," says Larry.
First up on the list was to get the truck over to the House of Hot Rods (HHR) in Mansfield, Texas, to swap out the stock underpinnings for a Total Cost Involved chassis with a 9-inch Ford rearend out back and Mustang II IFS up front with RideTech air suspension at all four corners. Polished American Racing Torq Thrust II five-spokes also reside on the corners, 17x8s up front and 17x11s out back. Dunlop 235/17 rubber hugs the front wheels while fat Hoosier meats put the power to the pavement at the rear.
To update the motorvation in the hauler, Larry opted to keep it in the GM family, with a 2006 LS6 motor. But a stock LS6 motor wasn't enough to keep Larry satisfied, so a MagnaCharger blower was mounted between the heads, bumping up the ponies significantly. A 4L60 transmission was mated to the LS6 to provide trouble-free contemporary performance.
With the chassis and drivetrain sorted, the crew at HHR began to tackle the sheetmetal and bodywork, which included recessing the firewall to make way for the LS6 as well as installing a hidden tailgate release, rear roll pan, and smooth front bumper. Every panel was then gapped and blocked straight before receiving a liberal coating of '02 Chevy Light Metallic Blue PPG paint.
Inside the passenger compartment, a subdash was added along with a waterfall-style center console that houses the RideTech air suspension controls and a pair of climate control vents. The stock gauge cluster was set aside and in its place sits a Dakota Digital unit. The original heater controls were retained, belying the fact that the truck is equipped with an Old Air Products air-conditioning system. A Tea's Seats bench seat replaced the old worn-out spring unit before the truck was handed off to Keith Kirk who stitched up the gray and dark-blue leather at his Custom Auto Trim shop in Mansfield, Texas. A half-wrap billet steering wheel atop a chromed tilt column keeps the truck running true, while a hidden Pioneer stereo system provides the tunes for those cruise nights. A one-piece window kit deleted the stock vent windows, giving the side glass a clean, unencumbered appearance.
"It has been a long-awaited end to getting it home," says Larry. "My dad, who is 84 years young, lives in Georgia and I can't wait for him to see it. I plan on getting customized plates the read 'Dad's '56'." Sounds like a fitting end to a truck long-steeped in Hilley family history!