Jim Simpson, from Ormond Beach, Florida, has always been an active automotive enthusiast. Over the years he's owned at least two dozen custom vehicles but now that he is retired, he was looking for a change from the hot rods usually found in the Simpson garage. As a kid, he owned a '56 Chevy and thought it might be a pleasant change to add a similar vintage Chevy truck to the list. Before long, he acquired a partially modified '56 pickup and drove it for a few years, accumulating lots of ideas for upgrading the vehicle while searching for the right builder.
As most enthusiasts know, you need to put almost as much effort into finding a good builder as you do in finding a good wife, as you'll be married to the truck for quite some time! Luckily, Jim met Doug Corl of Douglas Corl Auto Restorations in Bunnell, Florida. Corl has been in business for more than 27 years. He grew up on a farm and he began buying old cars that he fixed up for himself and for friends before getting into collision work and auto body repair; eventually opening up his own shop. Jim had a chance to examine some of the magazine-quality trucks that Doug created and knew he was the man for the job.
The customizing process began with a careful assessment of what they had and where they wanted to go. The '56 did not handle well in stock trim and improving upon that was one of Jim's primary goals. Some mechanical work had already been done but there were many other areas still needing work.
The ZZ572 V-8 crate motor...
The ZZ572 V-8 crate motor creates a tire-melting 620 horsepower and looks good in the process. The engine and valve covers match the exterior while the polished aluminum Zoops pulley system and K&N air cleaner add a little sparkle. The tilt-forward hood helps to showcase the powerplant.
Although the truck was equipped with a 350 Chevy, Jim's heart was set on a big-block. Doug thought it was a great idea so a GM Performance Parts ZZ572 crate motor was one of the first purchases. Pumping out a whopping 620 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque, the motor is equipped with an 850-cfm Quick Fuel carb, HEI ignition, Sanderson headers, and Borla mufflers with 3-inch pipes. The Zoops pulley system adds a bright touch while the Be Cool radiator and two 12-inch Perma-Cool fans keep temps in the green. Since driving a high-powered truck is a participatory sport, Jim added an M21 Muncie four-speed with floor shift to enhance the experience. A Gary's Drivelines driveshaft spins a 12-bolt Chevy Positraction rear fitted with 4.11 gears and shortened 32-spline Moser axles.
Since the big V-8 and the short rear gear provide tremendous initial acceleration, maintaining traction proved a challenge, but a Pro Street approach with fat rear tires was already part of the plan. Doug relocated the leaf springs inboard to clear the 20x15 Billet Specialties rims, ordered with a custom offset. Fat Mickey Thompson radials, 31x18R20, plant plenty of rubber on the asphalt. The frontend is equipped with a Heidts Mustang II suspension with 3-inch dropped spindles and Bilstein shocks. To create the big 'n' littles look, the front rims are 18x7 Billet Specialties wrapped in 225/60R18 Yokohamas. GM 11-inch disc brakes were added front and rear for enhanced stopping power and new stabilizer bars minimize body roll. Jim was thrilled with the changes, saying, "Now it rides like a Cadillac!"
Once the powertrain and suspension were complete, it was time to rejuvenate the half-century old sheetmetal. Rust had taken its toll so several replacement panels were needed, including doors, hinge pillars, steps, floorpans, and roof. The original bolt-on sunvisor was removed, cut in half, louvered, and streamlined with 3/8-inch rod around the edges before being welded back onto the cab. Custom mirror mounts were fabricated for both doors. Fiberglass rear fenders from Bebop are 3 inches wider than stock and cover the fat rear tires perfectly. Doug sectioned the running boards, widening them to match the new fenders. Take a look at the subtle, Hagen LED taillights, molded in and almost invisible until you step on the brake. Lots of attention was paid to the tubbed bed, beginning with the elongated sheetmetal inner fender panels that follow the flow of the rear fenders. A Hagen gas door was added on the driver side, the stake pockets were welded shut, the tailgate was smoothed, and the bumpers were rechromed. As a final touch, the bed was fitted with rich Brazilian cherry boards.
Moving inside, Ed Schreck of Schreck's Custom Upholstery and Auto Trim in Deland, Florida, was the man in charge of the custom interior. The Glide Engineering bench seat was trimmed in complementary shades of Allspice leather and Peanut Butter ostrich. The beautifully upholstered panels wrap around the seats, covering the rear of the cab, the doors, and the headliner while Tango Camel carpet covers the floor. Keeping track of the big V-8 is the five-gauge instrument panel, using an Auto Meter gauge cluster in a custom chrome bezel, augmented with an oversized Auto Meter tach. The steering column is from ididit and Jim chose a matching Billet Specialties wheel. Doug fabricated a custom panel along the bottom edge of the dash for the Vintage Air A/C vents. The final step was paint, with Doug spraying a subtle combination of House of Kolor Tangelo Pearl and Bittersweet, carrying the colors to the inside of the cab as well.
The Glide Engineering bench...
The Glide Engineering bench seat is trimmed in a combination of Allspice leather and Peanut Butter ostrich. Door panels, behind the seat, headliner, and the steering wheel were wrapped in the custom leather. Both exterior paint shades were brought into the cockpit. Auto Meter gauges help Jim monitor the big 572ci V-8.
The completed truck not only looks good but also satisfies one of Jim's primary goals. All the modifications make the rejuvenated truck handle like a dream. Jim jokes about the time and money it took to create his dream truck saying "There were times when my wife gave me a choice of truck or her! Luckily, she is still with me." Now, he and Carol enjoy cruising in the truck and competing at local shows.
Brazilian curly cherry covers...
Brazilian curly cherry covers the bed floor, tubbed to accommodate the 18-inch-wide Mickey Thompson rear tires. A Hagan gas filler door was built in to the driver-side tub and everything was painted to match the exterior.