We all have visions don’t we? Visions of the perfect job, the perfect house or for most of us reading this mag, visions of the perfect car! But how many of us are able to turn this vision into fruition? Well, one such person who was able to accomplish this is John and his vision involved one of the classics from the United States; a 1956 Chev! But visions don’t just happen! They’re created from experiences in the field of desire as we make our way through previous visions such as a modified 1968 Toyota, Jags, Fords, a t-bucket and 34 rod John had previously owned. Not that he’s complaining about owning these cool rides but ultimately they were the stepping stones to his final dream pieced together from these experiences.
For John, the automotive bug bit him young when his Dad had a 57 Chrysler and was into the rock n roll scene. For this reason, once John was old enough to drive, he was a regular at the Royal Darby hotel or the Bombay hotel where the classics of the 50s could always be found belting out across the dance floor. This rubbed off on john and he always knew whatever the ultimate ride was, it had to suit the rock n roll era. With his attention caught by the middle child of the shoebox Chevs, it was a matter of hunting one down and turning his dream into reality. Being a busy man with a business of his own to run, it would be left up to the professionals in the field to complete the job while the owner oversaw the details.
The bowtie classic originated from Arizona seeing the vehicle live a relatively dry existence although some attention was still required to get the fifty year old machine back up to scratch. Upon purchasing the import from Melbourne as a rolling shell, it was subsequently stripped back revealing what bodywork needed attention. The rear quarter panels were replaced along with new door skins and repairs to the roof. While stripped down, John took the opportunity to have it converted to right hand drive for his own piece of mind while on the road. John knew this one was a keeper and states “I built this car for myself, I did it my way.”
Life hadn’t always been easy for this blast from the past and somewhere through its life, it had been hit on the left hand side seeing it end up with a bent chassis. Antique Autoworks got the job of straightening out the old girl back to its original specs and giving it some extra strength as well as John knew what motor was going in it and wasn’t going to be factory!
With the 56 now back on its wheels all straightened and healthy straight panels, it was time to colour the girl and it takes a special person to come up with the right colour! John’s wife, Elpis is responsible for that decision as she relates the story to me of how that came about. Driving their children to school one day, she happened to glance over at a new car yard as the sun reflected off the shiny new machines and the maroon tone of a Mitsubishi caught her attention and she knew straight away what colour the Chev should be. To complement the classic curves of the two door, gold metajuls were added along with a candy tint courtesy of HOK. To complete the visually impacting colour, heaps of clear was laid over to give it the depth.
Next came the enviable task of choosing the running gear and John had already decided on a big block to the size of 540 cubes. Why 540? “Because I liked the number” says John and that’s a big number to fit between those inner guards but the Chev handed handled it with aplomb. Pushing out 650 hp and 660 ft lbs of torque, this tough donk was going to need a strong drive line to handle the power and a Turbo 400 with stage 2 shift kit was bolted up. Utilising a three and a half grand stall and Strange nine inch running 4:11 Richmond gears, this girl is primed to go whenever John gets the urge. Ride comfort comes from coil overs up front while old school leaf suffices in the rear. Stopping power comes courtesy of Hoppers Stoppers discs and the whole package is completed with your classic satin finished Centerlines shod in definitive Mickey Tees.
While I love the overall look of this piece of GM automotive art, it’s the interior that really grabs my attention! It is a mix of custom and tradition that just work so well with a number of unique pieces that just sets the whole package off. Take a look at the front seats and what do you see? 1956 buckets? It never came out with them and what you’re actually looking at are 1968 Ford Mustang seats with meticulous attention taken to remould the 1956 Chev trim onto them making it look like they came with the car! It’s the center console that really grabs your attention with its uniquely crafted shape and brushed aluminium inserts housing the various electronic controls, extra gauges and B&M Quicksilver Shifter. The Dakota digital analogue gauges are another one of those custom touches that lends itself so well to the original style. The contrasting colour and rich Italian leather has been lavishly used throughout the interior including the Billet Specialty wheel atop the Ididit column. Again, The Trim Shop’s custom work can be found as an extra panel has been formed and placed under the length of the dash looking like it should always have been. The luxuries are not only visual but have also been surreptitiously added with creature comforts such as all power windows (including vent windows) air conditioning and stereo with only the head piece showing.
This is one beautifully presented vehicle where the owner had a vision and followed it through without missing a detail. As mentioned earlier, it’s a keeper and is part of the clan seeing the Vlahopoulos family spend regular weekends out around Melbourne in it.