For Dick Stevens, growing up in the sleepy town of Isola, Mississippi, in the early 50s it was easy to feel an adrenalin rush of hopped-up Flathead V-8s every time he walked out to the family driveway as his dad, Sam, was a hard-core competitor at the local dirt tracks. Theres nothing quite like loading up the family race car and heading off to the races to consume a young mind with plenty of inspiration. Frequenting a number of well-known tracks, including Speed Bowl Park in Jackson and Fairgrounds Speedway in Greenville, Sams modified 34 Ford coupe was a force to be reckoned with.
It didn’t take long for Dick to take his passion for hot rods to the roadways when at age 14 he started driving the family’s ’56 Chevy Bel Air two-door hardtop across town, honing his driving skills. In two short years, the car went through 11 transmissions, seven rearends, and countless tires, while the youngster literally tore up the country roads in the new Chevy.
For plenty of gut-wrenching power, Joe Lunati assembled a 406ci Chevy small-block filled w
Knowing he was hooked on horsepower his dad continued to fuel his fire as the years passed by with even cooler cars. After a stint in the Air Force as a pilot he followed by crop dusting, and then settled down, started a family, and shifted his business goals to fisheries and agriculture. During this time he fielded a number of race cars on the NDRA circuit with Hall of Fame driver Jerry Inmon “The Mississippi Flyer” at the wheel with great success. As his sons grew, he got them involved in Karting and soon followed by introducing them to hot rods as the home garage began to fill up with cars once again.
As the years passed, Dick burned many a late night in the shop building a multitude of hot rods, custom cars, and classic trucks. One thing for sure was that he never forgot the early days and the first car that started it all for him. A decision was made to search for a ’56 Chevy convertible to use as a base to build a car that he had been thinking about for decades. After looking at a number of cars, he found a mint drop-top body in South Dakota. It was disassembled and had been in longtime storage for many years. There’s nothing like starting with a rock-solid base to build a great car and with little debate the body was purchased and hauled home for review. Looking deep into the ’56 it was evident that the body was clean and unmolested, making it a perfect candidate for the build. Knowing that he was going to fill the engine bay with a ferocious V-8, it was obvious that the backbone for the car would need to be bulletproof.
A pair of Dominion cylinder heads and an Inglese induction system featuring Weber 48 IDA c
Stance and handling was also of major importance for the build as it was obvious that the balance of performance and power would need to be perfect. A call was placed to Art Morrison for one of their GT Sport chassis constructed from 2x4-inch mandrel-bent rectangular steel tubing with custom crossmembers. For a hammered-to-the-ground stance, out back a Strange Engineering 9-inch rearend was filled with 3.55:1 gears and suspended in place by a triangulated four-bar combined with QA1 coilover shocks and a 3/4-inch sway bar. To make the car handle like it was on rails, the front features tubular steel upper and lower control arms deftly matched to QA1 coilover shocks and a 1-inch sway bar. It’s bitchin’ to go fast but when the need to stop suddenly appears it’s great to know that a Classic Performance Products master pushes fluid through stainless lines to massive four-piston Wilwood calipers and rotors anchored at each corner. Completing the look, a set of Foose Monterey wheels in 18x7 front and 20x8 sizes, wrapped in low-profile Goodyear rubber does the trick.
A pair of ’65 Thunderbird buckets were incorporated along with a custom console to make th
The pulse of any Street Shaker lies under the hood and to bring the goods to the party Dick pulled out all the stops after a meeting with good friend Joe Lunati of Memphis. When discussing his aspirations for the car, he mentioned the engine would need to be both fierce and streetable. Joe asked if 600-plus horsepower would do the trick and then pulled the covers off a small-block that could deliver the goods. To accomplish this Joe started with a 400ci block, which was massaged to 406 ci, and filled with a Scat crank linked to Carrillo rods, topped with JE pistons while a Lunati stick sets the thump. This is where the exotic stuff gets bolted on, starting with a pair of Dominion four-valve-per-cylinder aluminum heads combined with an Inglese induction setup featuring a quartet of Weber 48 IDA carbs perched atop an Inglese intake governed by a custom throttle linkage by Lokar. An MSD ignition lights the fire and spent gases get dumped through custom fabbed headers into a 2-1/2-inch stainless exhaust with Borla mufflers to tame the note. To distribute the power a 700-R4 automatic trans by Gearstar coupled to a driveshaft by Inland Empire seals the deal.
If you’re painting it black you’d better do your homework. Immaculate bodywork was coated
Seeing that Dick started with a nice clean body there was little repair work needed so it was time to focus on a few modifications. Working at his home shop with Bobby Jackson, the pair first removed the hood bird and grafted a section from a ’57 Chevy in its place and followed with a light shave and fitment of the custom grille from Carriage Works. The body was then prepped and blocked to perfection and delivered to Wayne and Kevin Poe at Wayne’s Body Shop in Jackson, Mississippi, to lay down a mile-deep coating of DuPont jet black vibe. Wanting to bring an extra bit of allure to the interior, Dick selected a pair of ’65 Thunderbird front seats and contacted Steve Holcomb at Pro Auto in Knoxville, Tennessee, to stitch up plenty of fawn leather accented by complementing wool square weave carpet. A custom console and updated dash add sparkle while Classic Instruments monitor the vitals, Vintage Air supplies a cool breeze, and a Billet Specialties steering wheel mounted to an ididit steering column completes the look. Dick tells us that the combination of handling, searing performance, and elegant looks makes him want to drive the car 24/7, and who could argue with that!
COMP Performance Group Tech Tips
If your small-block Chevy engine is a stroker and/or has a long rod, you will need to run a small base circle camshaft.
Do I need a special type of intake manifold for my EZ-EFI system?
No. Any manifold you have used with a four-barrel carburetor will work with this system. It has been tested with dual- and single-plane intakes. However, as with carburetors, using adaptor plates to adapt a four-barrel to two-barrel is not recommended due to poor air and fuel distribution.
The importance of suction
Using a plenum creates vacuum for a computer in EFI applications, and provides a better balance in carbureted systems. A built-in plenum is available in Inglese manifolds that will be used in applications requiring vacuum pull or in custom setups.