Just the Facts
Owner: Joe & Joh Bailey
There are very few iconic images that exceed the popularity of certain Chevrolets made between 1955 and 1957. Right up there with a 50-star flag, dear ol' mom, and hot apple pie, Tri-Five Chevys made a major impact when they debuted, and they happen to have been built during the time when both Chevrolet and the United States were hitting their stride.
Hot rodders have long loved to hop up, modify, and build Chevys from that era, and it can be easily argued the Tri-Fives may be the only legitimate challenger to that of the 1932 Ford roadster as the most popular hot rod ever.
A perforated vinyl headliner was created by James Custom Upholstery, which used ’55 Chevy
But because of that, one might think it would be hard to find new ways to look at the 1956 Chevrolet and find yet another way to customize it. Luckily, the father and son team of Joe and Josh Bailey didn't see it that way, and went about to prove there is a right way and a wrong way to build a hot rod—and their way is most definitely the right way.
At 59 years old, Joe Bailey has been involved with hot rodding nearly all his life. Like many his age, he started by building models of cars when he was 6, and by 19 had his first car project: a 1951 Chevy truck. By the time he was 21, the movie American Graffiti had come out, and Joe bought a 1939 Chevy coupe. From that point on he was hooked, as were all his buddies. That hot rod environment is the one his son, Josh, grew up in and, by the time he was 12, he had his first ride: a 1957 Chevy 150 utility sedan. In high school Josh got a job at Alloway's Hot Rod Shop, which not only provided a paycheck but an invaluable opportunity to learn from the best what it takes to build a hot rod the right way. Joe works at Alloway's, too, doing much of the auto detailing and paintwork
If it doesn’t look customized, then the Baileys did their job! There is normally a section
STREET RODDER first took notice of Josh back when he was 18 years old. His chopped 'n' primed 1940 Ford coupe was featured in the Mar. 2000 issue of the magazine after he took it the Goodguys Columbus show, where it won three top awards, including a STREET RODDER Top 10 award (and not a lot of primered cars have ever done that).
But it was in late 2005 when Joe received a phone call from a buddy who had found a junkyard with 54 1957 Chevys in it. About 50 miles from his home in Maryville, Tennessee, Joe decided to ditch work for the day and go check out the yard. All of the 1957s were either four-doors or wagons, but there were still a lot of extra parts and pieces. Joe told his friend he liked a 1956 Chevy two-door hardtop he'd seen, but his buddy had already bought it for $600, but he'd sell it for $700, so Joe bought it.
By late 2006, Joe and Josh had begun collecting parts and figuring out what they'd like to do with the car, and they took in some car projects to make some money to finance the project. Though the 1956 had some surface rust, the inner structure of the vehicle was still solid. They pieced together good used parts (hood, decklid, doors, and fenders) with some new pieces (floor sections and quarter-panels from C.A.R.S. Inc.) to get the ball rolling, with Josh being the primary builder.
The dash looks stock, but a lot of contemporary parts (such as the Vintage Air A/C system)
In their "spare" time, both Joe and Josh are judges at the Shades of the Past car show in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and are among those responsible in handing out the show's highly coveted Top 25 award. They wanted to build the 1956 to show they not only know what it takes to do the kind of work they look for in other cars, but also illustrate the "why" something was done the way it was—the proof in the pudding, so to say. It should be obvious to anyone this is a well-built car, but it's the stuff you don't readily see that makes it really stand out.
Starting with a one-piece 1956 frame (with a single boxed 'rail as opposed to the C-channel type that's welded in the middle), the wheelbase was stretched 1 inch. Every surface of the car was addressed, which included smoothing out everything before being finished, including the front crossmember. The rear crossmember was boxed, as were all of the body mounts. An aluminum Currie centersection was used with a Ford 9-inch rear (3.70:1) and 31-spline axles, and a pair of Currie drum brakes (with SO-CAL polished aluminum Buick covers) cap off the rear. Suspension is handled by a set of Posies five-leaf, reverse-eye springs and a set of QA1 adjustable shocks, along with a set of custom traction bars.
Up front a narrowed Heidts IFS (with 2-inch dropped spindles) with stainless steel arms, QA1 coilovers, and a 1-inch sway bar were installed, while whoa is applied through a set of six-piston calipers biting into 14-inch Wilwood discs. Stock pedal arms were used, but modified with Pete & Jake's pads. The brake booster and master were also relocated by Josh. For steering, a Concept One 14:1 quick-ratio box was installed along with a column from ididit.
Josh also installed a stock, 16-gallon 1957 gas tank (the one from 1956 doesn't have a needed vent) and centered it in the car. Stance is extremely important in identifying design traits of a real hot rod, and the Baileys chose one-off Boyd Coddington wheels (17x7 and 20x10) wrapped in Goodyear Eagle rubber (215/50-17 and 275/55-20) to aid the look and performance of their 1956.
The seats are out of a 1965 Impala and sewn in red leather with the 1965 Impala stitch pat
Josh also fab'd new engine mounts for a 454 Chevy engine, and then ground the Richmond Super T10 five-speed transmission housing, engine block, and heads smooth before turning the engine pieces over to Mylon Keasler of Keasler Racing in Maryville, Tennessee, for assembly. Internals are stock, and the cast-iron, square-port heads were dialed in with a 9.5:1 compression ratio. A Steve Long radiator went in, too, as did a Vintage Air FrontRunner pulley system and a 140-amp alternator.
Cal Custom valve covers hide the roller rockers, and a set of Edelbrock 500-cfm carbs feed the beast. Up top a Mooneyes air cleaner filters the air and an MSD ignition system (with Blue Max wires) supplies the spark. Exhaust is sent through Sanderson headers and mandrel-bent 2.5-inch polished stainless steel tubing before exiting out a pair of stainless Flowmaster 40 Series mufflers.
At first glance the paintjob Joe Bailey applied (with PPG products) might draw you in and past the fact that there is a fair amount of custom metalwork done to the 1956. Little tricks like removing the bird before peaking the hood are easily found, but under the decklid you'll find a lot of subtle fabrication. First, the spare tire hump near the passenger side trunk hinge isn't there—Josh copied the non-hump design of the driver side for the passenger side for a cleaner appearance. Josh also used the trunk's interior side panels from a 1957 four-door so they can be easily covered and bolted in place. He also created a metal panel to cover the torsion bars running under the backlight, and used a panel from a Model A pickup bed to hide the battery and MSD ignition box.
Mylon Keasler of Keasler Racing assembled the 454 for the Baileys, topping it off with a s
The floor on the 1956 came from C.A.R.S. Inc., and the Baileys molded in the braces for the smooth look they were going for with the rest of the car. They then painted the floor pan area silver and split it from the car's exterior color with a red pinstripe. Josh also routed the emergency cables up under the rear seat to just under the window on the driver-side quarter. It then connects with a pivot lever and then up to the original pull handle, which is hidden from view. To clean up the underside of the car, all of the car's brake and fuel lines are routed inside the car and through the framerails.
Underhood the inner fenders are 1955 units modified to give more tire clearance than the ones found in a 1956. The radiator support was also boxed on each side, which provides a perfect hiding place for the wires connecting electric fan, headlights, and parking lights. Both bumpers were modified, too, with the front having its bolts shaved while the rear (a station wagon version with the flat area for the license plate) was relieved of its bolts and guards before Bill Richards of Knox Custom Chrome in Knoxville dipped everything in their chroming tanks.
The same effort put forth with the underside of the vehicle was employed with the car's interior, too. The fresh air vents in the kick panels were removed to make space for the stereo's Sony 5x7 speakers, and the controls for the Vintage Air A/C system were hidden under the dash (though the control knob for the blower is on the dash, but it resembles a cheap heater control knob). The 1956 Chevy repro A/C vents were added to the dash, and United Speedometer refurbished the gauge cluster to include a speedo that reads to 140 mph.
Besides the "antique" AM/FM radio, there is also an MP3 hookup for superior tunes. Josh used a Painless Performance Prodcuts' 18-circuit fuse block and wired the car himself, which included a pair of courtesy lights from a 1962 Corvette mounted under the dash that light up when either door is opened. To get the Daytona weave carpet to fit so well against the contours of the floorpan, ABS plastic was formed over the floor and then the plastic was covered with carpet by James Edgar of James Custom Upholstery in Maryville.
Black is always a test of a painter’s ability and this paintjob is awesome. Joe and Josh B
Edgar also covered the 1965 Impala seats with red leather (using nine hides in all for the interior), stitching the 1965 Impala sewing pattern into the seats as well. Rather than go with a red or black headliner, the Baileys had James create a perforated white vinyl headliner, only installed with 1955 Chevy headliner bows and 1956 Bel Air trim. A 1961 Chevy shift plate (with a red leather boot) then went in along with a Hurst shifter modified to look like a Muncie stick. Though most of the interior parts are Chevy-based, the Baileys did stray away from the farm a little by using 1955 Pontiac armrests and door pulls along with speaker grilles out of a 1967 Jaguar. Topping off the steering column is a repro 1964 Chevelle wooden steering wheel that was painted red and then polished. Even the garnish moldings didn't escape attention: they're covered in leather, too. As a finishing touch, the Impala SS speaker grille that fits at the top of the rear bench seat was modified a little: the Impala logo was removed in favor of the crossed-flag Corvette trim.
The Baileys say the hardest thing about building this car was locating the Chevy 210's stainless steel paint dividers that fit in the quarter-panels as well as the very-rare stainless beads. These are located at the top of the doorskin where it meets the window and flow out onto the top of the quarter-panel. The Bel Air models use a 1-inch-thick piece, but for the low-production 210 models the piece is about an eighth of an inch wide. But by searching the Internet Joe and Josh were able to locate everything they needed to finish the car. But though their 1956 is now a far cry from what it was when Joe laid out his initial cash investment of $700 (and don't forget the extra $100 to get it home), it does show what a little bit of imagination and a whole lot of talent can do for you, especially if the last name is Bailey.