1956 Chevrolet Bel Air
The stainless trim, polished by Louis Meyer, is intact down the side of the Sport Coupe, b
It seems that Tim Helton has always been into hot rods in one way or another. A '63 Corvette convertible became the first in a string of vehicles he'd own over the years that would include some 40 vehicles.
A couple of years back Tim was looking for something new, and something he could haul the family around in. Not wanting an SUV, Tim really wanted a hot rod, and sometimes you have to rely on your friends and family to help guide you to your goal. Tim's introduction to street rods was the result of being friends with Kent Schoneman, who helped him find his first street rod back in 1990—a black '32 Ford Fordor.
For his newest venture, Tim looked to a friend he'd known for several years, Jason Slover (of Pete & Jake's), for some guidance. After hearing what Tim was looking for, Slover turned Tim on to Bob and Bruce Shumacher at Vintage Fabrications in Independence, Missouri.
The two Bs at Vintage have a reputation for building great hot rods, with Bob being recently featured in the NSRA's Builder's Showcase at the Louisville Nationals. Tim brought his list of what he was looking for to Bob and they started to sort out the build.
Finding a great car to start with was important, and Bob was able to track down a good candidate at another Kansas City rodder's warehouse, one that belonged to Curt Cunningham of Carriage Works (the billet aluminum aftermarket parts company). Besides being accomplished with his business, Cunningham has been collecting cars and parts for many years, and he had a solid (but unfinished) '56 Chevy awaiting restoration. The car was apart and without an interior, but Bob and Tim realized this car had to be where the journey began, and luckily Cunningham decided to part with it and sell it to Tim.
Vintage Fabrications used bucket seats from TEA’s Design when they created the interior fo
Though the original idea was to have a reliable driver to bop around town in with his wife, Karen, and their kids, the project continued to evolve during the build. Any good car has to have a solid foundation and, for this project, it came about with Tim ordering an Art Morrison Enterprises (AME) Tri5 Sport chassis and suspension system. Another major facet of the build was the motor—an Edelbrock E-Tec 350 crate engine that put out 435 hp backed to a TREMEC five-speed transmission. With the base chassis and powertrain dialed in, they were ready to dial in the rest of the car.
The AME chassis is outfitted with a Ford 9-inch rear (3.73:1) along with triangulated four-bar and RideTech shocks. An AME IFS is equipped with Wilwood disc brakes, which were also used in the rear. Large 18-inch Billet Specialties Vintage Legacy II wheels, wrapped with Mickey Thompson Sportsman rubber (26x8.00R18LT and 30x12.00R18LT), can be found on the corners of the car.
The Edelbrock crate engine was built using a forged crank, hypereutectic pistons, and an RPM hydraulic roller camshaft, all topped with a pair of E-Tec 170 heads, set up with 1.5 ratio roller rockers and dialed in with a 9.5:1 compression ratio. Sitting atop the Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap Vortec manifold is a single Edelbrock Thunder Series AVS carb. Vintage Fabrications created the exhaust system using 3-inch tubing, Cherry Bomb mufflers, and Race Ready electronic exhaust cut-outs for some added performance when Tim calls for it. Sanderson headers extract the spent gases, and a March serpentine belt system looks good and performs well, too.
The two-door Sport Coupe hardtop was in pretty decent shape to start, but the guys working at Vintage Fabrications did fill the cowl vents and smoothed out the bumpers before Mo Bitchin' (Kansas City, Missouri) covered the body with Dupont Nissan 300 red and white paint. After paint the crew at Vintage Fabrications added the new chrome from Louis Meyer, who also polished all of the car's stainless pieces.
Wired up with a kit from Painless Performance Products, the analog Dakota Digital VHX gaug
Vintage also installed the stereo system and, using a kit from Painless Performance Products, wired up the Dakota Digital VHX gauge cluster, adding the latter to its stock location, forward of the Billet Specialties wheel mounted on a Flaming River column. Vintage also tackled the upholstery for Tim's ride, using Ultraleather to cover a pair of TEA's Design bucket seats, as well as a rear bench that incorporates a twin bucket seat design.
Once the car was up and running, Tim found out he didn't like rowing the gears with his five-speed when he was tooling around with the family, so he changed it out in favor of a GM 200-4R automatic, assembled by Mike Bodine with a Street Fighter ratcheting shifter.
And though all Tim wanted was a nice, reliable, solid driver when he started, he got all that and much more as his '56 evolved over the short 15 months it took to build the ride. Now he can have fun driving with Karen and his kids, and still look sharp doing it!