1956 Chevy Convertible

JIM & CAROLYN WHEELER

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We bought our convertible in Tucson in November 1998. The car was in primer paint and would barely run. But it had a 454 big block engine; custom-made radiator; bucket seats (from a '64 Impala); keyless remote entry; louvered hood; battery in the trunk; and a new radio. The top mechanism worked and the top frame had been powder-coated.

$30,000 had already gone into the car with receipts to prove it.

My first car in 1964 was a '56 Chevy convertible and this might be my last chance for another one. So we bought it.

Previous owners were a father and son. They told us they got the car in 1989, after it had been rescued from an Albuquerque junkyard. They'd worked on the car for nine years with plans for a full custom job -- black with flames.

Side trim holes were welded shut on both sides of the car. But we decided to go back to a Bel Air two-tone paint job, with the paint spears in the doors and front fenders. For main body paint, we chose metallic Dusk Plum, a stock '56 Chevy color. Accent color would be ivory pearl.

During restoration we discovered that stainless trim pieces for the passenger's side door wouldn't fit. The door was actually off a '56, two-door hardtop! An electric grinder was used on the door pillar until the trim pieces fit over it. The car took about 18 months to bring into show condition.

Our '56 convertible has a 700R4 transmission and a white vinyl top with glass rear window. The car has a front seat console, instrument gauge pack, tilt steering column, air conditioning, alarm system, front power disc brakes, dropped front spindles, front anti-sway bar, rack-and-pinion power steering, aluminum bar grill, rear shock bar, and rear air shocks.

We have tweed seats, custom steering wheel, polished aluminum wheels, upholstered trunk, and as much chrome trim as we could justify.

Our convertible has been driven to several out-of-town shows. Perhaps the highlight was when we took both our '56 Chevys to a Classic Chevy International convention in June 2003 in Pinetop. Our red-and-white, four-door hardtop scored 988, out of a possible 1,000; but the convertible amazed us with 998.

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