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1956 Chevrolet Stepside: Slammed, 600hp Rides Don’t Occur Overnight

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 9/1/2018 Hot Rod Network Staff
1956-Chevy-Russ-Miscally-01
1956-Chevy-Russ-Miscally-01© Hot Rod Network Staff 1956-Chevy-Russ-Miscally-01

From Lawtey, Florida, Russ Miscally has owned his own automotive repair shop for 10 years. As a lifelong enthusiast he says the fun never ends, especially since the new businesses and his custom Chevy truck started about the same time. While the business required his full attention during the day, the evening hours were set aside for personalizing his latest creation. No stranger to custom trucks, Russ built a customized 1966 C10 and a 1969 Dodge D100 race truck in the past, but smiles saying, "I haven't done a car yet. I'm still looking for the right one." In fact, finding the right truck was also a challenge.

Research

Since he had a clear image of the finished product from the outset he knew that buying and modifying a semi-completed truck would be a waste of time, since most of what he bought would be scrapped anyway. "If I could just find a Big Back Window Chevy I could start out with the cab and build my own frame," he told us. When he finally located a 1956 Big Back Window Chevy cab and doors, however, it was still far from the perfect solution. Russ had to cut away the bottom 8 inches of the cab, replacing the corners, floor, door bottoms, and more before the rust issues were eliminated. Once the vintage sheetmetal was sound there was another change in plans. The unexpected acquisition of a big motor caused a redesign that dictated a stronger chassis, in this case one custom-built by Art Morrison Enterprises (AME). Russ' vision centered around the vintage Pro Street look with ultra-wide tires but without the tall sidewalls. Since he is a hands-on kind of guy and off-the-shelf-anything really doesn't work, he laid out the specs for the AME team, designing his frame around a unique set of 14-inch-wide rear tires. The plan called for 2x4 rectangular steel tubing front and rear along with 2x6 main framerails, incorporating a four-link and Ford 9-inch in the rear along with independent front suspension using tubular A-arms. The 1-inch longer than standard wheelbase meant the tires would be properly positioned within the wheelwells, the RideTech ShockWaves on all four corners ensured just the right stance, and the Wilwood disc brakes guaranteed modern stopping power. The rear framerails were the catch, however tucked in drastically to accommodate the set of 14-inch-wide Mickey Thompson tires on Coys 20-inch, five-spoke rims. When the frame arrived it was worth the wait since the AME team really did their job. Everything fit perfectly, with no modifications required to mount the body or the suspension.

Putting all the pieces together began with the bed. To accommodate those rear wheels (almost wide enough to put the squeeze on the differential!) the bed floor was raised 8 inches and mini-tubs created from trailer fenders. Exotic Sapele planks separated by stainless steel strips gave the bed floor its distinctive look, and the billet gas filler cap provided access to the Stealth 20-gallon fuel cell between the framerails.

Phase two saw the refurbished cab bolted to the new chassis but there was an immediate problem. Once in place, Russ added a temporary seat to check the driving position and knew in a moment that he had to revise his plan. "When I sat down, I felt like a 2-year-old looking out of Daddy's truck." Something needed to be done about the height of the cab and as luck would have it, he found an article in an old copy of Classic Trucks that said chopping the top was easy as pie. After studying the article and photocopying the pages, he decided to tackle the job himself. Following the instructions, he went to the shop and proceeded to cut the refurbished cab, even though it was almost ready for final paint. He took 2 inches out of the uprights, split the roof front to back, then rejoined the parts and welded them up, adding a filler piece to the roof. While his metalworking experience paid off with a beautifully crafted chop, the hardest part was the flush-mounted glass, front and rear, taking several tries before getting it right. Single pane, power windows in the doors completed the look.

With the bed and cab now in place, the front end was next. Body mods began with closing up the cowl vent, a move that gave him extra room under the dash for the Vintage Air components. The outside fender vents were also welded shut and repurposed inside to house a pair of 6x9 speakers in the kick panels. The front bumper was tucked in tightly to the body and the rear bumper eliminated, replaced with a smooth pan and recessed license plate. Modern LED taillights and Tri-Bar headlights add plenty of nighttime illumination. In order to showcase the new powerplant, a tilt-forward hood was added and the inner fender panels were modified to clear the control arms. The engine room was painted to match and details on the motor received the same paint as the exterior. Wires and hoses were hidden from view.

The 540ci V-8 is a story in itself as well as the driving force behind the new chassis. Originally planning on a generic 350, Russ changed his approach when he came by the new powerplant a little at a time. The bottom end of the short-block was bartered from one friend and later the top end was purchased from another. Russ put the two together to create the current potent powerplant. Mixing fuel and air on top is a Holley 780 carb on a Chevrolet Performance intake. GM heads and valvetrain direct the flow, MSD electronic ignition explodes the mix, and custom-built Lemons ceramic-coated headers send exhaust gases rearward through MagnaFlow mufflers. The package not only looks good, it pumps out a stout 597 hp, managed by a modified TH400 three-speed automatic trans.

While the completed truck might have taken a while to build, now that it's rolling down the highway, the long days and nights were worth it, especially when the stereo is cranking out the tunes and those steamroller-wide Mickey Thompsons are straining to hook up that 600 hp. Russ sends special thanks to Jimmy Rhoden and the late Jerry Smith, along with Gene, Sam, and Rob Norman for their help in creating his dream ride.

Russ Miscally

1956 Chevrolet Stepside, Big Back Window

CHASSIS

Frame: Custom-built 114-inch wheelbase chassis from Art Morrison Enterprises using 2x4 rectangular steel tubing in the front and rear sections with 2x6 main framerails. The rear section was narrowed to accommodate ultra-wide rear tires

Rearend / Ratio: Ford 9-inch with Traction Lok, 3.25:1 gears, and Strange S/S street axles

Rear Suspension: AME four-link, RideTech ShockWaves, two compressors located underneath on the driver side, 5-gallon aluminum air tank located underneath on the passenger side, running 1/4-inch lines

Rear Brakes: Wilwood 4R Superlite with four-piston calipers and 12.88-inch-diameter discs

Front Suspension: AME independent front suspension, ShockWaves

Front Brakes: Wilwood 6R Superlite with six-piston calipers and 12.88-inch-diameter discs

Steering Box: Power rack-and-pinion from AGR Performance

Front Wheels: 18x8 Coys C-5 Chrome

Rear Wheels: 20x14 Coys C-5 Chrome

Front Tires: M/T Sportsman S/R 26.00x10.00-18

Rear Tires: M/T Sportsman S/R 29.00x18.00-20

Gas Tank: Stealth 20-gallon fuel cell under the bed with an internal pump

DRIVETRAIN

Engine: Chevrolet 540ci V-8, Stewart aluminum water pump, PRC radiator and fan shroud, Mr. Gasket trans cooler, Vintage Air 140 amp alternator and Front Runner pulley assembly; engine assembled by owner and machined by Horsepower By Hedrick in Jacksonville, FL, producing 632 lb-ft of torque and 597 hp at 5,500 rpm

Heads: Chevrolet Performance aluminum heads, ported, polished, and gasket-matched

Valve Covers: Summit Racing cast aluminum and paint-matched

Manifold / Induction: Holley 780 carb with a paint-matched aluminum air cleaner on a Chevrolet Performance intake manifold

Ignition: MSD billet distributor and MSD 6AL controller

Headers: Custom-tailored, ceramic-coated from Lemons Headers with 2 1/8-inch primaries

Exhaust / Mufflers: Stainless steel exhaust with stainless steel MagnaFlow mufflers

Transmission: Three-speed TH400 by American Transmissions in Jacksonville, FL

Shifter: Lokar Midnight Series tall shifter

BODY

Style: Stepside Big Back Window Pickup

Modifications: Top chopped 2 inches, flush-mounted windshield and rear glass, single-pane power side windows

Fenders Front / Rear: Factory

Hood: Tilt forward

Grille: Factory re-chromed

Bed: Floor raised 8 inches, mini-tubs, Sapele wood planks, stainless steel strips, custom matched welting, billet gas cap

Bodywork and Paint by: Gene, Rob, and Sam Norman, Lawtey, FL

Paint Color/Type: Nason Synergy Green Metallic

Headlights / Taillights: Tri-Bar headlights, LED taillights

Outside Mirrors: Custom driver-side mirror

Bumpers: Tucked front bumper, rear bumper eliminated and fitted with a custom rear pan.

INTERIOR

Dashboard: Smoothed and painted to match the exterior

Gauges: White Face Classic Instruments in a chrome bezel

Air Conditioning: Vintage Air with custom venturi-style vents in the dash

Stereo: USA-230 Classic Car Stereo with its own 200W four-channel amp powering the pair of 6x9s in the kick panels along with a second Rockford Fosgate 300-watt amp that powers the pair of 8-inch subs and 1-inch tweeters in a custom enclosure underneath the bench seat

Steering Wheel: Billet Specialties with color-matched leather wrap

Steering Column: ididit, polished and paint-matched

Seats: Stock bench seat re-contoured and reupholstered

Material / Color: Green leather

Carpet: Gray with green leather inserts and custom-made floormats

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