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1956 Custom Chevy Pickup - Low Life

The Night Before

Bob Ryder
Nov 23, 2006
Photographers: Bob Ryder
Photo 2/14   |   1956 Custom Chevy Pickup promo Spread
It's not often we get to feature a first-time, high-quality accomplishment like Travis Covey's '56 Chevy named "Low Life" from Sparks, Nevada. Like many, Travis is a second-generation custom truck and car enthusiast passed on from his dad, Jim Covey.
Twenty-two-year-old Travis grew up with high octane in his veins, experiencing the hot-rod life through his dad's dedication, talents, and skills building custom cars and trucks during Travis's youth. Some fathers and sons get to experience a common bond that is shared for a lifetime and beyond, and we feel there is nothing more admired and appreciated than a father being able to pass his passion for his hobby on to his son or daughter.
Photo 3/14   |   The Hagen tri-bar blue-dot headlights with chrome bezel and frenched turn indicators maintain that hot-rod truck image.
The '56 Chevy was originally purchased by a gentleman in Jackson, California, where it was used as a ranch truck. The old truck worked the ranch its entire life until a friend bought it with intentions of someday building a cool custom. The initial intent was to throw a few bucks at the '56 and build it as a daily driver. That's how they all start. And then the project escalated and after a year and a half it was completed. The very last bolt was tightened the night before the '05 Hot August Nights Show held in nearby Reno. Travis and his dad, Tom, cruised over to the show, entered it, and won "Best Truck of Show" and "Judges' Choice Runner Up" trophies. Heck, the paint wasn't even dry yet.
Before the truck won awards, however, an extensive amount of work went into the old heap, and initially the truck was put up on jack-stands and stripped down to a bare frame. The carcass sat in the garage with its small parts disassembled, bagged, labeled, and stored. The original straight-axle front suspension was substituted with a '78 Camaro front clip that was grafted to the frame rails. The frame rails were then boxed using a 1/8-inch-thick steel plate, making the inner frame rails cleaner and stronger. The nose was dropped 8 inches using the Camaro spindles and a pair of Air Ride Technologies ShockWave pneumatic bags. The '78 Camaro front drum brakes were retained, rebuilt, and reused. A pair of 18x8-inch Panther chrome wheels were bolted on and wear BFGoodrich 225/35ZR18 rubber. The rear suspension also shares Air Ride Technologies sleeved pneumatic bags, which contribute to its adjustable vertical ride height. A Chevy 10-bolt rear end stuffed with 3:23 gears was installed along with a standard four-link rear suspension with Panhard bar. The Camaro rear brakes were rebuilt and reused inside a pair of 20x9-1/2-inch Panther chrome wheels wrapped within BFGoodrich 285/30ZR20 tires.
Photo 4/14   |   Opening the hood exposes us to a '78 Chevy 350ci powerplant with a Weiand 1-42 supercharger that produces 8 psi of boost. A Griffin radiator is under the aluminum core support. Billet Specialties aluminum valve covers, pulleys, and a chrome A/C compressor cover really make a statement. A pair of Headman 1-1/2-inch ceramic-coated headers flow into Flowmaster mufflers and then exit out the side exhaust oval tips. In case you were wondering, the engine is responsible for 518 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. Not bad for a boulevard prowler.
Travis and his dad, Tom, are responsible for building the healthy small-block Chevy 350ci engine that is housed comfortably under the hood. Taking a closer look at the engine, we noticed a Weiand 1-42 supercharger was bolted between the two aluminum Edelbrock cylinder heads with 2.02 intake valves. The block was machined, and the cylinders were bored and honed .030 over, then stuffed with J&E pistons. The Comp Cams bumpstick is linked to the Comp Cams 1.7 roller rocker arms by a set of Comp Cams push rods. A Billet Specialties engine accessory kit highlights the engine with billet aluminum valve covers, pulleys, and a chrome A/C compressor. A handful of AeroQuip stainless-steel fittings connect all of the engine hard lines and stainless braided hoses. A Chevrolet conventional ignition system with an Accel coil delivers its electrical charge through 7mm Taylor ignition wires. A set of Headman full-length 1-3/4-inch ce-ramic-coated headers are bolted to the Edelbrock cylinder heads and then flow into a pair of Flowmaster 2-1/2-inch muffs. The healthy powerplant produces 518 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. The engine is backed up to a '78 GM-350 automatic transmission, which received a B&M shift kit and a B&M torque converter with a 2400rpm stall. For better performance and cooling, a B&M Hi-Tech transmission cooler was installed. The driveshaft was lengthened by Precision CV & Axle in Carson, NV.
Photo 5/14   |   1956 Custom Chevy Pickup right Front
Travis and Jim performed all of the exterior body work themselves, and the list is extensive. The all-steel '56 Chevy doors were shaved, the hood was pie-cut 3 inches, the parking lights and antenna were frenched, and the drip rails were modified. The stock front bumper and grille were smoothed, straightened, and then re-chromed, maintaining that hot-rod look. A pair of Hagen tri-bar blue-dot headlights flank the chrome grille. The tailgate was smoothed with the 3rd brake light and license plate frenched into the tailgate. A custom roll pan was fitted between the two Stepside fenders with slotted LED taillights. The bed rail corners were smoothed and rounded, and '93 C1500 inner bed fenders were installed. All of the body seams were welded, ground, and sanded smooth. The white oak wood bed floor planks received 12 coats of automotive clear and a fine mist of multi-colored metalflake. The white oak planks are separated by stainless steel stringers, with the gas filler cap assembly centered in the white oak bed floor. Both doors received one-piece, tinted side windows.
Photo 6/14   |   1956 Custom Chevy Pickup mirror
The truck was then loaded onto a trailer and delivered to the crew at Final Finish Auto Body in Sparks, Nevada. The colors are PPG custom blends mixed by owner and painter Eric Collins. He also added a fine mist of multi-colored metalflake. The flamed graphics were laid and sprayed by Dale Webber at Webber Graphics. The colors and graphics of the cab, doors, hood, fenders, bed, and tailgate were color sanded and then buried in multi-coats of clear, wet sanded between each coat.
Photo 7/14   |   The smoothed dash houses Dakota Digital gauges inside the stock gauge cluster. An ididit tilt stainless-steel steering column is capped with a Colorado Custom flame aluminum steering wheel.
Activating the AutoLoc door poppers, our eyes focus on the plush '94 Chrysler bucket seats covered in silver leather and gray suede inserts. The seats are separated by a waterfall center console that is also covered in silver leather and gray suede. Square-weave charcoal carpet adds a rich contrast, and the silver leather headliner wraps around and above the inner cab. The smoothed dash is painted in the body's two-tone silver and green with a gothic flamed graphic centered in the dash. A Dakota Digital gauge cluster was inserted in the stock gauge panel to maintain the authentic appearance. Creature comfort is maintained by a Southern Air A/C and heating system, and the ididit polished stainless tilt steering column is capped with a 14-inch billet aluminum Colorado Custom flamed steering wheel.
Rockin' entertainment is organized by a Pioneer DVD head unit. The system is powered by a single JL Audio 250 amplifier. Four six-inch coaxial speakers cover the mids and highs in the door panels. Travis built a sealed sub box and stuffed it with an 8-inch JL Audio that delivers the heavy thump.
The father-son bonding that Tom and Travis experienced during the journey while building "Low Life" will be cherished for a lifetime and then carried on hopefully for generations to come. For these two special men, this build was all about the passion and love between a father and his son.
Two thumbs up.


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