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1956 Chevy Cameo - Worth The Wait

'56 Chevy Cameo

Bob Ryder
Aug 1, 2009
Photographers: Bob Ryder
Photo 2/11   |   1956 Chevy Cameo right Front Angle
Les Allen, from Arlington, Washington, and his son Rob, along with stepson Sean Hoglund decided to build a '56 Chevrolet Cameo pickup together. It was a journey that would change their lives. Les figured it would take a couple of years to complete, but it was eight years later when it had its debut this past spring at the ninth annual '09 Goodguys Show 'n Shine in Del Mar, California.
Prior to Les' decision to build the '56 Cameo he had spent three years going to shows and collecting ideas from assorted magazines. After accumulating about a three-inch stack of cutout magazine ideas, he then contacted rendering artist Jason Rushforth from Tacoma, Washington, to create a cool custom '56 pickup. Jason's first renderings were of a Fleetside Chevy pickup, but they had become common models at shows. Les wanted to go deeper into the collector's pile of rare pickups. He decided to build a '56 Chevy Cameo. Jason got back to his Etch-A-Sketch and created some different flavor Cameos. After whittling it down to the final sketch, Les began his quest to locate his dream truck. He had noticed a '56 Chevy pickup for sale in an ad in a custom car/truck magazine that was in close-by Mt. Rainier, Washington. The gentleman had started the project only to lose interest and funds, but it was about to found a home in Les' garage. After peeling off a fist full of Ben Franklins, Les retrieved the pink slip and trailered the truck home.
Les' find was delivered to a local shop where it sat for some time. Les discovered that the shop was not capable of completing the project to his level of expectation. The truck was pulled from the shop and taken to Art Morrison in Tacoma, Washington. The project began with a new Art Morrison square-tube mandrel-bent frame with an independent front suspension (IFS), two-inch dropped spindles and four-link rear suspension. An Air Ride Technologies Pro-Ride pneumatic suspension was installed on both the front and rear to allow maximum travel. A Tilton master cylinder was linked to a set of Wilwood disc brakes with 11-inch cross-drilled, ball-milled rotors and four-piston calipers with stainless steel brake lines. To dampen the ride, a set of Strange adjustable shocks were bolted up to the frame and front lower control arms. An 18-gallon Art Morrison fuel tank was mounted between the framerails behind the rearend. The Cameo rolls on a set of Colorado Customs Lazear polished aluminum 18x8-inch front, 20x10-inch rear wheels consumed in Yokohama 255/45R18 front, 295/45R20 rear rubber.
Les was a drag racer for a number of years competing in the NHRA northwest region Division 6. He drove a '68 Camaro super stock in the GTE class and he captured a couple of division championships. Les had his drag racing engine builder, Rod Stultz, from Marysville, Washington, build the engine for his Cameo. Rod used a Chevrolet 400ci small-block that was cleaned and machined and bored .030 over to 406ci. A pair of aluminum RHS Pro 23-degree cylinder heads were ported, polished and fitted with 2.02 intake and 1.60 exhaust valves. The heads were outfitted with Crower 1.7 rocker arms and Isky valve springs and keepers. A set of Comp Cams lifters and pushrods link the Comp Cams camshaft and rocker assembly. A set of Crower six-inch connecting rods were bolted to the Crower 4340 forged-steel crankshaft and to eliminate harmonics, an ATI dampener was secured at the end of the crank. A set of J&E 8:5.1 pistons were wrapped with J&E rings. A Comp Cams CS 300 BR-14 mechanical camshaft with 0.575 inches lift and 114-degree lobe center was inserted to the camshaft bores. A Billet Fab nine-quart oil pan was used to supply plenty of oil to lube the 406ci internal components. An Aeromotive 1000 fuel pump feeds the ProCharger P-1SC intercooled gear driven supercharger that force-feeds a cooler denser fuel/air mixture to the 60lb-hr injectors. An Arizona Marine modified Ram Jet intake manifold and the RHS Pro aluminum cylinder heads are able to create 17 psi of boost. Stan's Headers in Auburn, Washington, bent up a set of stepped 1 3/4-inch to 1 7/8-inch equal-length custom stainless steel, ceramic coated, headers that collect into a three-inch exhaust, and flow into a pair of three-inch dual-chamber Flowmaster mufflers. An Accel 300 ignition system with an HEI super coil supply a powerful charge to an Accel HEI distributor through a set of Accel 300 racing ignition wires that deliver high-electro energy to the spark plugs.
After the engine's completion, Les and Sean dropped the engine between the framerails and installed the computer. The truck was then trailered to Craig Blood Enterprises in Tacoma, Washington, where it was given its fine tune via computer programming. The gears are shifted with a Tilton pedal assembly and a Tilton clutch master cylinder to engage the Richmond six-speed manual transmission with a McLeod clutch. A Long shift kit was installed to create more aggressive shifts. An Inland Empire aluminum driveshaft connected the 700 hp to a narrowed bulletproof Ford 9-inch rearend with 4.11 Strange gears. A Strange posi unit with Strange 31-splined axles instantly spin the rear wheels in harmony. A red top Optima battery was located underneath the passenger floor for starting duties.
The Cameo body received proportional alterations that are difficult to notice. The cab roof driprails were removed and the lid was lowered 1 3/4 inches by Dreamers, in Snohomish, Washington. The majority of the body mods were performed by Maxwell's Metal Works in Marysville, Washington. The hood was pie cut, then smoothed inside to eliminate any seams from the pie cutting. The Cameo pickups from the factory had fiberglass bedsides and tailgates that were attached to metal bedsides and the tailgate. Chevrolet used the '55 Nomad station wagon side rear panels as molds to pull the Cameo panels from. The clamshell lower portion of the opening tailgate of the '55 Nomad station wagon was utilized to create the fiberglass tailgate for the Cameo. A unique small fiberglass spoiler was feathered into the top of the tailgate that was leaned forward 35 degrees and glassed in. Les wanted to emulate the '56 Chevy Nomad tailgate so he cut seven brass bars that were sent out and chromed and then installed. The bed's box was narrowed before installing the fiberglass panels. The Cameo body lines and curves were enhanced making them more pronounced. The unique horizontal grille bars were made from biplane wing struts. A pair of '00 Harley Davidson motorcycle turn indicators were mounted onto the middle grille strut and a pair of Halogen flat crystalline lens headlights were frenched into each fender.
To complement the engine compartment, a new pair of front inner fenders were fabricated and installed. The folks at Technostalgia were responsible for the cool Cameo LED taillights. The front and rear bumpers were cut, narrowed, smoothed, and rechromed. Maxwell's built a custom aluminum tonneau cover that was glued, not welded, at the seams to eliminate any possibility of warping. Les' son Rob is responsible for the unique polished stainless steel strips that are separated by stained black oak stringers. The icing on the cake that puts this Cameo over the top was installing the custom lengthened stainless '56 Bel Air side moldings that were stretched to fit the front fenders, cab, and bed. The doors were shaved smooth and the corners were rounded. One-piece power windows were installed in the doors creating a sleeker cab appearance. The factory dash was removed, cut, and sculptured, creating two dash pods reminiscent of the early-model style Corvette dash. Before paint, Les delivered the truck to Helpenstel Auto Body in Port Angeles, Washington, where the body was primered, then block-sanded until every wave and imperfection was removed. The two-tone red/black paint scheme came from Jerry and Karla Husby in Pasco, Washington. After they both retired from Boeing they started painting custom cars/trucks. Jerry and Karla are very meticulous about their flawless masterpieces, so they only paint a couple of custom rides per year. Using PPG Corvette Red and Black as the basecoat, Mike LaVallee laid down some minimal graphics. The basecoat was then buried in multiple coats of clear creating endless depth. After the cut, buff, and polish treatment, the vivid colors just glistened. To maintain that ultra show 'n shine, award-winning appearance, Les utilizes Meguiar's cleaners, waxes, and polishes.
Les' stepson, Sean, installed and wired the audio sounds inside the cab. The good vibrations come from an Alpine head unit that was powered by a Rockford Fosgate Punch 400X-4 amp. Sean built a subwoofer enclosure that houses the 8-inch Punch P2 subwoofer located behind the passenger seat. The mid and high range tunes were delivered through four 6 1/2 -inch Rockford Fosgate power series speakers located in the kick panels and doors.
The immaculate interior was created by Paul Reichlin at Cedardale Upholstery in Mt. Vernon, Washington. Paul disassembled, redesigned, and reshaped a pair of Tea's bucket seats with larger bolsters. The seats were then covered in Spinneybeck, Quarry, and Velluto Pelle Italian leather. Maxwell's fabricated a custom Corvette-style center console, utilizing a Corvette storage compartment lid and the crossed-flags from an early-model Corvette. The center console houses the Alpine head unit, Vintage Air controls, Air Ride gauges, controls and the Long shifter. A Dakota Digital instrument panel was located in each of the custom dash pods. One is used to display engine vital signs and the other shows the time, direction, and exterior temperature. A painted ididit steering column was capped with a Billet Specialties steering wheel. Each of the door panels use '56 Bel Air armrests that were reversed and covered in matching Italian leather. The floor was given a layer of Dynamat to help eliminate the road and engine noise and to create a heat barrier before being covered with Mercedes woven charcoal carpet. The Italian leather, headliner finishes off the plush custom interior.
This one-of-a-kind '56 Cameo, that took eight-years to perfect, was definitely worth the wait!



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