Find Out What Made This 1956 Chevy Pickup A Complete Surprise
The first time Rafael Nava saw this beautiful Candy Red '56 Chevy custom truck he had no idea that it belonged to him. Even after his son, Miguel, handed him the keys, it took a moment for reality to sink in.
Rafael, from South San Francisco, retired last year from his family owned janitorial services company. For a long time Miguel had planned to honor the occasion in an extraordinary way. “When I was little, we would go down to Redwood City and watch the cruising,” Miguel remembers. “One time, a beautiful Tri-Five Chevy truck came cruising by - all modified, with candy paint and wire wheels. It caught my dad's attention. The idea always stuck in my mind that someday I would get him a truck like that for a retirement gift.”
Miguel grew up in the middle of Bay Area car culture and his interest started in his early teens. Since then, he has had a few cool cars - a couple mid-'60s SS Impalas, a '64 Fairlane, a 5.0 Mustang, and others. In high school, Miguel met a kid in auto shop class named Joe Compani, who later went to work for Roy Brizio Street Rods as a custom bodyman and painter. Today, Compani has his own shop, Compani Color in Hayward, California. Miguel and Joe have remained friends, so when he started looking for a truck, he contacted Compani. “It was second nature to figure that if anyone would help build this truck, it would be Joe.”
Early in the search for the right truck, Miguel found this '56 listed on Craigslist. It was fairly local and owned by someone Compani knew, who had purchased it but never started a rebuild. The owner volunteered to tow the truck to Compani's shop and Miguel mailed him a check without ever meeting him. The pickup was stock, the rough shell of an old farm truck finished in black primer - and blasting it revealed just how little there was left. Compani told us that only the cab, hood, and frame were retained. The rest would get replaced.
As work got underway, Compani asked Bill Ganahl to get involved. Ganahl is another Brizio Street Rods alumnus, and the owner of South City Rod & Custom. This truck is one of many collaborations between Compani Color and South City and Miguel gave them creative control of the project. Travis Duffy and Ryan Campi from Compani Color, and Donny Welch from South City also contributed to the build.
To see the truck now, you would never suspect the bad condition it was once in. Exterior components were repaired and replaced, and badges and trim pieces were shaved. The replacement bed was rounded at the bottom and the stake pockets and rail ends were filled. The shaved and filled tailgate was equipped with custom latches and stop arms. Miguel commissioned cabinetmaker Felix Dominguez to create the beautiful stained oak bed floor. A handmade rear pan was added, along with late '40s/early '50s-style Ford taillights. Later, when it was ready for paint, the Chevy rolled into the spray booth at Compani Color, where Compani shot a shade of House Of Kolor Candy Apple Red that seems to emit its own light.
Underneath, the factory frame was retained, but the suspension was completely rebuilt. Miguel wanted the truck to be classic looking, but with a modern ride. The 'rails were boxed and C-notched. The frontend was upgraded with Heidts Mustang II-style package, including dropped spindles and cut coilovers. At the rear, a four-link setup locates the GM 10-bolt Posi rearend, with Aldan coilovers to smooth the ride. The truck rolls down the road far better than it did during its farm days - and you can see the perfect hot rod rake that adds attitude. Mag Gray Salt Flat Special wheels from American Racing were chosen to complement that attitude. The wheels measure 20 and 18 inches and are wrapped with Goodyear Eagle Sport radial tires.
BluePrint Engines built the high-performance Chevy crate engine planted between the front fenders. The 355ci small-block is topped with an Edelbrock intake manifold and four-barrel carb for traditional aspiration, with a nostaltgic finned air cleaner for traditional looks. Finned valves were added to match. An MSD ignition fires the air/fuel charge, and the exhaust is routed through Sanderson headers. Exhaust pipes built by Downtown Muffler Service in Hayward are corked with Flowmaster mufflers. Backing up the small-block is a GM 700-R4 transmission, assembled by Larry Marlon.
The candy paint - and the whole classic style - carries over into the truck's interior. The '57 Ford steering wheel and ididit column were painted to match the stock dash, and factory gauges were replaced with aftermarket reproductions to maintain an original look. The sound system is a combination of a Custom Autosound stereo with a JL Audio subwoofer and MB Quart speakers.
Chris Plante at Plante Interiors in Santa Rosa reupholstered the cab. The stock bench was disassembled down to the frame, rebuilt, and upholstered in leather and fabric. Chris said the high-quality European full aniline leather features a natural two-tone marbled look that is almost translucent. The contrasting cloth insert is N.O.S. '58 Chrysler fabric. Plante stitched it with a brick pattern modeled after Chevy Del Rey upholstery and used the same design on the headliner and door panels. The carpet is Daytona weave, as was used on Tri-Five Chevys and early Corvettes.
The general public got its first look at the finished '56 Chevy at the 2016 West Coast National in Pleasanton. Among them was Rafael Nava, who never suspected a thing and never expected to own such a cool classic truck. “I convinced my dad that we were going to meet somebody to talk about business. He didn't think twice about it. When we got to the fairgrounds, I showed him the truck on display at the South City Rod & Custom and Compani Color vendor booth and told him the whole story. He couldn't believe it; he had to ask Compani. When I handed him the keys he teared up.”
The surprises aren't done yet. According to Miguel, his dad didn't know that his truck had been photographed for Classic Trucks, or that this feature was being written. That means that in addition to Miguel, Compani, Ganahl, and everybody who helped build Rafael Nava's unexpected '56 Chevy, you and everybody reading this are participating in the surprise.
1956 Chevy | Rafael Nava
- Frame: '56 Chevy, boxed, C-notched
- Rearend: GM 10-bolt, limited slip
- Rear suspension: Four-link, Aldan coilovers
- Front suspension: Heidts Mustang II IFS, cut coilovers, dropped spindles
- Steering: Power steering
- Brakes: GM front disc brakes with 11 rotors, stock rear drums
- Front wheels: American Racing Salt Flat Specials 18×7
- Rear wheels: American Racing Salt Flat Specials 20×10
- Front and Rear tires: Goodyear Eagles
- Engine: Chevy 350 crate engine, 0.030-over, built by BluePrint Engines
- Heads: Stock
- Carburetor: Edelbrock 650 cfm
- Intake manifold: Edelbrock
- Valve covers: Aftermarket finned
- Air cleaner: Aftermarket finned
- Ignition: MSD
- Headers: Sanderson
- Exhaust / Mufflers: Custom pipes / Flowmaster
- Radiator: Aluminum
- Transmission: GM 700-R4 Ford AOD, built by Larry Marlon
- Style: 1956 Chevy pickup
- Modifications: shaved, bed stake pockets filled, lower bed rounded, bed rail ends filled, tailgate shaved and filled, custom latches and stop arms, mini-tubs
- Hood: Stock
- Grille: Stock
- Door handles: Stock
- Headlights / Taillights: Stock / Stock
- Bumpers: Stock front, handmade lower rear pan
- Glass: Stock
- Painter: Joe Compani, Compani Color
- Paint: House Of Kolor, Candy Apple Red
- Chrome: Global Plating
- Dashboard: Stock
- Gauges: Aftermarket reproduction
- Steering wheel: Chevy Truck
- Steering column: ididit tilt shifter
- Seats: Stock bench, modified
- Upholstery: Chris Plante at Plante Interiors
- Material / Color: European full aniline leather / brown and N.O.S. '58 Chrysler fabric / gray
- Carpet / Color: Daytona weave / brown
- Stereo: Custom Autosound deck, JL Audio subwoofer, MB Quart speakers
- Heater: Vintage Air heater / defroster
- Wiring: Custom by South City Rod & Custom