1956 Chevy Wagon
Chuck Miller's 1956 Chevrolet Handyman isn't his first love but it's probably pretty damn close to it. "I first saw it at a Portland swap meet in April 1979," he begins. He tied the knot with it that November. "I used this car as a daily driver for 12 years."
Just the Facts
Model: 210 Handyman
Owner: Chuck Miller
Chuck Miller’s 1956 Chevrolet Handyman isn’t his first love but it’s probably pretty damn close to it. “I first saw it at a Portland swap meet in April 1979,” he begins. He tied the knot with it that November. “I used this car as a daily driver for 12 years.”
But something happened on the way to the latest spray booth. Though it never went back together quite the same way as it came apart the car always got the same white and green colors The General deemed fit for it the first time around. This time Chuck took the opportunity to change the car’s entire character.
It looks slicker but the body remains pretty faithful to stock. Larry Foss in Montesano nosed the hood, modified the hood bird, and shaved the door handles, antenna, and exterior mirrors. He shot the body in its latest PPG Concept series hues. Oregon Plating in Portland freshened up the brightwork.
The car earned its colors according to what’s beneath its skin. Over the years Chuck raised the wagon’s status by a succession of engines, each bigger than the last. This time Jim Andrew in Castle Rock, Washington, machined a 454 and Longview’s Terry Major built it as a 468. Lee’s Transmission in Kelso built the TH400 and a Gear Vendors overdrive hung from it transforms the rather low 3.55:1 screw into a more big-blockfriendly 2.8:1 when the need arises. The limited-slip carrier transmits power through Summers Brothers’ 31-spline shafts.
When Chuck stepped up to the 9-inch axle he also adopted a four-link rear suspension. The front suspension consists of 2-inch dropped spindles, tubular control arms, and a modified Saginaw 605-series steering box. RideTech ShockWave air spring dampers suspend the car and 11-inch-diameter Wilwood rotors and four-pot calipers stop it. Chuck’s bladder will probably fill up well before the 22-gallon stainless fuel tank runs out.
Anticipating more long-distance treks, Chuck specified a Vintage Air climate-control system. Longview’s Jeff Shelton trimmed the cabin in Morbern Allant leatherette and Daytona-weave carpet but not before Kelso’s Dale King wired the car and Kevin Truedson installed the audio gear.
So did Chuck Miller achieve perfection with this most recent rebuild? So far he’s pretty damn happy with it. At the very least we can’t imagine how we could make it any better, at least better by rational means.
But then again most of us don’t know what it’s like to spend 35 years with anything, much less a car. Not even 22 percent of all marriages last that long after all. So even if Chuck can’t call his wagon his first love he can certainly call it a lasting one. And we’ve been known to do some pretty crazy things in the name of love. Sharing one’s retirement fund with a car certainly qualifies—and we can certainly identify with that.