♦ You never know where the base for your next project might be lurking—be it in an old barn, a dilapidated warehouse, or a distant field on a local farm. For Jere Lively of Erving, Massachusetts, his ’56 Chevy had spent the better part of three decades covered with brush and trees abandoned in the backfields of a local nursery. As the story goes, the former hot rod had been left for dead without a driveline by a local hot rodder and long forgotten. When Jere began dating his now-wife, Suzanne, who owned the farm, she casually mentioned the old car in the backfield that needed to go. Without wasting any time he had it hauled out for evaluation. The car had definitely seen tough times but was certainly worth saving.
Growing up in the small town of Montague Center there really wasn’t a lot going on unless you had a ticket into the coolest place around, the local junkyard. Luckily for Jere, his brother-in-law, Jake Rau, worked the big crane there and often brought him home discarded pedal cars to have fun with. This spawned into an automotive fascination where he would later work at the junkyard and spend plenty of time at Jake’s brother Ralph’s garage learning to work on engines. It was the early ’60s where muscle cars ruled the streets and this is where Jere gained an appreciation for aggressive big-block V-8s and straight-axle Gassers. As the years passed he owned plenty of cool rides, however, a Tri-Five Chevy with a nosebleed stance forever lurked in the back of his mind.
It was obvious that the
’56 would need to get resurrected in full Gasser style, laced with plenty of attitude. Jere stopped by Wilson & Steely Kustom Coachworks in Athol, Massachusetts, and met with co-owner Steve Wilson with regard to the build. The two shared the same ideals on his new project and it wasn’t long till the roller was brought to the shop. To lay the groundwork for a rock-solid base capable of taking plenty of abuse, the original chassis was disassembled and the stock frame was blasted clean and Jere boxed its front
section for added strength. Out back a vintage Frankland quick-change rear spins 4.56 gears and is suspended in place by a combination of Speedway Motors 42-inch ladders bars, parallel leaf springs, Panhard bar, and NAPA tube shocks. Up front it’s all business with a Speedway Motors Gasser Kit setting the stance, complete with their exclusive straightaxle, Ford-style spindles, semi-elliptical springs, and shocks. To add plenty of whoa when needed, a Speedway Motors dual master pushes fluid through steel lines to stock drums out back and Wilwood drilled and vented 11-inch discs and calipers up front. Linking it to the street you’ll find a set of classic Cragar S/S wheels sized 15x10 (rear) and 15x5.5 (front) wearing Firestone/ Coker and Starfire rubber, respectively.
If you want to build a Gasser you’d better have the power to back it up. To handle the job Jere contacted Dutcher Auto Engineering in Greenfield to build a fire-breathing 496ci big-block. Starting with a 454ci block, they massaged it to perfection and packed it with a Scat 4340 steel crank linked to matching H-beam rods topped with SRP forged aluminum pistons while a COMP Cams Magnum stick sets the beat. A pair of LPC aluminum heads generates seamless power while a Weiand dual-quad tunnel ram topped with FiTech’s Go EFI 2x4 system delivers the knock-out punch. Vintage Cal Custom air cleaners accented by finned aluminum valve covers add just the right amount of class. An MSD ignition lights the fire with spent gases dumping a set of Patriot Exhaust fenderwell headers to a 3-inch exhaust with glasspack mufflers.
It’s all good for 650 hp on the dyno. Shifts move through a TREMEC TKO 600 five-speed trans to a custom driveshaft by H&R Machine.
Bringing the body back to life was a monumental task seeing it suffered through endless New England winters in a field. Jere had previously started with the repairs by replacing the rotted floors and trunk pan with fresh steel while also re-skinning the roof. From there the team at Wilson & Steely forged on replacing the rockers, quarter-panels, doors, and decklid with fresh sheetmetal. Custom updates included the installation by Jere of a tilt one-piece nose with a 4-inch Thunderbolt-style hood scoop from Scott
Rods while the W&S team shaved the firewall as well as all the trim and molding from the exterior. The body was then made razor sharp and turned over to Richard “Duck” Day to add the dazzle with a combination of custom-mixed Axalta white pearl and blue candy along with red candy all blended with Little Daddy Roth Trippin’ Flake. To add the final icing Steve Wilson laid out the graphics, bringing it all to life.
Inside it’s all business, starting with the factory dash filled with StewartWarner dials to monitor the vitals while a Mooneyes blue metalflake steering wheel carves the course and a Hurst pistol grip pulls gears. A pair of high back race seats with black vinyl covers from JEGS provides comfort accented by black side panels with aluminum accents and black loop carpeting all by W&S. To complete the office a four-point rollcage and five-point harnesses keeps it all safe. This is one Street Shaker taking over the streets of Massachusetts and we dig it!