1956 CHEVROLET 210 2 DOOR SEDAN

ClassicsPAGEMay18
After an exceptionally long and snowy winter, we deserve and are ready for some warm spring days. As nature finally awakens with longer days, budding trees and green fields, it’s an exciting time for us car enthusiasts.  A time to renew old friendships, see our old favorite collector cars, meet new enthusiasts and get our first view of the newest cars completed by dedicated car lovers who worked throughout the winter in their home shops to complete their latest vision.

One of the new cars being debuted this show/cruise season is a gorgeous black & white 1956 Chevrolet 210 two-door sedan, owned and built over last winter by Gerry Milidantri.  The 1956 is the middle year of one of Chevrolet’s most popular body styles ever introduced and is often referred to as the “Tri Fives” (1955-1957).  It is safe to say if you are a “baby boomer” you, a family member, neighbor or friend owned a “Tri Five” Chevy, and it is not easily forgotten!

Background

Between 1950 through 1975, the Chevrolet division of General Motors produced the full size Chevrolet Bel Air in the United States. The 1949-1952 hardtops in the Chevrolet Deluxe Styleline model range were the first to carry the Bel Air name.  In 1953 Bel Air became one of three new distinct series introduced.  The other two series were the 150 and 210. The 210 was the midrange model from 1953 to 1957 that replaced the Styline Deluxe model available the previous years and was discontinued after the 1957 model year to be replaced by the Biscayne model.

The second generation of the Bel Air is categorized as the 1955-1957 (“Tri Five”) model years. The 1956 model year, the year of this month’s featured car, was the center year of Chevrolet’s three-year market share growth, fueled thanks to buyers’ enthusiasm for the new style Chevrolets and the new optional V8 engines. The ’55, ‘56 and ‘57 Chevy’s looks, power and engineering made them among America’s most popular cars in the mid- fifties during a time in which consumers bought cars as never before.  The fresh styling and updated design provided great market flexibility across a broad spectrum of the car market in response to the needs of both personal and business vehicles.  Unique grilles, “wrap around windshields” and a beltline dip below the rear side window added to the “Tri Five” Chevy’s new “longer-wider-boxier” style, which was somehow magically fitted on the new 115 inch wheelbase frame.  The Bel Airs came with the same features found on cars in the lower model ranges (150 & 210) plus interior carpet, chrome headliner bands on hardtops, chrome spears on front fenders, stainless steel window moldings and full wheel covers. Models were further distinguished by the Bel Air name script in gold lettering later in the year.

The true catalyst for the consumer excitement was the introduction of Chevrolet’s first modern V8 engine, the 265 cubic inch “Turbo Fire” (the start of Chevrolet “Small Block Dynasty”).  The new engine was lighter than the six cylinders and much more powerful, rated 162 horsepower with a standard transmission and 170 horsepower when equipped with the PowerGlide automatic transmission. An optional 180 horsepower version tagged “Power-Pak” featured a four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts.  The reliable 235 cubic inch six cylinder rated at 123 horsepower was still available, but the V8 was what people wanted.  In support of the V8 option Chevrolet introduced an updated chassis with new ball-joint front suspension and standard tubeless tires.

Featured Car

The 1956 Chevy was purchased in October of 2016 from the estate of its past owner by Gerry Milidantri. The car was rust free, had its floors and rocker boxes replaced, had a beautiful body and the original 6 cylinder engine with a manual three speed transmission. Gerry’s vision for his “Tri Five” project was to create an all stock looking 1956 Chevy, but update the engineering and mechanical to the speed and performance level of a modern muscle car.  By starting with a beautiful original car, Gerry saved months if not years of build time, thousands of dollars in sheet metal work, (smartly avoiding the one area of automobile expertise he doesn’t do which is “body work”) and was able to focus on the car’s transformation from a “Granny special” to truly something very special!

Once home, Gerry removed the original engine, transmission, differential, front suspension, interior and wiring. The now shell of the 1956 was pressure washed, all undercoating was removed, the chassis painted and the following activities competed;

  • Installed new front suspension with Heidt tubular control arms, new spindles, coil springs and shocks.
  • Installed new steering box with CPP power assist unit, new tie rod links and   idler arm.
  • Modified the rear chassis and relocated the leaf springs to facilitate wider tires.
  • Installed new high performance fabricated 9” Ford rear equipped with adjust-able Cal Trac traction bars.
  • Installed Wildwood Disc Brakes all around.
  • Wanting an old style gasser engine for  his ’56, Gerry started with a 1966 Corvette 327 block that was modified and rebuilt with the best of new components into a 430 Hp “tire spinning beast”.
  • To get the power to the rear, Gerry installed a Hay’s steel flywheel, a Center Force clutch, a pressure plate, aluminum titanium lined blow proof bell housing and a Tremec 5 speed manual transmission.
  • Installed all new wiring harness, MSD distributor and digital ignition control.
  • Interior floors were insulated with Dynamat and new carpeting installed.
  • Replaced all window crank handles, door levers, and outside door handles.
  • All of the cars bumpers, emblems, tail lights, grill, parking and headlights (over $4,000.00 worth) was replaced.

Gerry’s painstaking effort, commitment to detail and quest for perfection has created another timeless beauty destined to be one of this season’s newest head turning, smile generating crowd pleasers!

InteriorOwner

Gerry is now semi-retired and living in Durham, Connecticut running his own consulting company providing managerial and technical support to the aircraft and industrial turbine marketplace. When not in his office, he can usually be found in his huge barn (garage/workshop) doing what he loves, tinkering.  Whether he is working on his latest car project, planning his next, fixing his tractor or grandkids’ quads, as long as it has an engine he is happy. When most kids are young, they played with cars pushing them around making noises, building models, eventually got bored, lost interest and stopped playing with cars and trucks.  Gerry hasn’t stopped yet. He loves cars, always has and always will!  He has owned and built numerous great cars across the spectrum of the car hobby including Corvettes, muscle cars, antiques, race cars and street rods starting back to his early teens.

He is a perfectionist who enjoys the challenge and restoration/build journey as much as the final product.  He is unselfish in giving of his time and expertise to help a fellow hobbyist.  He continues to host Tuesday night barn nights where his friends gather to share their projects, knowledge and camaraderie.  So if you happen to be cruising in Connecticut and see a bunch of kids eating ice cream in a beautiful black and white 1956 Chevrolet 210, honk and wave, the big kid’s name is Gerry!