Gene Bliss Florence, Oregon...
'56 Chevy 1/2-Ton Stepside
For Gene Bliss, owner of the Hot Rod Grill in Florence, Oregon, building edgy rides on the verge of being impractical is his favorite thing to do when he's not running one of the coolest hot-rod-themed restaurants in the U.S. The cars, which are displayed at the restaurant, were all painted, flamed, and chopped by Gene in his shop at home.
Just plain wild, radical, and insane are the best words to describe this '56 Chevy pickup. Gene got the truck in 1999, and he took about five years building it. His main reason for building this on-the-ground pickup was to have a badass hot-rod truck that would really snap necks. When he parks this in front of his restaurant, people pull in and eat and start taking pictures.
With 25 years of experience building cool rides, Gene knew he had to construct this truck around the engine since it would be the centerpiece of the project. If he had to do it all over again however, he says he'd use a 392 Chrysler Hemi instead of a small-block Chevy under those two 6-71 blowers. And yes, the Weiand blowers are fully functional with three-lobe rotors built by Superchargers USA.
For body modifications, Gene started by pancaking the hood 3 inches, chopping the top 3 inches, widening the rear fenders 1 1/2 inches, and raising the bed 2 inches to match the cab's body belt. He raised the front fenderwells 1 1/2 inches and reversed the door hinges to have suicide doors and then smoothed the firewall and the inner fender panels for a cleaner look. Gene frenched in the headlights as well as a pair of '50 Pontiac taillights in each rear fender. He then removed the Stepside plates and added '60s-style header collectors to replace them on each side. For a smoother look, he removed the door handles and then smoothed the tailgate and removed the front turn-signal lights.
The interior modifications included smoothing the dash and adding Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges with white faces and black numbers. Gene also added Summit Racing seats with four-point harnesses. Wayne at Classic Upholstery finished the interior in black carpet, headliner, and door panels. He made a special center console to house a host of switches and a ratcheting shifter. There's no sound system in this baby-the only music is the whine of the twin blowers!
Credit for the engine needs to go to Gene's good friend, Kenny Larson of Florence, Oregon, who got it all together and made it start and run. Kenny started with a '70s GM block punched out to 355 cid and ported and polished the heads and added 2.02/1.60 stainless valves with Comp Cams springs. He used LT-1 rods, TRW blower pistons, and a forged-steel crank with a 0.532/0.305-lift Comp Cams cam. The dual blowers, which together produce 15 psi of boost, sit on a custom intake manifold made from an old cross-ram with a wider intake plate to accept both blowers. A 750-cfm Holley prepped by Avanti Performance Products in Pennsylvania sits on top of each blower, and an MSD 6AL spark box and Pro-Billet distributor fires the eight cylinders. The trans is a GM Turbo 400 with a 3,500-stall converter prepped by Jim's Transmissions in Coos Bay, Oregon. The 9-inch Ford rearend features 4.11 gears and a posi.
This beast's chassis features a '72 Chevelle front frame graft with Air Ride Technologies airbags and Chassis Engineering control arms holding 11-inch GM disc brakes. A Chris Alston rollbar kit was modified by Gene to fit the cab and the rear frame (inside the bed area) for the Pro Street drag racing look he wanted to achieve. The rear frame is also boxed over the rearend for strength, and a 21-gallon fuel tank was added.
Gene has a lot of fun driving his gee-whiz piece. He attends as many shows as work permits, but when the restaurant gets busy in the summer he parks his Chevy out front to display his handiwork and blow more than a few minds.