After some well-earned experience, Rob McPherson, director of business development at QA1, has some advice: “You can do everything yourself when building a truck and have some satisfaction when it’s done, or you can spend money somewhere to get it done faster,” he says.
A ’69 Camaro front subframe was brought in to not only lower the front of the truck but to also retain its suspension travel for optimum ride quality.
While Rob’s engineering background did help, he still had a lot to learn to take his ’56 Chevy truck across the finish line. TIG welding, aluminum fabrication, and bead rolling were all new things he had to familiarize himself with in order to accomplish as much as he did in his home garage.
Before Rob started on his Chevy truck, he had a vision of creating a pickup that he could hammer down at the track while still comfortably cruising during his much-needed downtime. With this project, he was looking to move out of his comfort zone by sinking his teeth into custom fabrication, which he has great taste for, as you will soon see. His fingerprints can be found everywhere on this truck, as he left very little for outside hands to do—an impressive feat given the quality of the results.
From the Ground Up
To kick things off, Rob started at ground level with the Chevy’s factory frame, which he chose to keep and modify. A ’69 Camaro front subframe was brought in to not only lower the front of the truck but to also retain its suspension travel for optimum ride quality. For the rear, Rob got to work on a 2×3 back half complete with a 4-link setup with Watt’s-link. He also fabricated a cross brace equipped with a transmission mount and driveshaft loop that would soon be utilized.
Since Rob had a pretty good “in” with QA1, he ran with its coilovers at each corner along with QA1’s Proma Star double adjustable shocks, which not only promote a better ride instantly but also offer an easy way to dial in ride height for the perfect stance. This is huge for those having a difficult time tracking down direct-fit shock options, which is especially handy for true custom applications like Rob’s ’56.
It’s obvious at this point that Rob was gunning for a performance pickup, so when it came time to choose a set of wheel and tires things started to get real interesting. Up front, a set of 17×8-inch Billet Specialties Street Lite wheels was selected for its clean, timeless appearance and weight-saving design. Out back, Rob ran with 15×14-inch Weld Racing ProStar wheels—one of the longest produced five-star style drag racing wheels out there! The heavily staggered front Falken and rear Mickey Thompson tires further solidifies the intentions set for this truck’s future on the track.
Big Block Boom
Rob recognized he’d need more than just wheels and tires to get the good times rolling. He soon started on building a ’72 Chevy 496 Big Block to squeeze between the frame rails. Since he was taking on the job in the comfort of his own garage, Rob really had the chance to geek out during this phase. Of course, he wanted respectable power (the truck currently dynos at 650hp with 675 lb-ft of torque), and to get just that, he dove into the abyss and came up with a winning combination of go-fast products that would deliver the big results he was after.
From an extensive list of top-shelf internals to visible and audible additions in the form of an Edelbrock intake, a custom 3-inch exhaust system, Cherry Bomb Salute mufflers and vintage Mickey Thompson valve covers just to name a few, the 496 was destined to be one rowdy source of power.
The only real outsourcing Rob did during the build of his ’56 is when the time came to secure a transmission. Extreme Automatic in Amelia, Ohio, found a ’97 GM 4L80 that would work perfectly. The trans was treated to a TCI Diablo shifter and an Extreme 9.5-inch custom torque converter. A QA1 3.2-inch carbon fiber driveshaft was then selected for its lightweight properties, as well as its sheer strength to the ground and delivery of quick acceleration.
Exterior, Interior Custom
When Rob began working on the Chevy’s body, he first set his sights on creating a custom bed floor that is comprised of custom wheel tubs and bead rolled panels (one of his newly acquired talents) with a bonus center access section that lifts up to help with regular maintenance and to show off Rob’s chassis work below. The front fenders were then flared ¾-inch and pie cut to maintain the original lip, and various firewall mods were made to accommodate the engine set back. After a few rust repairs, Rob then moved on to spray the black epoxy primer to the truck’s surface and apply custom QA1 decals to the doors.
The interior still needed some attention so Rob began by smoothing the dash, gutting the door panels and painting whatever needed a fresh coat of black primer to match the exterior. Fresh bare aluminum door panels and a trans cover were fabbed up, and for seating, a set of high-back buckets from JEGS were ordered, which might actually need some minor adjusting or replaced altogether. Standing at 6’3”, there isn’t much spare legroom for Rob as it is, so he just might have to make a set of lower profile seats (at least one for the driver side) to gain a few valuable inches to increase his comfort level dramatically.
While he was still in fabrication mode, Rob also put together a kickass, certified 8.50 8-point chromoly roll cage since he planned to put his Chevy through the paces on the 2021 Hot Rod Power Tour, which he has done successfully. Since it has been completed, the truck has made it out to numerous local shows as well as multiple QA1 #goDRIVEit cruises that are geared towards enjoying the beauty of taking the scenic route—how kick-back cruising always should be.
While Rob’s ’56 Chevy pickup project did take a good chunk of time to complete (about 7 years or so), he can honestly say that he designed and executed the majority of the work that went into the build. With that accomplishment comes a great deal of pride and a set of newly developed skills that will surely come in handy for the next project he takes on. For now, Rob plans on continuing what he’s been doing with the truck ever since he finished it—driving it fast and driving it often. His ‘56 is set up to perform and handle like a champ on the track as well as take it easy on twisty back roads. What else could anyone ask for?
1956 Chevy 3100 P/U
Eden Prairie, MN
Engine & Drivetrain
- 1972 Chevy Big Block V-8 496
- Custom engine mounts to set engine back 4 inches
- SCAT connecting rods, 4.25-inch forged crank
- Probe forged pistons
- Total Seal gapless rings
- ARP studs
- Fabricated trap door for pan
- Comp Cams custom grind camshaft, Ultra Pro Magnum roller rockers
- AFR 300CC CNC oval port heads
- Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold
- Vintage M/T valve covers
- FST Billet X-treme Pro 950 carb
- 3-inch exhaust tubing
- Cherry Bomb Salute mufflers
- MSD 6AL programmable ignition
- 1997 GM 4L80 transmission by Extreme Automatic, Amelia, OH
- Full manual build with reverse pattern and trans brake
- TCI Diablo shifter
- Extreme 9.5-inch torque converter with lock up
- Derale transmission cooler 17×8 in front of radiator
- QA1 3.2-inch carbon fiber Driveshaft with 1350 U-joints
- Dana 60 rear axle narrowed with 35-spline axles
- Be Cool custom radiator with dual electric fans
- Modified stock 1956 frame by owner
- 1969 Camaro front subframe
- QA1 front 500-lb coilovers, rear 130-lb coilovers
- QA1 Proma Star double adjustable shocks all around
- 2×3 back half with 4-link and watts link
- X-brace with trans mount and driveshaft loop
- Wheelbase stretched 1 inch for 115-inch total
- Rack and pinion steering
Wheels, Tires & Brakes
- 17×8 Billet Specialties Street Lite & 15×14 Weld Pro Star wheels
- 245/45/17 Falken Azenis & 31x18x15 Mickey Thompson drag radials
- Right Stuff front and rear disc brake conversions
- Mopar 15/16-inch master cylinder
Paint & Body
- Black epoxy primer by owner
- QA1 logo on doors by QA1 marketing team
- Front wheel wells flared ¾-inch with pie cut
- Rear wheel tubs
- Bumpers deleted
- Fabricated aluminum bed floor with opening in center section
- Battery and storage access doors
- Custom firewall mods for engine set back
- Several rust repair patch panels
- OE replacement grille and headlights
- JEGS high back sport bucket seats w/ simulated black leather (vinyl)
- 8.50 certified, 8-point chromoly rollcage by owner
- Stewart Warner Deluxe gauges
- Gutted doors with aluminum door panels and trans cover
- Smoothed dash
- Lizard Skin heat barrier
- Lexan rear window and power side windows