All Eyes on the 56 Chevy Convertible
The first time Al Gervais spotted the 1956 Chevy convertible, the car was a mess. “The top was in rags,” says the owner of Troy’s Auto Body in Troy, N.Y. “The floor pans were rotted out and rusty.” Despite the Chevy’s rundown condition, Gervais knew the car was too rare to pass up for a restoration. But convincing the vehicle’s owner—a friend of his—to sell was tough. In fact, that fella had agreed to sell the Chevy seven times to interested buyers but backed out every time. Gervais finally persuaded his friend to part with the car, promising that if he decided to sell it in the future he would offer him first refusal. Gervais bought the Chevy for $10,000 and spent the next three years fixing it up. Now, the car—valued at over $90,000—shines on and off the road.
CLEARING OUT THE NASTIES
Gervais restored the car in his backyard garage. He enjoyed the solitude and the time away from the daily grind of the shop. “The phones weren’t ringing, customers weren’t coming in. It was nice and quiet back there,” he says. He spent two or three week nights a week and a few hours on weekend mornings working on the Chevy.
A big project early on was cleaningthe car out. “The worst part is when you take a car like that apart,” he says. “It’s been so rusty sitting in fields, you get huge mice nests in there. It’s what I call the ‘nasties.’ You have to dig all that stuff out.”
Finding parts wasn’t a problem, but they were costly. “The quarter panels were $700 apiece,” Gervais says. He picked up extra work to help cover the expenses. “I’d buy a batch of parts, and when I ran out of money, I’d work on someone else’s car to make money
and then go back to shopping to find another batch of parts.”
Eventually, he put in a 500 horsepower Chevy Big-Block 486-cubic-inch engine “to give it a little go power!” he laughs. He also put in a Turbo 400 transmission, 12-volt Chevy rear end, disc brakes and a new front end suspension. All told, he invested about
$35,000 in the car.
When the car was ready for its new paint job, Gervais chose a Toyota blue. “In 1956, they didn’t have a lot of pizzazz colors, [and] blue is my favorite color.” He painted the Chevy’s back end
and convertible top white.
NO TROPHY REQUIRED
When the car was finally finished, Gervais’ first emotion was relief: “It was a long project. I wanted to get it done the whole time I was working on it. I couldn’t wait to drive it.”
The three years of hard work and long hours paid off in accolades. “The guy I bought it from couldn’t believe it was the same car,” he says. Other folks can’t help but comment on the vehicle, either. “A lot of people comment on what a beautiful car it is.”
Gervais takes the Chevy to car shows but prefers hanging out with
his friends there rather than racking up trophies. “I like to go to car shows and hang out with the boys. That’s the best part.”