Sometimes it takes a 1-2 punch to get a project finished. That was the case with Derrick Pennick’s Midnight Blue 1956 Chevy stepside pickup.
His father-in-law, Edward Carter, had begun fixing up the old pickup some time ago, having the paint and body work done and a new bed floor installed in the truck. Pennick admired it every time he saw the truck in Carter’s garage over a span of about nine years.
One day, he half-jokingly asked, “Hey, why don’t you let me have that old truck?”
To his surprise, several weeks later he was told the truck was his.
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“I said, ‘Are you really going to let me have it?’ and he said, ‘Well, who else would I give it to?’” Pennick said. That was about a year and a half ago.
He happily took on the project at that point.
“I basically got busy and cleaned the paint up,” Pennick said.
He enlisted a co-worker, Dustin Evans, to help with mechanical issues.
“He did the engine work for me and he did a phenomenal job,” Pennick said.
Interestingly, although the 3200 series pickup had left the factory with a long bed and a chrome grille and bumpers, it wasn’t delivered with a V-8 engine, but with the tried and true 235 cubic inch inline 6-cylinder.
The engine was tuned up, with the one of the few modifications being the addition of a slick Weber 2-barrel carburetor. A new radiator was installed, along with an electronic ignition system, for improved reliability on the road.
The engine bay was cleaned up and detailed in semi-gloss black.
“We kept everything pretty much stock,’ Pennick said.
The truck even retains its single exhaust system and the original manual transmission column shifter.
“I had never driven a `three-on-the-tree’ before, so I took my brother-in-law with me when we went to pick it up from the tire store,” Pennick said. “I jumped in it and I ground the gears a few times, but I caught on to it pretty quick.”
While the truck was at Discount Tire, it was fitted with a massive set of Boss chrome 6-spoke wheels, 20-inchers in front and 22’s in the rear. They mount 275x45ZR20 Goldway radials in the front, with even larger 285x35ZR22’s in back.
“A lot of people said there was no way they were going to clear, but once they had them on, they worked just fine,” said Pennick. With no power steering, it does take some muscle to steer the truck at lower speeds, he said.
The original drum brakes remain in place at all four corners of the truck and the factory installed sun visor still tops the windshield.
“Everything about it had that old school feel and I didn’t want to take away from that,” Pennick said.
Inside the stock bench seat was kept, but reupholstered in a more occupant-friendly beige microfiber cloth, which also covers the headliner. But the dashboard and the inside door panels remain painted metal and the original V-shaped instrument panel remains.
Pennick said he and his wife, Tonisha, use the truck as their date vehicle and enjoy taking the pickup out to the Friday night cruise-ins at Central and West streets and then on to a movie. The truck always draws plenty of attention, which has taken some getting used to, he said.
“I’ve just loved cars my whole life,” said Pennick, who has owned an ’84 Buick Regal, an ’84 Suburban and his favorite at the time, a 1966 Chevy Caprice. “This is the oldest car I’ve had. The next one, I’d like to go back into the ’40s, the big bombs, the fat-fendered ones,” he said.
That next project may, in fact, be something he builds for his wife, who clearly enjoys older vehicles herself. Once the ’56 Chevy pickup came home, Pennick’s 2010 Ford F-150 pickup lost its parking place in the garage to it.
He figures she won’t have a problem parking her daily driver on the driveway either, if he finds the right vintage ride for her.