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Doug Smith, owner of Toby Knoll Garage, and his Fabulous Hudson Hornet at the Franklin County Technical School’s Fourth Annual Cool Rides Car Show. (2013)

1956 Corvette

1956 was a watershed year for the Corvette. Facing poor sales in previous years, Chevrolet officials needed to restyle the car for 1956 and demonstrate that it was a valid performance sports car. In early 1956 Chevrolet outfitted four Corvettes to compete in the Sebring 12 hour race in February, 1956.  After many modifications the four Corvettes entered the race. Only two survived but the two that finished the race impressed the American public enough to take a second look.

 

After the race Chevrolet prepared a small number of production cars that were offered to the public. The cars were equipped with many of the same parts developed for the Sebring cars and they were marketed as “SR” Corvettes.

Thus, 1956 was a breakthrough year for Corvette; where less than 700 Corvettes were sold in 1955; Chevrolet sold well over 3000 Corvettes in 1956.

My car is a scratch built SR replica. It took four years to build the car at a cost of about $45,000 dollars. Several cost “cutting” decisions included using later C1 parts because they were generally 50% cheaper than ’56-57 parts. However, parts clearly visible from the outside were correct ’56 including the rear view mirror, top clamps, and windshield header. For practical and financial reasons I used a late small block, an ’86 F block 305 bored .040 over stock. The 305 has the same bore as the 265 but benefits from a 350’s stroke and larger journal bearings. It is also a lot more available and cheaper than a restorable 265. The heads are Corvette aluminum L98 units, blue printed, and the intake is an Edelbrock C-26 dual quad manifold. The C-26 provides room for an HEI ignition and with adaptors carries two early square-bore AFB (400 cfm) carburetors; a stock C1 progressive linkage controls the carburetors. Other upgrades were utilized for both increased reliability and performance. The transmission is a Borg Warner “WC” T5 5 speed, the rear end a restored ’55 Powerglide with 3.55 gears.

The body is composed of a mix of reproduction fiberglass (all of the front) and pieces from destroyed cars or leftovers from restorations. Used fiberglass parts were repaired, aligned, and bonded together. In all, about six cars “donated” fiberglass to complete the body. The final body work, alignments, and painting were done professionally.

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The most enjoyable part of the construction was researching the special parts installed in the SR and trying to locate or create them for an accurate as possible reproduction. I recreated the external air scoops for the rear brakes and they are fully functional. I also constructed the off-road exhaust system. The original SR had specially built finned brake drums, which are now essentially unavailable. However, finned drums were used in Chevy vans in the eighties and are a perfect fit in a C1, and are in the car. For reliability and safety reasons I elected to retain standard non-vented backing plates. The SRs were also equipped with heavy duty suspension components, including Houdaille hydraulic lever shock absorbers originally used in earlier Studebakers and Fords. These were fitted to the rear axle in addition to tubular shocks and held in place by brackets attached to the rear frame rails. I was able to locate a pair, had them rebuilt for a “soft” ride, created the brackets, and mounted them as they were in the original SR. The original SRs were furnished with Halibrand magnesium knock-off wheels and hubs, which like the finned drums are now very hard to find and extremely expensive when available. Southern California Speed Shop sells a nearly exact alloy copy 16X6” knockoff copy and I have a set on the car.

The Corvette on the road

I have had the car on the road now for eight years and put about 3000 miles on it annually, it has been driven and exhibited throughout the northeast, including all of the New England states, New York and Pennsylvania.

Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas, Stockbridge, MA - December, 2013

Norman Rockwell's famous painting Main Street at Christmas is recreated. Main Street becomes a magical New England village with over 50 vintage cars parked along the street.

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You can navigate through the slides by clicking on the right and left-hand arrows on the photo.

The Corvette at the Palmer Motorsports Park - May 2018

Palmer Motorsports Park, atop Whiskey Hill in Palmer, Massachusetts, features a 2.3-mile road course with 190 feet of elevation.

Ride along as the Corvette negotiates the turns at the Palmer Motorsports Park!  And turn up the sound!

Thanks to the Corvette Club of Western Massachusetts and Race Cars for a Cause for hosting this great Veterans Day Celebration at the Palmer Motorsports Park.

Great photos of the day by Viard Photography.

NEW!

 

Thanks to jbelleisle66 for this phenomenal video of the Corvette at the Palmer Motorsports Park!  The fun starts at 1:41 until 2:23 and continues at 3:27 to 3:58.

At C1 rally at Devens Grill, Devens, MA - July 7, 2018

TOBY KNOLL GARAGE

'50s Cars