Follow The Build: Project Gift Horse, A ’56 Chevy 210 Sedan

The old proverb says, “never look a gift horse in the mouth.” It means don’t be ungrateful when given something; it can be construed as a sign of distrust. But, have you ever thought about why, or even what the heck a gift horse is, anyway?

As horses age, they grow more teeth while the existing ones move forward and change shape. By looking in a horses mouth, a skilled person can decipher the approximate age of the horse. So, a gift horse is an aging horse of diminished value, but still requires maintenance to keep it alive.

Buying someone else's project is a lot like buying a horse. You don't know what you are getting into until you get it home. This is Project Gift Horse when Aubrey bought it.

Examining The Horse

A project car is a lot like a gift horse. The big difference is you can’t see the teeth! Such was the case when Aubrey King from Memphis, Tennessee, received a call from a cousin offering a terrific deal on her husband’s 1956 Chevy 210 2-door sedan project. Aubrey already had a gorgeous, homebuilt 1940 Buick which took him close to 15 years to build to the highest quality (see the feature on Street Rod Life from a few years ago HERE). But, he was looking for something he could drive to shows and not worry about someone so much as breathing on it.

When you have a ’40 Buick that looks this good, you’re almost afraid to drive it. Aubrey spent 15 years building this car and was looking for something else he could drive without worry.

Lucky for him, the “horse” wasn’t too long in the tooth. It still had good bones and all the parts were there, but it was in pieces and needed some work to get back running. The small-block 350 was having oiling issues to the left bank. Aubrey is a pretty handy guy, so he figured it was a horse he could coax back to a thoroughbred over time. A deal was struck and Aubrey had his project.

After multiple attempts to fix the oiling problem, the engine finally spun a bearing. This forced Aubrey’s hand to start the rebuilding process a little earlier than he planned. It was still a good horse, it just needed some steroids to get back to its former provenance.

Project Gift Horse was an excellent starting point, but after the 350 spun a rod bearing, it kicked the project into full-on overdrive. Instead of building it as he goes, Aubrey decided to just fix it all at once so he had a reliable driver he could take anywhere, anytime.

Following The Project

Late last year, the goal was set for the first show to be the Tri-Five Nationals in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on August 8-10. Remember, Aubrey wanted a car that could be driven; something he wouldn’t have to worry about breaking down on a trip.

With that in mind, he decided to do a complete rebuild, minus the paint and body, which was still in pretty good condition. The plan was hatched and he started acquiring parts, which is when we heard about the build and decided to start following it.

As it sits now, Aubrey’s ‘56 is in the capable hands of his good friend Mike Hoover at Fab Auto in Memphis. Mike and Aubrey are thrashing to get the car ready for the Nats and it’s sure to go down to the wire. The car is still in the mock-up stage as we speak. Everything is set to be taken out in a couple of weeks, so the firewall can be sealed up and repainted along with some flaws in the paint that need to be corrected.

Here is when we first saw the build. The Chevy Performance Parts LS3 Connect and Cruise, 6L90E, and Speedway rearend were mocked up in place. All of these will come back out one more time before final assembly. Aubrey has secured a lot of other goodies to go on this Tri-Five and we'll be there for the buildup!

With the obvious popularity of Tri-Five Chevys, we saw this as a perfect build to follow to show the plethora of aftermarket parts available for the Tri-Fives. We recognize there are plenty of stalled projects out there like Gift Horse; hopefully, this will jumpstart some of you into moving on them again.

Projects stall for a number of reasons: money, skill, lack of motivation, etc. We can’t help you with the money part, but we’re hoping to help you with the others as we follow the build. Our plan is to highlight some tips and tricks from Mike and Aubrey, all the way from the planning process right on through to the unveiling at the Tri-Five Nationals.

Project Gift Horse Parts Plan

Here is a short summary of the planned parts of the build:

Engine: Chevrolet Performance LS3 Connect and Cruise from Southern Performance Systems (Sugar Hill, Georgia)

Transmission: 6L90E six-speed automatic

Rearend: Speedway Motors 9-inch with 3.53 gears

Suspension: CPP tubular A-arms, Heidts 4-link, Viking double-adjustable shocks

Brakes: CPP Big Brake kit (13-inch front, 12-inch rear)

Wiring: Ron Francis Wiring harness, Speartech engine harness

Air-conditioning: Vintage Air Gen IV SureFit Evaporator Kit with 4-Vent Plenum

Driveshaft: QA1 Carbon Fiber

Steering: Flaming River steering column and wheel, CPP box and components

Gauges: Dakota Digital HDX, with cruise control, compass, and outdoor temp

Interior: Complete TMI Products Interior

Trim: Danchuk Manufacturing, Classic Industries

Cooling: FSR Radiator

Wheels: US Mags Rambler U110

Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 255/45/R20 rear, 225/45/R18 front

More parts have started flowing in. The guys will have their work cut out for them over the next few months to get the '56 prepped for its primetime debut at the Tri-Five Nats. We'll be covering several parts of the build, so be sure to check back often for updates!

Keep an eye out for a series of articles on the build as it comes together. We will be highlighting some of the really trick pieces going on the car and will keep you up to date on how the build is progressing. Finally, we’ll be traveling with Aubrey for the unveil of the car at the Tri-Five Nationals. Come along for the ride!

About the author

Shawn Brereton

Shawn is a lifelong car enthusiast who appreciates all things automotive. He is the proud owner of a blown '55 Chevy, a daily-driven '66 Fairlane with an '09 GT500 drivetrain, and a '96 Miata track car.
Read My Articles

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