Where were you in 1962? Maybe you remember that question. It was the tagline for the movie American Graffiti, George Lucas’ homage to growing up in America during the original hot rod era. The movie was fictional and the characters in it were made up, but the story it told was real—anybody who was a teenager in 1962 could tell you that.
Fred Haralson was 14 going on 15 in 1962 and, like the teenagers in American Graffiti and in towns all over the country, had a love for hot rods. He was in ninth grade when his dad bought him his first car. It wasn’t a classic truck—there was no such thing at the time. It was a 1934 five-window coupe. Fred’s father paid $100 for the car and Fred started working to earn money to have it chopped and channeled and turned into a rod. Within a few years, hot rods were eclipsed by muscle cars. Fred bought a new Z/28 in 1969 and a new Trans Am 455 H.O. in 1971. In the years that followed, old trucks developed into classic trucks, getting the same amount of attention previously paid to hot rods and muscle cars. The farmer in Muskogee, Oklahoma, who used this 1956 Chevy 3200 as a work truck before selling it to Fred might be surprised to see it extensively customized and featured here—but maybe not.
When Fred bought the 1956 six years ago, at his son Aaron’s suggestion, it was in pretty good shape. The big-window, longbed exterior had a little bit of rust, but great patina, and the windshield was perfect. It ran the 235 straight-six engine and Hydramatic transmission. Fred figures that the old farm truck probably had never driven a mile on the highway and was ready for a second career having fun and frying tires. For help with the transformation, Fred contacted Nathan Hale at Hale’s Speed Shop in Lewisville, Texas. The two had collaborated on Fred’s 1957 Chevy car, and the one-man shop did all the work on his truck.
The factory frame is the only remaining piece of the pickup’s original chassis. Since Fred drives the truck all the time, performance is as important as appearance. He wanted the truck to ride well and he wanted it riding at shadow height when the airbags are emptied. The custom suspension provides a pavement-scraping posture and ensures safety. The ‘rails were boxed in the front where the Fatman Fabrications Mustang II-style lower control arms, crossmember, and drop spindles were added. Nathan Hale designs his upper control arms and components in-house, tailoring them specifically for each vehicle, as in this case. A 1993 Mustang steering rack moves the truck around corners with ease. The Quick Performance rearend is packed with 3.50:1 gears and features a locking differential. The rear suspension includes a two-link and Panhard bar combo, also built in-house at Hale’s. QA1 shocks and Firestone 2,500-pound airbags at all corners improve the stance and ride.
Three different sets of wheels have been mounted on the truck since Fred’s been driving it. These 15×6 and 15×7 chrome reverse steelies from Wheel Vintiques are his favorite and add a hot rod attitude the truck never had on the farm. The whitewalls have a nostalgic look but are BFGoodrich Silvertown radials. The sidewalls are stiffer than some other whitewall choices for better stability on the highway. These measure 205/75R15 and 235/70R15 and were in stock at Wallace Wade Specialty Tires in Dallas.
The performance chassis is strong enough to keep up with the 650-700 hp coming from the LS engine under the hood. The 6.0L iron-block motor was bored and stroked, and loaded with Diamond 10.5:1 pistons with Total Seal rings—and a Bullet camshaft to keep the valves busy. Custom headers and exhaust pipes direct exhaust from the car, with MagnaFlow mufflers contributing the perfect tone. Hale’s specializes in blown and turbocharged engines. Fred wanted a blower for the LS and eventually a Whipple supercharger was installed, adding about 100 ponies to the horsepower rating. Sam Miller at Advanced Modern Performance in Grand Prairie does the final tuning on Hale’s engines and made sure the LS in the 1956 was meeting its potential. The GM 4L60E transmission, built at Hale’s, is equipped with a Precision Industries torque converter and a B&M trans cooler.
The truck was back in Grand Prairie for interior work at Hard Kandy Kustomz. The bench from a 1988-1998 Chevy regular cab pickup was found to be the perfect width for the 1956, with some cutting for height. The seats were restored with new foam, mounted on custom mounts and upholstered in pleated black leather—with the same being used on the door panels. The stock dash now houses vents for the Vintage Air A/C system. Dakota Digital instruments were installed in the factory location. For audio, Bluetooth and XM functions are paired with Kicker components. Hale’s wired the truck using PSI and Painless Performance harnesses. Quality Restorations resized the 1956 Chevy steering wheel and added transparent green to the ring. The wheel is mounted on an ididit tilt shifter column.
The body was treated to a few modifications. Like most custom truck enthusiasts, Fred prefers shortbeds, so the 3200 longbed was swapped. The raised bed floor was redone at Hale’s, oak boards stained black then clearcoated with green pearl and separated by stainless steel strips. On the cab, the antenna was shaved and the cowl vents were filled. The stock hood was punched with 125 louvers.
The paint you see in these pictures was the last thing done. Fred drove the truck wearing its Army green paint and hard-earned patina for a while before going back to Hard Kandy Kustomz for a fresh two-tone finish. Everything below the top is a light green custom mix with a little bit of silver stirred in. Fred and Hard Kandy Kustomz, inspired by nature, call the color OG Kush Pearl. The black on the top is mixed with green; the color is repeated on the dash.
The new paint—and success at the many truck events where the 1956 Chevy is shown—has not stopped Fred from driving his pickup just about every day. The next time you’re near Dallas, look—or listen—for this highway-driven tire fryer.
1956 Chevy 3200
Chevrolet LS engine, built by Hale’s Speed Shop, Diamond 10.5:1 pistons, Total Seal rings, Bullet camshaft, OE ported heads, Whipple supercharger, Hale’s Speed Shop headers, Hale’s Speed Shop exhaust, GM 4L60E, Precision Industries torque converter
Shortbed conversion, cowl vents filled, rear fender exhaust opening bezels, gas filler relocated, antenna removed; stock hood, grill, door handles, front and rear bumper, 56 chevy LED lights, Raised floor, oak with stainless runners, PPG custom colors
Quick Performance, locking differential rearend, Hale’s Speed Shop two-link and Panhard bar, QA1 shocks, Firestone airbags, rear GM disc brakes, Hale’s Speed Shop upper control arms; Fatman Fabrications lower control arms, crossmember, and spindles; QA1 shocks, Firestone airbag, front Mustang II disc brakes, 1993 Mustang steering rack
Stock dashboard, Dakota Digital gauges, 1956 Chevy pickup steering wheel modified by Quality Restorations, ididit tilt steering column with shifter, 1988-1998 Chevy pickup bench seats, Hard Kandy Kustomz upholstery, Lokar pedals, Vintage Air air conditioning, PSI and Painless Performance wiring
Bluetooth, XM, Kicker components
Wheel Vintiques, BFGoodrich Silvertown radial whitewalls