Over three decades ago the streets were filled with all makes and models of classic Chevy designs. The abundance of these vehicles overshadowed the essence of their beauty and throughout the years the distinctive body contours faded away. Luckily, American automotive history would not be forgotten as enthusiasts have kept the sculpted works of art alive. Part of the passion involved in building one of these vehicles is the reward that comes with its completion. Cruising the streets while your ride stops traffic is a feeling like no other.

Steve Early of Huntington Beach, California, knows that Surf City USA is one of those places where his ’56 GMC Suburban is appreciated. Several years ago, Steve began construction on a ’56 Suburban with a 502ci engine and 20-inch wheels, but he soon realized that the ride he had planned would be too nice to drive on the street. He decided to trade it to a friend for another ’56 Suburban that would handle the streets with ease.

Steve’s new Suburban sported a flawless silver powdercoated frame carrying a ’95 Corvette LT1 engine and 4L60E electronic overdrive transmission. Swapping in the late-model engine required a custom set of Mark Weiss headers and a custom exhaust that routes both pipes out the passenger side. Inside the engine compartment the LT1 wears an array of engine dress up components from Street & Performance and Zoops. An extra-large Vintage Air compressor does its best to keep cold air moving through the front and rear heating/air conditioning ducts.

That’s right—this thing even has a heater. Steve custom bent a pair of stainless steel tubes from the heater core to the engine. Cradling the engine is a ’94 ½-ton pickup front frame section using DJM upper and lower control arms, 2-inch dropped spindles, Bilstein shocks, 11-inch Camaro disc brakes, and 17-inch wheels covered in BFG rubber. Out back is a ’68 Chevy ½-ton frame connected to a Dutchman 3.73-geared 9-inch rearend and Early Classics dropped coils, Bilstein shocks, and adjustable panhard bar.

The driveline and suspension subtly complement the immaculate metalwork performed by Randy Haapala at the Body Palace in Huntington Beach. Before Randy got his hands on Steve’s ride, the top had already been lowered 3 inches. Randy decided to shave the door handles, add a billet grille, and round and shave the front fenders to match a ’55 Chevy hood. Once the front end looked sharp, he replaced the rear bumper with a roll pan and relocated the door hinges and gas cap inward. The final touches included a custom dash, electric windows, door solenoids, and a PPG Toner Yellow paint job inside and out. On the way home from the paint shop, Steve dropped the Suburban off at Gabe’s Auto Upholstery to have the interior completely covered in gray tweed and vinyl.

After an exhilarating maiden voyage in the 1,100-mile, yellow ’56, Steve and his wife Jeannette headed out to Pontiac, Michigan, for the 2001 Hot Rod Power Tour. About 5,700 miles later, the Earlys are confident that they have created their ideal street machine.