Bruce McClellan’s 1956 Chevrolet
Lost and Found - 1956 Chevrolet
1956 Chevrolet owned by Bruce McClellan of Pontiac, Michigan. Bruce bought the Chevy brand new in 1956, a year after he graduated from high school. Late in 2021 Bruce told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that it actually took him some time before he started customizing the car. When he was in high school, Bruce had a 1948 Pontiac Convertible. The Pontiac was a mild custom. It was lowered, and it ran a pair of Logan Skirts and dummy spotlights. "I think the trunk was leaded in, and I had blue dots in the taillights," Bruce told Sondre, adding that he also had blue lights shining up in the grille. "It was really a cool looking car too," he recalled. "That was my first goal. Making the car look special." He bought it with a blown engine, and his neighbor was working on the engine all the time. A guy from high school, Mickey Morrow, wanted the Pontiac, so Bruce decided to sell it so he could buy a new car. "I had a pretty good job then, and my dad took me down to the dealership."
"No Skirts, Son!"
Bruce paid 2000 dollars for the Chevy. His dad told him he could buy a new car, but he told him that he couldn't put those big fenderskirts on! "As you can see, I did that," Bruce chuckled. The skirts Bruce got were enormous. "They were taller than me," he explained. "I would take them off. I would hold them up, and they were taller than me. They came from the door all the way back to the back of the car." Bruce got the skirts from Bob Fulkerson of Oxford, who also had a mild 1956 Chevrolet custom. They were not Jimmy Jones Skirts, but they were Logan skirts built down on Eight Mile Road.
A Little Bit at a Time
Bruce designed the car himself. "I did a little bit at a time," he told Sondre. George Halpin did most of the fabrication work for Bruce at Halpin's Bump Shop, and the very first thing they did to the car was to extend the fenders and install 1956 Packard taillight lenses. "Then I think I got 104 louvers put in the hood. Then I had blue glass and fake Appletons installed." A stationwagon bumper followed before Bruce finally had the bubble skirts installed. When the skirts were on, Bruce and George removed the vertical piece of the original sidetrim in order to make the car look longer. The side pipes were also installed early on. "They were hooked up so I could take the cap off." Ofcourse, he also lowered the car. "I had some friends that told me at a gas station one night to bring the car in so they could lower it. Just a little bit." Bruce laughed it off, telling them that it was ok, but they told him no, "'bring it in. We'll just lower it a little bit.' Well, they put it right down, but it really looked nice when i backed it out, he chuckled. Up front, Bruce installed a 1954 Chevrolet grille with extra teeth in it and a one-piece front bumper. It is hard to see in photos, but when Bruce built the car, he was inspired by the trunks of the 1957 Buicks. "They had two lines coming down the trunk with fake handles on them. I thought that was really cool, so just to break up the back of the car I had those done to mine. I thought that just broke up the back of the car a little bit instead of having just a plain leaded in trunk." George made the lines in the trunk, and Bruce recalled that when he made them, he cut out a piece of wood, "and he just made a little hole in the flat edge of it, so he could draw that down the trunk and keep the lead the same way all the way down. It was really cool the way he did that!"
Crazy Paint by Paul Hatton
After Bruce had restyled the Chevy, Paul Hatton gave it one of his crazy paint jobs. Bruce told Kustomrama that Hatton became a friend of his, and that he believes he laid the blue scallops in 1958, in front of Pete's Customs. The hood featured 104 louvers, and every one of those was dressed up with a blue stripe. According to Paul's son, Brian Hatton, Bruce's Chevy was one of Paul's favorite cars amongst the ones he painted, and before he passed away he told Brian that he really wanted to clone it one day.
Show and Shine
The Chevy was dressed up with dual Appleton spotlights, blue glass, and a black and white interior. It came with a black and white leather interior, so Bruce kept that, adding pieces such as custom floor mats to go with that combination. His neigbour worked at Baldwin Rubber so he made white clutch and brake pedal pads for it. Every piece of metal that would come off inside was also chromed, and Bruce took the steering wheel off and painted it white. Everything under the hood was also chromed. After the scallops had been added, Bruce displayed the car at the 1959 Detroit Autorama. Even though his dad had told him not to add skirts, he was actually proud of his son's car after he got it fixed up. He showed the car at 12 shows and came away with 14 trophies. "When I was at a show, I would put a pack of Lucky Strikes underneath my side pipes. That's how low it was." After the build was completed, Bruce didn't use it on dirtroads. He worked at the foundry at Pontiac Motors, so he had old cars that he drove to work. "The foundry dust would eat your paint up, so I had old cars that I drove to work."
Where is it Now?
In March of 2021 Gary Oliver told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that he used to watch Bruce cruise downtown Pontiac, Michigan as he sat on his bicycle. "It was a beautiful car." Bruce was only 19 years old when he had the car, and he didn't realize what he had. "I built it all. I designed it all, and that was just me. I had everything done that I wanted to it, and it was just like, well, everybody has a car like that. He kept the car four four years, and he had a lot of fun with it, meeting a lot of nice people. Unfortunately, Bruce didn't have a place to keep the car. "My dad wanted the garage. I tried to keep it in the neighbor's garage, but they didn't want it there. I didn't have that much money that I could have rented a storage unit, so I just said whoever comes over with whatever car they had, I'll trade them. This kid from Gingellville came over with a 57 Chevy Bel-Air hardtop, and I traded them. It was kind of a dumb move, but I was caught, as I didn't have any place to store it." Bruce recalled that the kid's last name was Johnson. He can't remember his first name, and he doesn't know what happened to the car after he sold it. "I wish I would have written the vehicle ID number down, because I would love to know where it is today." The trunk was all upholstered, and the spare tire cover had Bruce's intials on it, so the spare tire cover is all he has left of the old custom. Do you know what happened to Bruce's Chevrolet after he sold it? Please get in touch with Kustomrama at email@example.com if you might know what happened to the car.
Did you enjoy this article?
Kustomrama is an encyclopedia dedicated to preserve, share and protect traditional hot rod and custom car history from all over the world.
- Help us keep history alive. For as little as 2.99 USD a month you can become a monthly supporter. Click here to learn more.
- Subscribe to our free newsletter and receive regular updates and stories from Kustomrama.
- Do you know someone who would enjoy this article? Click here to forward it.
Can you help us make this article better?
Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have additional information or photos to share about Bruce McClellan’s 1956 Chevrolet.
This article was made possible by:
SunTec Auto Glass - Auto Glass Services on Vintage and Classic Cars
Finding a replacement windshield, back or side glass can be a difficult task when restoring your vintage or custom classic car. It doesn't have to be though now with auto glass specialist companies like www.suntecautoglass.com. They can source OEM or OEM-equivalent glass for older makes/models; which will ensure a proper fit every time. Check them out for more details!
Do you want to see your company here? Click here for more info about how you can advertise your business on Kustomrama.