Larrie Matthews' 1956 Chevy
Larrie Matthews' Old Love Still Feels New
Do you remember your first? The one that got away? What if that first one never shuffled out of your life; would we really want that? Hindsight is 20/20, and most of us have taken off the rose-colored glasses and wouldn’t want them back, but there are a few lucky souls out there that have weathered all that came their way and came out smiling, still holding tight to their first love. Larrie Matthews is in the minority and has kept this ’56 Chevy through it all. You knew we were talking about first cars, not first significant others, right?
He bought it in 1969 as a red and white 150 sedan with a 235 and three speed. That lasted less than a year, and in 1970 the 150 was blown apart and sprayed silver with a black roof, set on chrome reverse wheels and boasted a hot 283 with a four speed. The ’56, affectionately known as Blanche, was a whole new car and served Larrie through two colleges, a few spring break escapades and countless jobs. The fact that any car can survive our formative years is a miracle, and Larrie shared a few hair-raising tales that he and Blanche experienced together. Some of them are better left un-printed. I was blown away when I learned that all of the sheetmetal on the car today is the original skin from 1956, and that the chrome we see today was redone in 1970. As if surviving college years intact wasn’t enough, Blanche also stuck around through two marriages, and more notably, two divorces. Collector cars are common casualties of divorce proceedings, but Larrie persevered.
Now at a comfortable point in life and wanting to return some of the love, Mr. Matthews decided to treat his ’56 to a redo, and not just clean it up and new valve cover gaskets, we’re talking a complete renovation. Starting at the bottom, Blanche sits on a Roadster Shop chassis with a Ford 9” sprung with a four link out back. A Strange True Track differential wears 3.70 gears, while Wilwood brakes on all four corners keep Blanche out of where she doesn’t belong (like the back of a Prius).
Always a man to keep with the times, the small block was yanked and a brand new GM LS3 with a Hot Cam was slid into place, backed by a 4L70 transmission. An ECM from a 2002 F-Body runs the show, and Larrie pointed out that he has 480hp and a warranty on his entire drivetrain. Did Larrie just find the meaning of life? Roadster Shop headers whisk the spent gasses to a three-inch system that features exhaust tips sunk into the bumper. Headlights are HID units; in fact, every light-emitting orifice in this ’56 uses LED technology, all of them except the glove box. Inside you’ll find a classy tan interior, but Larrie isn’t a fan of leather seating so the seat wears 1957 Chevy cloth inserts. The dash has carbon fiber accents to tie in with the VHX-55C instrument system with carbon fiber face styling, and the few billet pieces mesh well with the vintage look. Nothing seems out of place, not even the hotel towels on the floor! Those have been in there for years, and Larrie isn’t the least bit ashamed to have them on board.
Have you been looking at that black paint, wondering how deep it is? I’ve seen it in person, and it’s deep. It’s also older than the iPhone, by nearly 10 years. Yes, the black paint adorning Blanche’s original body panels was sprayed in 1998; couple that with the chrome plating from 1970, and you have no excuse for your hot rod looking shabby.
We met Larrie and Blanche on Day One of the 2014 Power Tour; they came out to play for the weekend and we spent a lot of time soaking in the details of this car and the stories Larrie shared. Unfortunately we only got to spend two days with this pair of eternal teens, as Larrie had to get back to work Monday. Don’t pity this man though, as his job title at Hendrick Motorsports is “Vice President of Frivolous Spending.” I kid you not; I have the business card on my desk to prove it. His job entails overseeing the extensive and ever-growing automotive collection of Rick Hendrick. Larrie is a happy man who thoroughly enjoys life and hot rods, and his favorite feature of the whole car is the set of custom-machined center caps on the wheels that bear the name ‘Blanche,’ his first love.