“We’re 99% sure it’s Tuxedo Black… and it’s not what your usual ‘Handyman’ looks like. He’s a little dressed up… lookin’ a little flash, like he’s wearing his best outfit… his tuxedo,” says Andrea Dyer of her and husband Kevin’s 1956 Chev Handyman.
Being a two-door wagon and the 150 spec makes TUXEDO a rare sight on these shores; and being a Chev rather than a Ford makes it a rare sight in the Dyer’s Hamilton garage. The story of how this match made in heaven came to be is a good one, and although the car was originally imported to be sold on, it’s not going to be leaving the family any time soon.
While Andrea grew up in a car-loving family, it wasn’t till ‘the inlaws’ (Gary and Elaine Pulley) came to stay for a week or two in 2003 that Kevin soon caught the bug.
Gary was importing a Mustang and while waiting for it to arrive must have put the idea of doing something similar into Kevin’s head, as it wasn’t long before he was convincing Andrea that the boat they hardly used could be turned into a smaller boat and a Mustang also. Soon after this a 1969 Muzy was purchased from Christchurch, which arrived just before Gary’s ’65 notchback landed from the States.
With three growing boys in the family, the Mustang was alright for a while, but not really the best, even though the ’69s have the biggest backseat of any Mustang. The solution to the problem was to get a second vehicle, a ’69 Mustang convertible, no problem with head room then either. After it soon became apparent that finding a good convertible wasn’t going to happen, Andrea started looking at other options including a 1963 Galaxie 500XL box top.
A winning bid was placed, and after a few emails the money was paid… then the doubt set in. “That’s when the sweating began. Numerous people gasped and said ‘well, you’ve kissed that money goodbye, you fools’. Even the American rang and said ‘What did you do that for?’” says Andrea.
Luckily that American was an honest guy by the name of Luther Wilson, a partner in a company called MotorCity in Washington State.
Kevin and Andrea kept in touch with Luther, even after the car was landed and vinned, even convincing him and his wife to come to New Zealand for a bit of a holiday.
That trip was reciprocated in 2005 when Kevin and Andrea headed up to Luther’s place for a few weeks. And with that strengthened relationship, came plenty more Fords being shipped to New Zealand, although all to be sold on.
In 2009 Luther and his business partner parted ways and Luther went on to start Barn Fine Classics, and added a few of his own (vast) collection of cars to the inventory, included in which was a 1956 Chev Handyman. Knowing the Dyers were looking out for more cars to sell on, he offered it up at a good price, and it landed in New Zealand in January 2010. As soon as it landed, they knew it wouldn’t be sold, it was just far too cool. Instead the Galaxie was put up for grabs and sold on instead.
So why was Luther so keen to get rid of the car for a cheap price if it is such a good car? Andrea tells it best when she says, “Luther found it in Washington State in 1999. All of the modifications, panel and paint, etc were completed in early 2000, but after Luther had it rebuilt he used it for about six months and then sold it. Between 2000 and 2009 he had bought and sold it three times. He called me in October 2009 to see if we wanted to buy it as he needed to sell it further away, so he couldn’t buy it back!”
Being a 150 model, it’s less common than the higher specced 210s of which there are a couple around. Although, it’s fair to say the days of this wagon being used as a tradesman’s hack are long gone.
During the build that was completed in 2000, no expense was spared to turn the wagon into an award-winning machine. The bodywork was stripped back and any imperfections removed before layer upon layer of Tuxedo black were flawlessly applied. Chrome side trim from a 210 Handyman has been fitted which confuses those who known their Chev wagons, while there’s no mistaking the side mirrors are a custom touch.
The interior of the wagon got the bulk of the attention during the rebuild, with every inch of fabric being replaced by a hardwearing tweed-type material. A custom centre consol was also added and a decent sound system fitted. The subwoofer and amplifier of the system are hidden in the spare wheel compartment, which leaves plenty of room for luggage (or sleeping as was found out at Beach Hop this year) in the back.
The original straight six engine is long gone. In its place now resides a 350ci small block from a 1969 Corvette. While the internals are unknown, it’s certainly no slouch, no doubt thanks to the Edelbrock Performer manifold and 600cfm carb that have been fitted. A twin 2-inch exhaust and some custom headers give the car enough sound to let you know there’s an eight under the hood, but it’s not too overbearing – it’s a family cruiser after all.
Backing up the small block is a Tremec 5-speed manual box and a Ford 9-inch diff.
As with that driveline, the suspension isn’t what you might at first expect. The stock front arms are long gone, in their place you’ll find Heidt’s tubular items and drop spindles. Look closer and you’ll find oversized swaybars, reset rear leaves and new shocks. At 17×7 and 18×8½-inches the polished Boyd Coddingtom rims set the look of the car off perfectly by tying in with the beautiful big bumpers that only a ’50s car can offer.
It’s easy to see why Andrea and Kevin couldn’t part with the car, although somewhat ironic that now they’ve got a perfect family cruiser with plenty of room, the boys tend to do their own thing instead of coming out with mum and dad.
We get the distinct impression it’s not the last car from Barn Fine Classics that will be gracing the family garage though, as after a recent trip up to stay with Luther and getting given the keys to every car on the yard, Kevin has set his sights on an Impala coupe to bring in and sell on. Sounds like the beginning of a familiar story to us!
1956 Chevrolet 150 Handyman – Specifications
Engine: 350ci small block Chev, Edelbrock 600cfm carb, Edelbrock Performer manifold, K&N Filter, custom headers, 2-inch exhaust, Magnaflow mufflers, standard ’56 Chev radiator, performance fan and 12-inch electric fan
Driveline: Tremec 5-speed manual, Ford 9-inch diff
Suspension: Heidt’s tubular A-arms, drop spindles, 7/8-inch swaybar
Brakes: Heidts disc brakes, Ford drums
Wheels/Tyres: 17×8 and 18×8½-inch Boyd Coddington Smoothies, 225/45R17 and 255/45R18 Toyo Proxes TI-S tyres
Exterior: 210 Handyman side trim, aftermarket mirrors, Tuxedo black paint
Interior: Aftermarket bucket seats, Grant GT steering wheel, Auto Gauge gauges, tilt steering column, custom console, billet dash trim, custom interior trim, JVC DVD Player, JL Audio E6450 amp, JL Audio 6-inch front speakers, JL Audio rear 6×9-inch speakers, JL Audio 10-inch Sub
Kevin and Andrea Dyer – Owner Profiles
Car Club: Te Awamutu Hot Rod Club
Age: 45 / 44
Occupation: Injection Moulding Technician/Office Manager
Previously owned cars: 1969 Mustang Coupe, 1963 Galaxie 500XL box top, 1966 Mustang convertible, 1963 Galaxie 500XL Convertible, 1970 Mustang Mach1
Dream car: Changes daily as new stock arrives at Barn Fine Classics!
Why the Chev?: It was one of Luther’s own cars and Kevin drove it in 2006 when we were up in the USA and loved it. When it became available we took the opportunity to buy it. The plan was to sell it, but it’s quite unique, and really nice to drive!
Build time: Unsure
Length of ownership: 15 months
Andrea and Kevin thank: Luther and Lyhea Wilson at Barn Fine Classics, Mt Vernon, Washington State, Paul Stitchbury at Famous Pacific Shipping, Noel McMillin at Nostalgia Motors, Gary and Elaine Pulley for the numerous road trips to Auckland to pick up classics over the past six years!
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Adam Croy
This article is from NZV8 issue 77. Click here to check it out.