Shoebox Shorty: Custom 1956 Chevy 210

Barn Finds loves presenting oddballs and not-often-seen-anymore vehicles to you, alongside the more popular makes and models. Most times, they need help, but in this case, it seems to need very little to be enjoyed right away. Let’s look closer at this tiny Tri-Five, which is for sale here on craigslist near fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. Thanks go to Ian C. for the find!

By now, we all know the story of the mid-20th century and how some of the most iconic, legendary automobiles were created in that era – so let’s skip all that and get to the real question here: Why cut a sizeable chunk out of a perfectly good design? Well, my research found that the answer is apparently not as simple as one might think. We can look back to the Depression era, oddly enough, when rural populations needed some kind of power equipment but only had broken-down cars and trucks lying around. Necessity being the mother of invention, they used their know-how to create what we commonly know today as the “Doodle Bug” which were essentially an old truck or car cut short and made into a tractor. They fell out of fashion when the Depression was over, but came back strong when WWII broke out.

As we also know, when the war was over, the customizing scene skyrocketed, and “shorty” vehicles slowly started rolling out of shops and garages across the country. Sometimes, it was a wrecked or rusted pile that wasn’t worth trying to go all-out for. Other times, it was just something different in a perceived sea of “sameness”. This trend, however small and niche, was relatively common from the ’60s to the ’80s, but it wasn’t until recently that originals and modern-day re-creations have begun to pop up every now and then.  Nobody really knows for sure whom or what was the first custom car shorty, but the Auto world has seen many different cars and vans given this bold cut-and-paste treatment.

All of that brings us to this particular car. The seller is a bit shy on details, and doesn’t give us engine nor undercarriage pictures, however we can get an idea from the pictures provided. We can see that it is in decent condition, with what looks like 10-footer paint and some custom interior treatments but missing a few things like vent-window cranks, radio, horn ring and rear bumper guards. We’re told that it has a 305-ci V8 with rebuilt automatic gearbox, and it allegedly runs and drives fine. It could be that it is a somewhat-deteriorated resto from years ago, or an unfinished project from more recent times.

I myself have always marveled at the shorty vehicles. Having attended Auto Collision school and done some resto work earlier in my career, I get what work has to be done in order to achieve this result. With that knowledge, I applaud the hard work and dedication of the people who create these vehicles. I have never had the opportunity to drive or ride in one, but I can’t imagine them to be super comfortable. All that said, I would personally enjoy adding one to my collection someday, if for no other reason than to keep the idea alive, and maybe inspire future generations of tinkerers and fabricators. If you’re intrigued, I recommend checking out this Jalopnik article for a few more examples. What do YOU have to say about this car, or indeed about any others like it? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Comments

  1. Jody

    Why?..

    Like 12
  2. Jay E.

    I love shorty Tri-fives. In a sea of sameness, they stand out like a pimple and it is remarkable that the same body can be a 4 door or a shorty, yet somehow the proportions still work. I bid and bought (sale fell through because the seller was dishonest) a 57 Shorty some time back, so the itch is still there. Its pretty funny to number of them together at HAN. Some of them are really well done, factory almost
    When I grew up Tri-fives were being trashed like old beer cans. They were cheap and literally everywhere in junk yards. Hard to imagine doing this these days to one though.
    I think he is all in and then some at 11k, but who knows.
    Nice write up, Russell. I had no idea of the history on them

    Like 6
    • Little_Cars

      I disagree about the proportions still working on this one. I could see a little quarter window making this into sort of a “5 window coupe” then maybe it would fly. If this started out as a 4 door post, the trunk lid must have been sourced from a coupe or convertible. Nice work, but what’s the point?

      Like 6
      • aamodel

        I think maybe if you grafted another front windshield in place of the rear window, complete with all the trim. Then if you could match the roof to top of windshield spacing, it might look pretty good. It looks better than my shorty ranger on an early Bronco frame, just two vehicles that were just laying around haha

        Like 1
  3. mk

    Kinda neat I think if they made it a convertible I think I would like it more.

    Like 4
  4. Howard A. Member

    I hope people who poo-poo’ed the 4×4 Mustang, don’t approve of this. Cut up a decent ’56 2 door, my favorite Tri-five, and butchered it into this. At least the Mustang was still a Mustang. What is the attraction with these short cars anyway?

    Like 10
    • PatrickM

      I totally agree. This also kills the value. Something about the top floor of a hospital.

  5. Charles Moorehead

    Hey Lets ruin another Tri 5 car.
    So Sad!!!

    Like 6
  6. mk

    How do we know what he started out with? maybe it was a rusted out POS 4 door car in which case its cool.

    Like 10
    • Howard A. Member

      Oh, I don’t know, I’d sure like a ’56 4 door.

      Like 2
  7. Lance Nord

    I really love it (except the weird C-pillar). First, I would do something with that…

    I could imagine tubbing it so it would fit a nice set of drag slicks (or super wide radials). Finish it out with wheelie bars and a drive train that produces at least 750 hp. I would have to cut a hole in the hood to allow it to close over an old school forced induction supercharger. Totally impractical, but it would certainly get stares going down the street.

    Like 3
  8. Don H

    Every time someone does one of these they think that there’s is going to be the one that finally looks great ,👄💩

    Like 11
  9. Del

    well said, Don

    Like 6
  10. Joe Btfsplk

    The real question is: “How many clowns will it hold?”

    Like 5
  11. ccrvtt

    Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something.

    Like 4
  12. Bob McK Member

    Lots of negative comments here today. This car may not be for everyone. But I bet someone will live it.

    Like 1
    • Mike

      Not livin’ it Bob..

      Like 4
    • PatrickM

      Yeah, “live” it.

  13. Jake Loring

    Why is the question that pops in my head???? Besides the horrendous ride and the butt ugly rear roof line this is plain and simple an abomination og a vehicle!!!! That said to each his own but what a waste of a 56 Chev!!!

    Like 2
  14. Chris in Pineville

    beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    so is ugly…..
    a little quarter-window might make it look better.
    maybe.

    Like 2
  15. Rustytech Member

    What a waste of a nice shoe box Chevy. I can’t think of a better way to destroy a good car, YUK!!!

    Like 3
  16. TimM

    To each his own!!! It’s just not my opinion of something cool!! I would never wreck a classic no matter what shape it was in when I found it!!

    Like 3
  17. Dave

    What a waste of time, mine, for even looking at it….

  18. jerry

    we had a guy that used to turn up at cruise nights who went off the rails to tick every body off, he had a pea green lada, 340 dodge 4 gear power train that was done to the nuts! and he turned up with a 65 mustang with a 327 chev 4 gear in it why? to get ford and chev guys goats! like he said to me my cars I ‘ll do what i want don’t like it tough! don’t care, never will!

    Like 1
    • mk

      I hear what your saying and most likely right but if this car angers you then you are the one with the problem. he is a car guy that probably found a great deal of enjoyment in this build. I really hate to see it being bashed. if you don’t like it move on no problem!!!!!!!!

      Like 2
  19. GeneB Member

    Nice car destroyed

    Like 1
  20. Bob McK Member

    Tough group! At one time it seemed like every tri five Chevy was dragged out of the junk yards and restored. The car shows were so full of them and they got boring. As time has passed there are less of them showing up at the shows and perhaps many have returned to the junk yards. In this case someone had a dream and a lot of talent. He created his dream and hopefully enjoyed it for many years. I think it is kind of cool. It is not for me as I am a purist, but I bet someone will love this as much as the creator did.

    Like 3
  21. Terry

    Fugly

  22. Steve

    Has this thing been narrowed also?

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