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This Freaky Chopped Chevy Takes You Back to the Weird ’70s

This '56 Chevy wagon lost most of its midsection to "style."

If you didn't live through the early 1970s, it is probably hard to imagine how abruptly the enthusiast automotive marketplace changed during that era. In only a few years' time, America went from the absolute pinnacle of Detroit performance in 1970—the LS6, anyone?—to cars that were essentially wheezing shells of their former selves. A nightmarish confluence of tightening emissions laws while gasoline prices and insurance rates climbed were to blame, and the stories in the aftermarket and modding scenes grew downright strange.

Faced with a dearth of exciting new cars to cover, '70s automotive magazines dug deep to find topics that would keep readers engaged. For reasons that are to this day hard to explain, all kinds of ink was spilled covering vans. Another popular magazine fixture were what would come to be known as "street freaks," cars that pushed the envelope every way they could—except, that is, under the hood—cars such as this stubby 1956 Chevy wagon.

Though it wasn't called a street freak in its feature story in the August 1973 issue of Hot Rod magazine, Mike Peppers' abbreviated 1956 Chevy wagon definitely makes the cut. Literally—Mike lopped 41 inches out of the car "with five cuts," the magazine said, before hand-making a new pair of doors, shortening the front frame horns, and fabricating a tilt front end out of steel. Beneath the new hood was a "loaded" 327 fuelie Mike built and joined to a Muncie four-speed. A 24-inch driveshaft then delivered power to the 4.11-geared Positraction rear end.

Lou Wells, who lived in Davenport, Iowa, along with Mike, was credited with the interior's execution, "with black leather for the seats, mini-shag carpet on the floor, and wooden door panels." Mike also installed a "super stereo sound system, complete with a power antenna so he wouldn't get his hands wet on rainy days." Why did Mike make such a radical change to his Chevy wagon? According to the story, he wanted a "street rod/dune buggy" and so shrank the wagon down to size. "The car's definitely a mind blower wherever it goes," said Hot Rod. Then, as now, that applies.

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