Feature Article, Other Motorsports, Washington — June 16, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Steever’s classic Chevies (issue 106)

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IT-106 Dennis Steever Chevies at PHS car show

By Steve Heeb

Dennis Steever graduated from Puyallup High School in 1967, just a year ahead of wife Teri. The South Hill couple was back at their old high school for the 2014 Viking Motorsport Car show with son Tracy, who graduated in nearby Rogers High School’s Class of ’87.

“Cars have been a passion since high school,” Dennis reflects on their time at PHS. “When I met my wife she had a ’55 4 door and I had a ’55 sedan.”

Three decades later Dennis had the opportunity to add a ’56 Chevy to the cars he already had.

“I was going to build it for Teri but she didn’t want it,” he says.

He decided to build it as an all-original car.

“At first I was going to make it a semi hot rod,” he says. “But it had the original padded dash and I did not want to tear that out so I decided to go all stock.”

During the frame-off restoration, he managed to do most of the work himself with help from Bob Zumach.

“Except for the chrome and engine rebuild,” he notes. “That I couldn’t do.”

The ’56 Chevy still has the original 265-cid motor and Powerglide transmission, but also sports model specific options like bumper guards, emergency brake, power steering, power brakes, locking gas cap, dual speaker switch, wire wheels, a four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust.

Even the Ivory with Tropical Turquois paint is correct.

“I wanted to keep the original colors,” Dennis says.

The rebuilt ’56 Chevy had barely been broken in with 25 miles on it when Dennis and Teri set out for the 1996 Classic Chevy Int’l Show in Sparks, Nev.

“It scored a 985 out of 1000,” he says of that first judging. “Ten years later we trailered it to Temecula for the show and it scored exactly the same.”

As of the 2014 Vikings Motorsports show in Puyallup, the ’56 Chevy had just turned over 7,000 miles.

Around the time the ’56 project was nearing completion, Dennis added another vintage Chevy to the Steever’s stable.

“Our friend had the ’57 but had a convertible project going on,” he says of the 1995 purchase. “We had the ’56 as all stock so I wanted to build this one as a hot rod.”

Like the ’56, the new ’57 Chevy would see a frame-off restoration spanning more than six years before it was ready for showing.

Son Tracy helped with the assembly and preparing the car for painting.

“This is what keeps me and dad together,” Tracy says of working on the car with his dad after serving in the Coast Guard. “I still try to come over because this is what we do together.”

The two Chevies rekindle fond memories for Tracy.

“There’s always been a ’56 in the garage,” he reminisces of an earlier family car. “I remember driving a black and white ’56 Chevy to and from Fife.”

The new ’57 project would sport a bit more color.

“It was an original all red car,” Dennis notes in contrast to the two-tone schemes that were much more prevalent for the time. “I painted it myself and that was a learning process.”

He had decided on single-stage urethane enamel for the ’57 as opposed to the acrylic enamel that had been shot on the turquois car.

“You have to lay the paint on nice and even,” he says. “There was a lot of trial and error.”

His painting experience extended beyond the typical restoration project.

“It’s all red inside and out, and underneath,” he explains. “People don’t see it but I know it’s there.”

Unlike the all-stock ’56, Dennis was able to put some personal touches on the ’57, like removing the Bel Air lettering, chrome plating the bumper bullets, adding billet aluminum gauges and installing a ’59 steering wheel.

“It was more fun to do because of the freedom,” Dennis says with satisfaction. “I didn’t have people saying ‘that’s not how it was.’ It’s not a factory car.”

The car is powered by a 327-cid smallblock with a Muncie 4-speed transmission.

For almost a decade the Steevers have been taking their Chevy classics to a dozen shows a year, including the Goodguy’s Pacific Northwest Nationals at the fairgrounds right in town.

“I’ve been to every Goodguys show since the start the show in Puyallup as well as a couple of shows at Del Mar California,” Dennis says.

The ’57 has been there since 2007, and the turquois ’56 since 1996. Even before that, Dennis and Teri had their black and white ’56 Delray 2-door sedan at the fairgrounds.

At the high school show this spring, Tracy brought the ’57 Chevy to park next to Dennis’ ’56 among a gathering of more than 100 entries.

“Dad told me if I wanted to drive it I had to take care of it,” Tracy says of keeping up the maintenance on the ’57. “This is part of my life. A good father-son thing.”

Tracy likes the way the back half of the car looks, especially the billet in the fins.

“He likes the hot rod,” Dennis smiles.

“Dad likes it as much as I do,” Tracy says.

Dennis agrees.

“I like them all.”

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