Blown L98-powered 1956 Chev Bel Air – 50SIXX

Powered by a Magnuson-blown L98, Charlton Sherry's ‘50SIXX’Bel Air is one mean and clean family cruiser

Photographers: Ben Hoskin

THE impetus for Charlton Sherry’s super-sweet ’56 Chev came from a motorcycle accident that left him thanking his lucky stars and re-evaluating his choice of transport.

First published in the May 2021 issue of Street Machine

“I lost an argument with the Armco while riding my motorbike up the Putty Road,” says Charlton. “My family and I decided that it was time to end my bike days and go the four-wheel option.”

Other than it having an extra two wheels, Charlton was unsure of what make, model or year he wanted. Relentless ‘suggestions’ from his son Ray to buy a Chev eventually swayed him.

“In reality, it was a no-brainer,” says Charlton. “I’ve always loved Paul Souma’s ’56 [SM, Jan ’13]; this whole car was inspired by ATTACK.”

While searching for a suitable donor car, Charlton came across a potential candidate located at Sussex Inlet on the NSW coast. “Despite the owner telling me I wouldn’t be disappointed, I initially rejected the car,” says Charlton. “The guy rang a second time and again got a ‘no thanks’. Third time around he offered to trailer it up to Sydney. We met at Powercruise. I took one look at it and promptly told him: ‘You’d better unload it, as it’s not going home with you.’”

It was good enough that after a bit of a tidy-up it was registered and put into service as a weekend cruiser. Nonetheless, Charlton had bigger plans, so around four years ago, off the road it came.

Charlton is part of an overachieving family. Street Machine readers will be familiar with his brother Steve’s Summernats Top 60 LJ Torana, GRNADE (SM, Mar ’18), and his explosively quick Datsun 1200 ute. The third brother, Warren, owns an ultra-tidy green EK that was at Summernats Slam. Fussiness, craftsmanship and an eye for detail runs strong in the Sherry clan. So, while the donor ’56 was extremely solid and 100 per cent complete, it required a ton of repro parts to bring it up to Sherry standard.

“Lead times and freight costs for parts out of the US were ludicrous,” says Charlton. “When I crunched the numbers – and taking into account the hefty discount for walk-in customers – it worked out that my wife Sandra, daughter Christine, son Ray and I could jump on a plane, have a holiday in the US doing family stuff like Disneyland, and pick up the parts for roughly the same price. Basically a free holiday! Massive thanks to the family for helping me carry home suitcases chock-full of Chev parts!”

One part that Charlton didn’t drag home from the US was 50SIXX’s blown L98 motor. “Steve bought it for one of his projects but didn’t need it anymore, so I got a great buy,” says Charlton.

The L98’s main enhancement is a Magnuson 1900 blower. With its six per cent overdrive and sizeable water-to-air intercooler, the 6.0-litre churns out a healthy 468rwhp thanks to the tuning skills of Northmead Auto Centre. To control the bark, Lowe Fabrications TIG-welded up a twin three-inch system that tucks up nice and high and incorporates twin Varex mufflers. Dressing the LS are customised covers (hiding brand-new coils) and a cold-air intake. “It was an alloy Commodore unit we chopped and modified to fit,” Charlton explains.

The double overdrive of the car’s 6L80E six-speed combines with its 3800rpm converter and 3.9:1 diff gears to deliver effortless freeway cruising – 1300rpm at 110km/h. Gear Exchange pieced together the nine-inch, which sports tough 35-spline Moser axles and a Truetrac centre.

While the dash and firewall were being sliced and diced for the left-to-right conversion, a reinforced mount for the VZ booster and master cylinder combo was added. They head up the Hoppers Stoppers big-brake upgrade, based around VZ Commodore gear. Other niceties such as cruise and a/c were also added to make 50SIXX the perfect machine for jumping in anytime and heading anywhere.

Well, almost. “It drives quite well, but you have to watch it on some roads, as a few things, such as the Flaming River rack, hang ridiculously low,” Charlton says. “I’ll probably have to lift the car up a bit.”

Seeing as Charlton is both owner and head painter at Kustom Paintworx, there’s no prize for guessing who handled the sumptuous paintjob. However, brother Steve is credited with the arrow-straight bodywork. The slick body and paint and overall high build quality really help set this car apart.

The black-and-white exterior scheme flows into the interior, with Brad Brown upholstering all the soft surfaces in black cloth and perforated white vinyl. Retaining the auto’s Active Select mode (manual gear changes) meant integrating a VE Commodore shifter. It was tough tying it in with things like the beautifully refurbished steering wheel and retro-looking Dakota Digital gauges, but it looks right at home in the custom console. By retaining the front bench seat, 50SIXX comfortably seats six.

“First time out of the garage was to do my daughter’s Year 12 formal,” says Charlton. “It was a stinking-hot, 38-degree November day, but it ran flawlessly, never got hot, all the electrics by Gizmo worked like they were supposed to, and it drove like a dream – I couldn’t be happier.”

“A ton of people pitched in with the build,” he adds. “Steve and Warren were always on hand. So too was my good mate Ray Sultana, along with Sandra, Christine, Ray and my nephew Braith. I also need to thank my dad. He was ‘the’ car guy that taught my brothers and me how to do stuff, how to work with our hands. His grounding has served us very well.”

And it’s not ending there. Young Ray Sherry will be getting his Ps pretty soon, so the hunt is on for a good ’57 Chevy Nomad. No doubt the Sherry family tradition will continue for many years to come.


CHARLTON’S ’56 is the up-spec Bel Air model, which normally incorporates two long, parallel side mouldings that run up to the front guards. Not wanting the white to run all the way up to the front, Charlton opted to fit side mouldings off the lower-spec 210 model, which left a string of unused holes that needed welding up.

“Alan McCoy had a full set of old side moulds,” says Charlton. “He’s the best mould guy in the country, but he’s now retired. I told him I’d only buy them off him if he restored and re-polished them. Initially he said no, but I talked him into coming out of retirement just to do these moulds – they’re really nice!”


Paint: Protec White over Pearl Black

Engine: 6.0L L98
Blower: Magnuson 1900, 6 per cent overdrive
Injectors: Siemens 60lb
Intercooler: Aussie Desert Cooler water-to-air
Heads: LS3
Camshaft: Hydraulic-roller
Sump: Late-model Camaro
Fuel system: Walbro in-tank pump
Cooling: Aussie Desert Cooler
Exhaust: Lowe Fabrications with Varex mufflers
Preferred fuel: PULP 98

Gearbox: 6L80E
Converter: 3800rpm stall
Diff: 9in, 3.9:1 Truetrac, 35-spline Moser axles
Tailshaft: One-piece with billet yokes

Springs: HQ ultra-low coils (f), reset leaf springs (r)
Shocks: Koni adjustable (f & r)
Brakes: Hoppers Stoppers, PBR twin-piston calipers (f & r)
Booster: VZ Commodore
Master cylinder: VZ Commodore
Steering: Flaming River rack-and-pinion

Instruments: Dakota Digital
Steering wheel: Factory 18in
Column: Ididit collapsible tilt
Shifter: Factory VE Commodore
Tunes: Retro digital
Air con: Vintage Air

Rims: Intro; 18×7 (f), 19×10 (r)
Rubber: Falken; 225/40ZR18 (f), 275/40ZR19 (r)

Daniel Grima (Gizmo Electrical); Damien Lowe (Chubby’s Garage/Lowe Fabrications); Norm Hardinge (Aussie Desert Cooler); Rod and Nathan (Glass 4 Classics); Alan McCoy (stainless moulds); Dennis Athans (Rocket Industries); Tyson & Nick (Northmead Auto Centre); Autowest Paint (Protec Paint & 3M supplies); Brad Brown (motor trimming); Jason McGrath (Gear Exchange); Peter Belcastro (custom wheels); Dave & Garry (Hawkesbury Towing); Andrew (AMC Performance); Joe (Danchuk, USA)