October 2008 DACC Feature Truck


The idea of building a ’56 Chevy pickup that would exceed 200 mph became a reality when Bill Raley along with his son Billy and grandson Hunter found an unassuming ’56 Chevy pickup in Carrollton, TX. Bill’s wife Barbara was not particularly pleased when she spotted the condition of the truck in the middle of their circular driveway. Bill quickly explained that the most important task was to preserve the original metal on the truck. So the ’56 Chevy truck moved quickly to the body shop where the cab and bed were separated from the frame and individually sandblasted. Any existing rust was cut out and repaired. The body and frame were sprayed with etch primer and four coats of surface primer.

The truck’s stock front clip was removed and replaced with a modified ’73 Camaro clip boxing the entire sub-frame in 4 1/2” rectangular plate steel from the original truck frame for strength. Modifications to the truck bed included frenching at the tailgate, and the wheel wells were tubed out to fit a tire that was never imagined when this truck was originally conceived. The bed of the truck was rebuilt with diamond plate for stability and durability while a spray bed liner was applied to the bottom and sides of the truck bed for protection. The rear suspension was beginning its metamorphosis as it received larger axles and interlocking rear end on a ’82-83 Trans Am.

A roll tip cover was added to the bed to protect the fuel cell and battery boxes that were mounted in the rear of the truck. Inside the cab, a five-point roll cage was added as well as mounts for a full racing harness for both driver and passenger. The dash was also modified to accept new gauges and provide a more streamlined look. The doors were modified to carry one piece glass and electric motors that now control their operation.

In 2006, it was time to focus on the body work. Larry Coats, Jerry Mezzel and the crew at Lewis Paint and Body modified a one-piece front body clip for the truck with side tails. They also fabricated custom head lamps with built-in turn signals. A custom roll pan was fabricated and installed in the rear and the original fuel tank location was frenched to accept the new fuel cell. A custom rolling toneau cover was added to hide the new fuel cell and custom battery boxes.

In 2007 the truck, named Lady Katie was ready for paint. Larry Coats and his crew started by stripping all the working primer from the body of the truck, then re-sprayed the etch primer, adding three coats of surface primer while wet sanding between each coat. The next two coats of sealer were applied. The truck was now ready for its base coat followed by four coats of PPG Silver Base. Next came six coats of House of Kolor Candy Apple Red. The truck was wet-sanded before three coats of PPG 2002 Clear Coat were applied. Finally, Lady Katie was color-sanded, buffed and hand-glazed with polish to finish out her perfect appearance.

There is a shroud of secrecy about what went into the drive train. What is known is that it starts with a 598 cubic inch big bore high-performance block. Fuel is supplied by a 1050 Dominator carburetor topped with a K&N Super Filter. Beneath the carburetor is a Brodix intake manifold that runs to big oval Brodix heads with full CNC porting. The valve train consists of a Bullit camshaft with mechanical rollers. Inside the block are JE custom pistons with Eagle H beam rods supplying a 10.3 compression ratio. This allows the motor to supply 750 horsepower on 110 octane fuel. At the bottom of the block is a Callies steel 4.500 stroke crankshaft and oil is provided by a Moroso oil pan and oiling system. The entire motor has been fully blueprinted and balanced for optimum performance. Rounding out the engine is a MSD ignition system, Hooker Headers, stainless X pipes and mufflers, an aluminum 1 1/4 inch tube custom radiator and a Street & Performance serpentine system. In order to get the power to the wheels a 700 R4 Pro Street transmission is used with a Street stall lockup converter. The truck also has a CV Products overdrive unit with an on-demand split shifting 8 speed. This feeds a 3.73 rear end with a special enforcement cover and strut braces.

Lady Katie should be appreciated for her beauty on the inside as well. The interior was done with care and attention to perfect detail by Allen and Jody Dee at Dee’s Trim shop. Much of the interior is covered in white Italian leather upholstery with Bentley carpet. Extra padding and sound deadening were used throughout the truck. Custom door panels were built and wrapped in a three-color leather scheme while the headliner was completed with the white Italian leather. The seats were customized before being covered in the same white Italian leather. Throughout the cab you notice intricate custom stitching that was all hand-sewn. Finally, the cab was wired and fitted with an XM Satellite radio providing power to the speakers in the custom kick panels.

All of the family of Lady Katie has special appreciation for Al Lewis, engineer, who helped with the construction and electrical wiring for the entire project.

It took 12 years for Lady Katie to be ready to make her debut, but when she did, she did it in style. The public appearance of this ’56 Chevy truck was at the 2008 Dallas Autorama where she received the prestigious Best in Class Award followed by the Favorite Truck Award at the '08 DACC Reliable Spring Show! This classic truck is owned by Bill and Barbara Raley but could not have been completed without the help of ET Automotive, Larry Coats and Lewis Paint and Body and Dee’s Trim Shop. Their tireless effort and love for the project allowed Lady Katie to stand as a true testament to what a classic truck can be. Lady Katie’s next goal is to reach and break the 200 mph barrier for which she was designed. A test run is planned to take place in October 2008 at the Texas Mile Speed Trials. Once this goal is achieved, it will be interesting to see where she heads next.

A note from Bill: My granddaughter Katie Raley has been our reason for building a truck of this quality. Watching her grow through her 23 years led us to name the truck after her. She completed a 5-year teaching degree in 4 years and is now married to her first love, Justin Stephens. He is a wonderful young airman in the U.S. Air Force and they live at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Their fairytale wedding took place on July 27, 2008, and now the real-life Lady Katie is Lady Katie Stephens.

P.S. They don’t get the truck. Barbara says “not yet”

UPDATE - Bill took Lady Katie to the Texas Mile Speed Trials in October '08 with the goal of reaching 200 MPH but transmission troubles kept the truck under the magic mark.  Bill plans to return in the spring of '09 to Goliad, Texas and again attempt to take his '56 Chevy pickup to 200 MPH!