Most anyone reading this magazine probably has fond memories of learning to drive. Some got an earlier start than others thanks to an eager father, sibling, neighbor, or maybe because they had to learn. Obviously, it doesn't happen much in bigger cities these days, but when Les Allen was 12 years old he learned to drive his dad's '56 Chevy truck around the family farm so he could be more useful.
Les and his brother had a good time driving around the Chevy with its 283 and three-on-the-tree, even when they were working, but it didn't last forever. One day the boys were cruising the farm, with his brother behind the wheel. He clipped a low roof on one of the barns with the rear fender of the otherwise beautiful red truck--that was the last time either one got to drive the '56.
On into Les' late teens/early twenties it was the late '60s and smack dab in the middle of the muscle car craze. He had already owned a street Hemi, a '69 Z-28, and a '66 Corvette to name a few, but of course he didn't keep any of them. By the mid-'70s Les had a budding business in the forestry industry and spent the next 20 years working and raising a family. In the late '90s he began to itch for something to go fast in again and wound up with a '67 Camaro that he ran in the NHRA Super Stock class--he was fairly successful for the next 10 years in various cars, but work became more demanding and he sold it all.
Les still wanted something fun to drive, but maybe something that didn't need as much attention as a race car. Soon he was reminiscing about the fun he had in his dad's old farm truck and figured something like it would be perfect. In 1999 he found the forlorn '56 Chevy Cameo project of a man who lived at the base of Mt. Reiner. Les bought it and drove it a few times, but couldn't stand the paint color so it was parked. The next few years were spent studying and researching what it was exactly that he wanted to do with the truck. Two years later, Les called artist Jason Rushforth for design help and the two came up with a plan.
The decision was made to put the truck on an Art Morrison frame because Les wants to drive the Cameo--and to be able to do so hard if his right foot chooses. This was also a natural since Art Morrison's shop just south of Seattle isn't that far from Les' home in Arlington. The frontend is one of Art's Mustang II-based systems and Strange adjustable shocks and Air Ride Tech 'bags reside at each corner. Wilwood Pro dropped spindles and 11 3/4-inch discs round out the front. In the back is a four-link setup that locates the stout Strange 35-spline rearend that Les built with a 4.11:1 ring-and-pinion and of course a posi unit.
Naturally the rest of the drivetrain was gonna mean as much business as Les would want to handle on the street, so a pre-'86 small-block Chevy was punched out to 4.28 inches, stroked to 3.75 inches, balanced, blue printed, and assembled by Rod Stultz of Rod's Porting Service using top-notch internals. A Ramjet intake was modified by Arizona Speed and Marine to run an ACCEL DFI engine management system along with a Pro Charger supercharger. Custom-made, equal-length, and stepped-diameter headers were fabricated by Stan's Headers as well as the rest of the exhaust system that incorporates a pair of Flowmaster mufflers. Les likes grabbing gears and stomping on three pedals, so a Richmond six-speed and a McLeod dual-disc clutch bring up the rear of the not-so-small, 700-horse small-block.