Road Rules! See the USA… Frank LaVenia has Explored 48 States in his ’56 Chevy
“See the USA in your Chevrolet” was the ad slogan (and song) that became familiar to a generation of gearheads from the 1950s. It’s advice that Frank LaVenia has followed in his ’56 Chevy, a car he has owned for nearly 40 years. He’s lost track of the total number of miles on the red-and-white 210 Delray, but he is quick to note that it has been driven more than 200,000 miles since its first rebuild was completed in 1997, and it has driven through the contiguous 48 states at least four times!
A true working-class enthusiast, Frank has always kept the ’56 simple – small-block engine, automatic transmission, 15-inch American 200S wheels, and basic upgrades like power steering and disc brakes. That simplicity has served Frank and the car well for four decades.
“In 1994, I got back to driving and enjoying the ’56, my long-time baby,” Frank continues. “I started to do some rebuilding of things that had aged and I bought all-new product and it became a body-off restoration – enjoyable and lots of work! I started going to car shows within about 300 miles, Next thing you know, I was traveling back to Ohio and following Super Chevy Shows.”
The Super Chevy events took Frank to Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and several other states. “Boy, was I enjoying meeting people, traveling, and seeing the country,” Frank says. “One trip let to another and in 1998 I finally decided to try and do a Power Tour. My first was the West Coast tour that started in California and went to Michigan. On that tour they announced an East Coast tour in the fall. I enjoyed myself so much I decided to do the second tour in ’98! From then on, I just kept driving and enjoying my baby. I did every year of the Power Tour from 1998 thru 2004. Seeing the USA in my Chevrolet!”
Frank discovered Goodguys during this same timeframe. “I did my first Goodguys show in Columbus, Ohio in 1998 and haven’t missed the Columbus show since then. I have also enjoyed Goodguys events in Indy, North Carolina, Washington, California, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Texas, and Florida.” Frank retired and moved back to Ohio in 2006, so the PPG Nationals in Columbus is his closest event. He’s driven the Cruise to Columbus (from Iowa) a number of times, and even did Hot Rod Week ahead of the West Coast Nationals in Pleasanton back in 2013.
“Since the restoration in ’97 it has been driven 200,000-plus miles and I even replaced the engine with a new one from GM and also a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive,” Frank says. For nearly all of those miles, the car has rolled on the same American 200S wheels Frank installed on the car back in the ’80s. “Just couldn’t find anything I liked better!” he says.
At least one year stands out for Frank during his many decades of travels. “In 2013, I had been to all 48 states at different times, but never in one year,” Frank says. “My goal was to drive to all 48 states in one season. That was the best summer of my life! Three individual trips: Northeast, Midwest, and the West and Southern states. The trips were mostly car show related. A lot of good times and met a bunch of really great people enjoying their cars, their hobby!”
Frank’s travels have slowed a little in recent years, but he still regularly makes it to the PPG Nationals in Columbus and other regional events. It should go without saying that, after nearly 40 years, his ’56 Chevy is a keeper. “We will never part ways till I die,” Frank says, “and even then my ashes are to be placed in it forever!”
Photos by Frank LaVenia & Julia Aschenberg