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The Perfect Peach! 1956 Chevy Apache Build

John Mata Jr. March 08, 2024 Chevrolet

One Peach of an Apache

Photos by John Jackson / NotStock Photography

Anything in life is much more relaxed and enjoyable when you’re spending time with like-minded individuals. Our time on this floating rock is limited, so why settle for anything less? Friends are the most influential and reliable connections we make, so when it comes time to collaborate on a project that everyone is equally hyped about, there’s no telling how successful the outcome can be. 

Luckily when Thomas Kirven of Fayetteville, Georgia, was ready to embark on a full frame-off build centering around his ’56 Chevy Apache pickup, he knew exactly who to call to help get the project moving. His buddy Chris Pate is the owner and operator of Mobile Toys Inc., a custom auto-based company in College Station, Texas. The company’s interior-specific offshoot venture MTI Automotive Designs has kept Chris even busier these days, but he was looking forward to extending his resources to help Thomas navigate through the build process from start to finish. Chris’ list of connections would come in clutch while creating a classic pickup that would take the custom scene by storm.

A Steady Foundation 

Under the guidance of Chris, Thomas sent his Chevy out to Texas to get the ball rolling. Drops R Us was the first shop to get their hands on the Apache. While there, the truck’s factory frame was separated from the body and was replaced with a full No Limit Engineering chassis. The new frame was outfitted with No Limit’s own frame stabilizer, steering box, fuel tank, and rear axle. Once the chassis and components were test fit and inspected, they were blown apart and sent out for powdercoat finishing. Wilwood 6-piston braking kits were then installed at each corner, as was front 22×9 and rear 22×14 Savini forged wheels that also feature powdercoated detailing.

The Drops R Us crew wasn’t finished with the Apache just yet, as they were asked to drop in a brand-new GM Performance LT4 engine crate engine—the very same powerplant found in select Corvette Z06 models! To unlock its full potential, the engine was backed with an 8L90-E 8-speed automatic transmission to allow Thomas to have some fun with his truck at the track if he so chooses, as well as cruising comfortably around town. A custom exhaust system with dual Magnaflow mufflers make for optimum air flow as well as a throaty rumble that can be heard from blocks away. A whole lot of dressup work was planned for the engine bay, which would develop further at the truck’s next stop.

The Drops R Us crew wasn’t finished with the Apache just yet, as they were asked to drop in a brand-new GM Performance LT4 engine crate engine—the very same power plant found in select Corvette Z06 models! 

Shape Shifting

Thomas’ Apache soon made the commute within Texas to Alamo Customs in Alvin where it would meet its very transformative fate. Robert Meza of Alamo was there to receive the truck and orchestrate over 200 body modifications to push the Chevy further into the realm of a heavily modified vehicle. The engine bay was just one of the areas that was restyled with gusto. The LT4 was sunk below the surface of a network of expertly fabricated paneling and vents. In fact, the underside of the hood has even been treated in similar fashion. You’d be hard-pressed to find another bay as clean and unique as this—on any vehicle of any pedigree out there.

Next, the team at Alamo gave the Apache one hell of a metal massage, as each panel was worked into pristine condition to get them ready for paint. Aside from conventional metal surface smoothing, custom touches were also in the cards for the Chevy. Some of these modifications blend in more so than others— a keen eye really is required to take notice of them all. A few of the one-off features come in the form of a custom grille, bumpers, and sunken taillights that are an interesting spin from OEM configuration. The bed has also been treated to a substantial amount of work including an entire floor’s worth of carefully cut and stained wood planks. Paint is always a contributing factor to the visual impact of any custom vehicle, so the team at Alamo scrutinized potential combinations of color before finalizing a mixture of champagne and copper candy hues. The two tones work great together and complement the truck’s overall streamlined appearance splendidly. “Less is more” was the general goal to reach with the styling of the truck’s shell, but to get there, countless amounts of effort had to be invested into the process.

The Art of Inner Beauty 

With the Chevy truck taking a unique shape all its own, the time came to carry that form into the cab. MTI Automotive Designs specializes in custom interiors for higher-end vehicles of all types, and it was in this phase that Chris Pate was able to have a hands-on experience with Thomas’ steadily evolving Apache. First, a custom pair of bucket seats were created, followed by a center console, door panels, dash, and pretty much everything else now featured inside of the cab. To make the most of the unique design work, Relicate leather upholstery was used to cover just about every surface within the interior. What couldn’t be wrapped was painted or carpeted to get the desired effect. A slick command center was wired up and placed at the front of the console, which allows both driver and passenger easy access to power window and door popping functions, as well as control of climate adjustments. The dash was wiped clean of everything possible to keep the driver’s line of vision as unobstructed as possible. The Apache’s cockpit turned out just as beautiful as Chris assured Thomas that it would. The interior environment has been simplified and is as dignified as any high-end custom or factory vehicle ever created.

Two years and $250K after the project started, its outcome is worthy of endless praise and shows of respect. Each aspect of the Apache was completed by masters of their respective crafts, and not one single corner has been cut on its way to the finish line. Patience has been key, and once the dust finally settled, Thomas’ Chevy was loaded up and taken to major shows throughout the country. From SEMA to Lone Star Throwdown to Good Guys and Autorama events within Texas, this truck has been seared into the minds of tailor-made vehicle enthusiasts across a wide spectrum. At the center of the build is a meeting of minds amongst pals, as well as an obvious enjoyment of various facets of custom fabrication work. Trophies, awards and magazine features are guaranteed products of a build of this magnitude, but pure passion has been kept at the forefront of this one since the beginning.



  • Thomas Kirven 
  • Fayetteville, GA
  • 1956 Chevy Apache
  • MTI Automotive Designs

Engine & Drivetrain 

  • Shop: Drops R Us, Pasadena, TX
  • 2018 GM LT4 factory supercharged Corvette engine
  • Magnaflow 3-inch exhaust system
  • 2018 8L90-E 8-speed transmission

Chassis & Suspension

  • Custom No Limit Engineering frame
  • No Limit Engineering steering box, stabilizer, fuel tank, and rear drive axle

Wheels, Tires & Brakes

  • 22×9 and 22×14 Savini SV72 wheels
  • Nitto tires
  • Wilwood 6-piston caliper brake kits and master cylinder

Body & Paint 

  • Custom bodywork and paint by Robert Meza @ Alamo Customs, Alvin, TX
  • PPG champagne / copper candy paint
  • Custom grille and bumpers
  • Heise headlights

Interior & Stereo

  • Shop: MTI Automotive Designs, College Station, TX
  • Custom seats covered in Relicate leather
  • Billet Specialties steering wheel
  • Morel stereo


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