Like most hobbies, the street rod and old truck scene is as much about friends, family, and the camaraderie felt between fellow rodders as it is about the iron itself. After all, how many of us would stay involved if it weren't for the friends we meet at shows or in car clubs, or the kindred souls who help us transform those piles of parts into head-turning classic cruisers.
Roy Rockwell's '54 Dodge is a fitting example of the bond that can be found between hot rod buddies. Roy's friend Dave Zohowski built the pickup as a first-time rod project. It was a two-year endeavor that by all accounts turned out great. But shortly after completion Dave determined that it just wasn't the right vehicle for him. He eventually decided to sell the Dodge, and Roy wasted no time trading him a car and some cash for the red Ram (proving that he's not only a good friend, but also knows a nice truck when he sees it). It seemed like a great arrangement, with Roy getting a new rod and Dave being able to keep an eye on (and maybe get an occasional ride in) the fruits of his labor. Unfortunately, Dave died unexpectedly shortly after the sale.
Dave's passing obviously lent a sentimental value to the pickup. For Roy, it became reminder of his friendship with Dave. But even folks who don't know the background can see that it's a high-quality ride in its own right, especially when you consider that it was a rookie effort. A '54 Dodge is pretty unusual hot rod fodder to begin with, so Dave opted to keep the project as straightforward and simple as possible from the start-no top chops, exotic engines, or anything too far out of the ordinary. That's particularly evident on the chassis, where a tried-and-true Mustang II front suspension from FatMan Fabrications was employed on one end, along with an 8-inch Ford rearend riding on leaf springs on the other. The street rod favorite 350 Chevy was selected for power, but rather than go with a crate engine Dave had Cope Brothers assemble the small-block using Dart heads, Edelbrock induction components, and a Mallory distributor. Hooker headers and Edelbrock mufflers took care of the exhaust, and a Turbo 350 automatic finished off the drivetrain.
Like we said before, the five-window pickup body was left virtually stock, partially to keep things simple and partially because it was a very nice truck to begin with. That said, we have to believe that the Dodge's body panels are straighter now than they ever were, and the fit and finish is much better than what came off the assembly line. Richardson Custom Auto can take credit for the fine bodywork, as well as the bright red polyurethane finish.
The interior of the cab isn't overly fancy, but it is plenty comfortable. A late-model Ford bench seat covered with "basic black" cloth and vinyl provides seating comfort, while Classic Instruments keep the driver informed of what's going on underhood. A Sony stereo keeps the tunes flowin', while the factory cowl vent lets in a steady stream of cool Pacific air.
In his three years of ownership Roy took the truck to a variety of local events in Washington, and also made longer treks to shows like the Goodguys West Coast Nationals in Pleasanton, California. The truck proved to be comfortable and reliable on those journeys, and was always well received wherever it went. In fact, a woman by the name of Sandra Ericson was so enamored with the Dodge at the 2001 WCN that she bought the pickup a few weeks after these photos were taken. Roy's glad that the pickup has found a caring new home-he just wishes his friend Dave could see the smiles that his creation continues to bring to people's faces.
"I'm sure that Dave and his wife Gale would be proud about building such a great street rod," Roy says, "and the fact it made it to Pleasanton Goodguys twice and was picked for CLASSIC TRUCKS magazine." We couldn't agree more, Roy.
Facts & FiguresRoy Rockwell/ Sandra EricsonHoquaim, Washington1954 Dodge Pickup