Stunning Torch Red paint, glowing Billet Specialties wheels and supple leather upholstery are ingredients you'd expect to find on a high-dollar show truck. So it'll probably come as a surprise when we tell you that Clay and Bonnie Coale's '48 Chevy-which has all those features and more-was built for a little more than $10,000 and gets driven regularly. Of course it helps that Clay owns a hot rod body shop (and didn't factor his labor costs into the price). It also helps that the most important elements-creativity, talent and hard work-didn't come with a price tag.
Clay didn't set out to build a budget showstopper. In fact, he just thought he was doing the town of Nevada, Missouri, a favor when he paid $70 to haul the pickup out of a neighbor's yard. "The city was after him to get the eyesore out of town," Clay recalls. "It sat in the trees behind our place for a couple of years. I tried to sell it several times for $200, but everyone said it was too rough."
Since he couldn't sell it, Clay did the next best thing-he got his teenage son Jason to help him drag it out of the trees so they could start working on it. "We started chopping the top just to see what it would look like," Clay says, and from there a father-and-son project was born.
Not wanting to invest a ton of money in the project, Clay bought an'83 Monte Carlo for $200 and robbed it of as many parts as possible. He and Jason sliced off the front of the chassis and grafted it onto the pickup frame, gaining an independent front suspension, disc brakes, and power steering in the process. The Monte Carlo's rearend and rear suspension were also adapted to the pickup frame. Clay even used the car's gauge pod and instruments, modifying the rest of the truck dash to make them look at home.
A variety of other "recycled" parts were also used in the project. A low-mileage '75 Caprice gave up its 350/TH350 drivetrain (upgraded with a Crane cam, Edelbrock induction, headers, and a B&M shift kit), an '87 S-10 donated its master cylinder, and the tilt column came from an '86 Chevy pickup. Employing used parts allowed Clay to splurge on things like leather upholstery, Southern Air A/C, a Jensen stereo, and a Billet Specialties steering wheel that matches the 17s and 18s that the truck rolls on.
The thrifty nature of the buildup is certainly impressive, but the Torch Red body remains the focal point of this slick Chevy. And for that you have to give credit to Clay and Jason's skilled hands and imaginative minds. Besides the 2-inch top chop, the Chevy wears a filled and shaved hood, modified grille, rolled pans, frenched headlights, shaved trim, filled seams, smooth running boards, V-butt windshield, and one-piece door glass. Clay built the bed himself (he says the smooth floor is a pain in the butt to maintain), outfitting it with trimmed and rounded stake pockets, a smooth tailgate, and widened fenders with custom taillights. The PPG basecoat/clearcoat paint is also Clay's handiwork, and he's not afraid of putting rock chips in it-the truck gets driven wherever it goes.
Sadly, Jason passed away in a car accident before the pickup was completed. The Coales were understandably devastated, and unfortunately the truck became a constant reminder of their loss. Clay even came close to destroying it on one occasion. But his grief eventually gave way to reason and he decided that finishing it would be a more fitting tribute to Jason. In doing so he made the construction cost of the Chevy irrelevant, because now it's a priceless reminder of the times he spent together with his son.