We don't always agree with the names people bestow upon their trucks, but Phil Allen sure nailed it when he dubbed his '53 Chevy panel "Quicksilver." The term refers to mercury, that heavy, silver-white metallic element commonly found in thermometers. And it's certainly appropriate for describing Phil's Chevy, a heavy-metal machine that's plenty hot!
Things weren't always so warm and luminous, though. When purchased for $2,500 in 1999, the lavender and black panel truck was in dire need of attention. "It was in running condition," Phil reports, "but the carburetor leaked so badly I decided to tow it home." Teardown began immediately, with Phil dreaming of a finished rod that was pretty on the outside and nasty underneath.
Like any project, this one had its share of obstacles to overcome-probably more than most when you consider that Phil is legally deaf and a left arm amputee who has survived two major cancer surgeries and a heart attack. Phil knew he would need some assistance, and he was fortunate to find it in the talented hands of his friend Gene Pimper, who helped coordinate the project and logged more than 600 hours working on it.
Phil and Gene knew from the get-go that they didn't want to cut any corners on this project, so they started it out right by sending the frame to Chubby Chassis for complete reconstruction. The crew there boxed the rails, added custom crossmembers, and installed one of the company's independent front suspensions (complete with rack-and-pinion steering and disc brakes). Out back they stepped the rails to allow for an extra low stance. Extra-wide Halibrand wheels and Mickey Thompson rubber were mounted on a narrowed 9-inch rearend hooked to a custom four-link with Aldan coilovers.
Pro street may be just a fashion statement for some, but for Phil those fat rear tires are in place for a purpose-to take abuse from 600 ponies produced by a blown big-block Chevy. The 454-inch monster was screwed together by Speed-O-Motive using a forged steel crank, Speed-Pro slugs, a Crane camshaft, and Dart aluminum heads. The combined whine of the Pete Jackson gear drive and Weiand 6-71 blower should tell you that this mill means business, especially when all eight butterflies of the twin Holley carbs are cracked open. The tidy Rat flexes its muscles via a Turbo 400 tranny and a two-piece driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline.
There's always plenty of metal to be massaged on a panel truck, and this one was no exception. Phil and Gene had the body walnut shell blasted down to bare metal so that Jesse Navarez at California Custom Paint and Body would have an easier time working his magic. The body remains essentially stock, but that's not to say that there isn't a ton of work in it. Just take a look at the fit and finish-it's a lot tighter and straighter than anything Chevrolet churned out in 1953. Look closer and you'll see a few custom touches like the molded rectangular taillights, frenched license housing, and smooth firewall. The truck's name stems from the Mercedes Silver paint, which seems to have enough pearl and metallic in it to really come alive in certain lighting conditions. We caught it on film right at sunset when the paint was literally aglow with the sky's pink hue.
Just like the exterior, there was a lot of space to fill and finesse on the interior of the panel, too. Phil didn't skimp-he turned the truck over to Mark Lopez at Elegance Auto Interiors, who designed a subtle, sculpted cabin and stitched it all in supple leather. Comfort was ensured with the use of a Glide bench seat and Billet Specialties tilt column, while the re-calibrated stock gauges, banjo-type wheel, and Lokar shifter help maintain a vintage feel. An overhead console houses the Panasonic stereo and a trio of Auto Meter instruments.
All told, the platinum-hued panel took about three years to complete. And like any project, it had Phil at wit's end on several occasions. "There were numerous times when I was ready to throw in the towel," Phil says. "My saving grace was Gene. He was there to remind me 'it's no big deal.' I didn't know Gene very well when we began the project, but in the end we became brothers and I had more than the street rod of my dreams-I had a lifelong friend."
Facts & FiguresPhil AllenOntario, California1953 Chevrolet Panel
|Frame / Manufacturer ||modified stock / Chevrolet |
|Modifications ||boxed rails, stepped in rear |
|Rearend / Ratio ||narrowed 9" / 3.50:1 |
|Rear suspension ||4-bar w/ Aldan coilovers |
|Rear brakes ||drum |
|Front suspension ||Chubby Chassis crossmember and IFS |
|Front brakes ||disc |
|Master cylinder ||under floor, power assist |
|Steering ||Chubby Chassis rack-and-pinion |
|Steering column ||Billet Specialties tilt |
|Front wheel make, size ||Halibrand, 15x7 |
|Rear wheel make, size ||Halibrand, 15xExtra wide |
|Front tire make, size ||Mickey Thompson, 205/70R15 |
|Rear tire make, size ||Mickey Thompson, 31x18.5x15 |
|Gas tank ||custom aluminum by Rucker Sheet Metal |
|Other chassis items ||built by Chubby Chassis, Montclair, CA |
|Year and make ||Chevrolet, new 4-bolt block |
|Displacement ||454 ci |
|Engine Builder ||Speed-O-Motive Engines, West Covina, CA |
|Rods / Pistons ||Speed-O-Motive / Speed Pro 8:1 |
|Camshaft ||Crane |
|Heads ||Dart Pro-1 aluminum |
|Valve covers ||Merlin aluminum |
|Manifold / Induction ||Weiand / Weiand 6-71 |
|supercharger w/ dual 650-cfm |
|Holley carbs |
|Ignition / Wires ||Mallory distributor, MSD box / Taylor |
|Headers ||Sanderson |
|Exhaust / Mufflers ||3" ceramic coated / Flowmaster |
|Year and make ||GM TH400 |
|Converter ||2,100-rpm stall |
|Shifter ||Lokar |
|Driveshaft ||2-piece by Inland Empire Driveline |
|Body style / Material ||panel truck / steel |
|Body manufacturer ||Chevrolet |
|Body mods ||custom fit and finish, custom door |
for battery jumpers, smooth firewall
|Hood ||stock |
|Grille ||chrome stock |
|Bodywork ||Jesse Navarez |
|Painter ||Jesse Navarez, California Custom |
Paint and Body, Ontario, CA
|Paint type / Color ||DuPont / Mercedes Silver |
|Pinstriping ||Larry Fator, Quicksiver Pinstriping, San Dimas, CA |
|Headlights / Taillights ||stock / rectangular custom molded in pan |
|Outside mirrors ||So-Cal Speed Shop |
|Dashboard ||stock |
|Gauges ||re-calibrated stock / Auto Meter in overhead console |
|Stereo / Speakers ||Panasonic w/ Alpine amp / Technics 6x9 (4) |
|Air conditioning ||none |
|Wiring ||Gene Pimper |
|Steering wheel ||Billet Specialties |
|Seats ||Glide Engineering |
|Upholsterer ||Mark Lopez, Elegance Auto Interiors, Upland, CA |
|Material / Color ||leather / 2-tone gray |
|Carpet ||gray wool |