I had always really liked and wanted to build a '55 Chevy pickup--so in 1983 I started looking for a suitable candidate. I didn't care what condition it was in as long as it had the proper paperwork title. After about three months of searching I found one in Linden, California. I paid the man $600 and towed it to my house. The truck was an old farm truck and was still about 75-percent original.
I worked on it on and off since then. During the last five years, I spent more time than ever working on it. I went to a lot of swap meets and shows looking for parts and ideas to keep in touch with the hot-rod styles and designs of other vehicles that were out there. For the last nine years, the street I live on closes down for an annual 4th of July block party--which consists of games, food, dancing, and a show 'n' shine vehicle show. My neighbors and friends who have hot rods have been giving me a bad time for the last 10 years about how long I have been working on my truck. Every year I would say, "Next year my truck will be ready for the block party," but then something comes up and I make another modification that prevented me from getting it done. Well now I can truly say and mean it, "My truck is ready for this year's block party." It has taken a long time to build, but it came out the way I wanted it to--different than other trucks!
The most challenging part of the buildup was looking for the right curves and the right lines. Making something that was fat and bulky into something streamlined was difficult but very rewarding when it was completed. I started with the cab by cutting the roof 3 inches. But I didn't want to cut the windshield because I had heard that windshields tend to crack when you cut them. My solution was to drop the windshield into the cowl about 3 inches.
The windshield wipers followed the drop into the cowl, which resulted in hideaway windshield wipers. I also welded the three-piece cowl together to make it one-piece. With the top lowered, I felt the mid section of the cab was too bulky. So I decided to section the cab and doors 6 inches. Doing this put the cab in proportion. I shaved the door handles, and then I took the vent window out and made it into a full single-piece window.
I cut the front fenders one side at a time. I began to realize that I needed more parts, so I bought another '55 truck to use just for parts. I had to make the fenders match the height of the doors, so I started cutting the back of the fender first and then moved to the front. I started using parts from the other truck. When I made mistakes cutting the fenders, I would just start over again. I had to work around the front bumper and the front light, and there were a lot of curves to make it look like the original fender.
Once I finished the first fender, I noticed I didn't have enough room for the park light. So I left it off and sunk it in behind the grille. I completed the other fender the same way, but it was easier the second time around. I jumped to the hood and took 2 inches from the front and pie-cut it--which brought it down closer to the top of the front fenders. It made it look smoother. I then had the hood louvered. I wanted the grille to retain the look of the stock '55 grille, so once the surround was done, I built the insert with the bars going horizontal as if it were floating in the air. With the cab and front end cut the way I wanted them, I primed them and started working on the bed.
The original truck was a stepside, but I prefer the look of the Fleetside beds--similar to the Cameo. But the Cameos didn't look right to me; they were too short. I decided to build my own bed and found a '57 Chevy panel that had the quarter panels I could use that would give me the Fleetside look I was after. The late-'55-59 trucks have just about all the same body styles. I removed the rear doors off the panel and cut it so the tailgate would fit and lean forward a little. The fit was perfect.
I wanted to do something different with the taillights and always liked the '54 Chevy passenger car taillight. I used some stock frames only for measurement and then built my own--which I then frenched into the rear of the quarter. Custom tail lenses finish them off. The back bumper is actually a front bumper cut in the middle and shortened at each end.
With all the cutting that was done on the exterior, the interior needed some special attention of its own. I had to determine just how much headroom and floor space there was going to be and then build the seat to optimize it. The seat had to be low and the headliner had to be as high as possible. The finished seat, covered in Mercedes vinyl, works good although the headroom is still a little tight.
I've really enjoyed the truck for the few months that it has been done and even took home two First Place trophies (First Place - Custom Radial Pickup and Radial "Handbuilt" Pickup) at the Cow Palace show in January.
|F A C T S & F I G U R E S |
|Angel Miranda |
|Fremont, California |
|1955 Chevrolet |
|Frame ||stock |
|Modifications ||rear section kicked up 8" |
|Rearend / Ratio ||9" Ford with Detroit Locker / 3.55:1 |
|Rear suspension ||leaf springs with RB's Obsolete shackles |
|Rear brakes ||drums |
|Front suspension ||Fatman MII |
|Front brakes ||12" discs |
|Steering box ||rack-and-pinion |
|Front wheel make, size ||American Racing Torq-Thrust II, 15x6.5 (3 5/8" bs) |
|Rear wheel make, size ||American Racing Torq-Thrust II, 15x12 (8" bs) |
|Front tire make, size ||Goodyear, 225/60R15 |
|Rear tire make, size ||Mickey Thompson, 29x15.5-15 |
|Gas tank ||stock |
|Year and make ||GM crate engine |
|Displacement ||350 ci |
|Camshaft ||GM |
|Heads ||GM aluminum |
|Valve covers ||GM steel |
|Manifold / Induction ||GM aluminum / Edelbrock 750-cfm |
|Ignition / Wires ||HEI |
|Headers ||Hooker |
|Exhaust / Mufflers ||2 1/2" dual / Flowmasters |
|Make and model ||'69 Muncie four-speed |
|Clutch ||Ram |
|Shifter ||Hurst |
|Body style / Material ||pickup / steel |
|Manufacturer ||Chevrolet |
|Modifications ||chopped 3", sectioned 6", hideaway wipers, shaved handles, one-piece cowl |
|Fenders front ||sectioned 6" |
|Hood ||pie-cut 2", louvered |
|Grille ||custom-built |
|Bed ||custom-built from '57 Chevy panel truck |
|Bodywork and paint by ||owner |
|Paint type / Color ||Glasurit Tri-Color / yellow |
|Headlights / Taillights ||Halogen / '54 Chevy |
|Outside mirrors ||'95 Impala |
|Bumpers front / rear ||smoothed stock / narrowed front bumper, shortened each end |
|Dashboard ||custom-built |
|Gauges ||VDO Heritage Gold |
|Stereo ||Alpine |
|Steering wheel ||Colorado Custom Classic |
|Steering column ||'85 GM tilt |
|Seats ||custom-built to fit cab |
|Upholstery by ||Byron Robeck, San Jose, CA |
|Material / Color ||Mercedes vinyl / camel |
|Carpet ||camel |