Last month, we said we were going to include features as part of the DIY Corner, and we have another good one for you. Nineteen-year-old Malcolm Stevenson may be young, but he's definitely got some walk to back up his talk. Every summer since he was 9, Malcolm has worked full time in a steel fabrication shop, which was a huge shot in the arm that gave him the skills and confidence at an early age to tackle just about any project as well as a keen eye for detail. When Malcolm sent us the pictures of his truck, they told a pretty good story by themselves, so here's Malcolm's story, and we're sure he's sticking to it!
"When my older sister Mikayla was about to start high school, she told my dad that she thought it would be cool to drive an old truck after seeing a '54 Chevrolet 3100 sitting next to an old homestead on the side of the road. My dad has had quite a bit of experience with most anything mechanical, cars included, and he thought it would be a good learning experience for his daughter and would create the opportunity for good family time. After stopping to talk to the gentleman who owned it, we found it was in modest shape, running condition, and had a clear title, although its exact history was unknown. On the trip home after making the deal, one of the U-joints snapped and we had to tow it home, but it made for a fun day anyway.
"Some of the guys who worked for my dad helped my sister in the disassembly process. The shop foreman welded in the Heidt's SupeRide II my dad had ordered, but when things started to get busy again in my dad's shop, the guys could not help anymore. Mikayla started high school and soon couldn't find the time to work on the old blue truck, and so it sat from spring 2001 till fall '04.
"The body had sat in a small metal building behind our house ever since the day after we had it hauled home, and around Thanksgiving break of my junior year of high school, I got tired of watching that old iron rust. Mikayla, with the help of some of the guys, had sanded some of the original paint off, but had left the steel bare and exposed to the elements. I had originally intended to just be a kind little brother and finish sanding and maybe shoot some primer so it would not rust anymore. Well, after many, many packs of Imperial Wet or Dry sandpaper, I asked my dad how much work it would take to finish the truck. He said more than I could imagine, but I decided to ask Mikayla if I could buy it from her and finish it. By then she was a sophomore at Texas A&M University, and she said sure.
"That summer I sold my '95 F-250 and used the money to buy some necessities like glass, weatherstripping, and some reproduction latches and handles for the '54. I also bought the four-link from Heidt's and installed it with some help from Dad. When fall '05 rolled around, I had to concentrate on school, but once football season was over, I had so much more time to get out there and get stuff done.
"One of the most time-consuming parts of the project was figuring out the fitment of all the rearend sheetmetal. Behind the cab, all the tin is new pieces from MAR-K and Brothers. I started setting up everything by placing the crossmembers on the frame where they would line up with the original bolt holes. Then I had to fit the front bed panel on top of the forward crossmember and line up the bedsides. After that came the tailgate, the fenders, and then the running boards. The rear crossmember posed a great challenge because it absolutely did not fit. The license plate box on the roll pan hit the lower part, and the light boxes for the taillights hit the lower half as well. I ended up cutting the crossmember in half down the length, which would make it much weaker, so I sectioned up the drop piece, flipped it so it fit just right, and welded it back to my halved crossmember.
"Another challenge was the roll pan. I did not want the lights to have gaps around them and look like they had been installed improperly, so when I cut the slots for the lenses to fit into, I cut them about an 1/8-inch too small so I could trim the excess steel with a file instead of a cutoff wheel. I was determined to get the lenses set in the roll pan before I went to sleep that night, and I did, but by the time I closed up and turned off the lights, the sun was just coming up!
"Over the last summer, I worked nonstop on the truck as well as researching some different crate motor companies. I ordered a 450-horse LS1 from Turn Key Engine Supply. The owner, Kolby, recommended Keisler Engineering for a manual transmission. After reading a few articles and some web surfing, I ordered one of their PerfectFit 6-speed Double Overdrive kits. The original 235ci straight-six fit pretty well under the hood and between the fenders, but the new LS1 was a whole different story! I had to cut, shape, bend, stretch, and weld many pounds of sheetmetal to make it fit. The inner fenderwells required a peculiar amount of attention to get sorted out, but everything eventually came together in the end. The lower part of the toeboard took a bit of cutting as well, but nothing too serious.
"Currently, I'm getting the rest of the wiring loomed up and some details ironed out, and after I get sorted through the last little bit of knickknacks, I'm going to send it to Fred Harmeyer of Rosehill Paint & Body for some color. I should be on the road soon."
Malcolm has done a huge amount of metal work on his '54, and in his modesty he neglected to mention that he also shaved all the emblems and door handles, removed the hood strip, frenched in Hagan headlights and their Caddy-style taillights, filled in both cowl vents, installed one-piece door glass, and smoothed all the factory spot welds, to name a few more things. The Chevy rolls on 18-inch American Racing Torq-Thrust IIs and BFGoodrich tires. Inside, he used '01 Camaro buckets, an '03 Dodge Stratus console, and RodDoor's door panels to round up the interior along with A/C from Classic Auto Air, Auto Meter gauges, and a column and wheel from Flaming River. Keep it up, Malcolm!