I nspiration for a build can be found in just about any place; maybe it was something on the way to work, at a car show, in a movie, or even from an advertiser in the pages of CLASSIC TRUCKS. That's right, those spots between our features and tech articles could be fodder for your next truck. Mike Carpenter from Farmington, New Mexico, had been keen on the trucks that now-defunct RB's Obsolete would build to showcase the products they sold for many years (up until recently). In particular, Mike dreamt about the early or First Series '55 Chevy trucks that used up the last of the '54 body crop before the Task Force models were ready to roll off the line. There was something about the `54-55s that Mike found intriguing--perhaps it was the low production numbers or maybe the thrill of the hunt. But whatever it was, he knew he had to have one in five-window attire.
Years later, Mike had some money set aside for his dream and had also befriended Jim Malone at Wild West Street Rods there in Farmington. He explained to Jim his fascination for the Advance Design '55, and the two decided it would be best to find one in respectable shape without much rust to use as a starting point in order to save money in the long run.
Months later, Mike was in Cortez, Colorado, and stumbled on a likely candidate sitting in an elderly man's yard. Of course it wasn't for sale when Mike rang the door bell, but money talks, and soon Mike was hauling the '55 back to Wild West in New Mexico. The Chevy was just what they hoped for and was even roadworthy. Mike knew for years how he wanted the '55 to look and what would be under the hood, so Jim got started.
The stock frame was partially boxed and soon updated with a Heidts Mustang II IFS complete with 11-inch discs, dropped spindles and coils, and a power rack-and-pinion setup. Out back, a drum brake 9-inch Ford rearend was built using a cruising-friendly 3.50:1 ring-and-pinion set that was hung by Jim with RB's dropped shackle and parallel leaf kit. With the truck's low stance handled, Mike selected a set of 17-inch Billet Specialties Vintec wheels shod in Goodyear rubber for a modern-classic look.
Under the hood, Mike wanted the simplicity and reliability of a GM Performance Parts 350 crate engine. The small-block wears Vortec iron heads, a Holley carb, and an HEI ignition. The 330-horse V-8 exhales by means of a pair of block-hugger headers through a 2 1/2-inch exhaust system and into a set of Flowmasters. Former SoCal drag racer and custom builder Kev Ellis was enlisted to fabricate the beautiful shroud that fits the fan and radiator like a glove. Mike ordered up a beefy Turbo 350 automatic from Phoenix Transmission in Texas to handle the transfer of torque for many a carefree mile.
Jim massaged the body back into shape and also shaved the hood emblem and filled the heater vent on the cowl and the stock gas filler hole after installing a No Limit tank under the bed. The color was somewhat tricky for Mike to nail down. He had the name of a shade of yellow he liked, but couldn't find it in the books no matter how hard he tried. After picking out three shades to sample, he went back to the book one more time, and there it was: Wheatland Yellow was staring back at him from the page the PPG book was open to. Now Jim could get to the painting task at hand. Afterward, every inch was cut and buffed to perfection.
For the interior, a Glide seat was covered in cork-colored leather by Lupe's in Highland, California, who also cut and laid the cinnamon-hued carpet. To match the wheels, a Billet Specialties steering wheel now tops the chrome tilt ididit column. Wanting to retain the antique look, the guys sent the stock gauges to United Speedometer Service in Riverside, California, for restoring and updating the electrics to 12-volt. Jim also installed a Vintage Air system to help ward off the dry New Mexico summer heat.
After it was all said and done, we ran into Mike at the Goodguys show in Colorado last year, which was the freshly finished truck's longest trip to date, and a successful one at that. We'd guess that Mike has had the odometer spinning ever since.