What's the perfect oxymoron to describe the extent we go through to build the almost perfect truck? A fine mess, painless torture, reckless caution, and my personal favorite, calculated risk. Let's face it, nothing goes exactly as planned. So can we agree to disagree?
The title says everything about this '55 Chevy. As you read on Kevin Wilsey was not the best welder, but his vision of the end result kept him from ultimately failing. Kevin's new classic is not another quick fix; it's his newfound lifestyle. Like most fathers Kevin wanted to spend some time with his 14-year-old son and build him a truck. When his son turned 16 all he wanted to do was drive the truck. That's when Kevin realized it was not his son's passion but his, so he asked his son to keep a lookout for a truck like his '56 Chevy. "Careful what you ask for, within two days my son had me working a deal on the '55 big-window," Kevin says. "First things first, it is going to get torn apart and given a new life. What I didn't know is it was going to give me a new life." Kevin was already an avid reader of Classic Trucks and with a little research from our list of vendors he was well on his way.
The assembly began with a Heidts Mustang IFS kit, Unisteer power steering, and No Limit's Fatbar four-bar rear suspension. The frame was then sandblasted and ready for the suspension parts to be welded. "I set up the front and rear suspension so I could tack in the necessary brackets," Kevin says. "Not being a welder and having next to zero experience in welding, I felt it was best to have someone ensure I wouldn't be letting parts fly off during takeoff." That turned out to be a good choice, because while he was at the local hot rod shop he was given John Schimmelman's number.
"It turns out my welding was worse than I thought. John gladly cut the section out and started over," Kevin says. "Can't blame a guy for trying, I guess." Knowing he would be able to get the power to the ground, Kevin chose the engine, transmission, and rearend. He chose a 385 Fast Burn crate motor and an Inglese Ida induction system with 5-inch chrome stacks. Kevin says it made a big statement in the looks and power department. He also chose a 700-R4 transmission from Performance Chevrolet. Doug Ballance, a longtime drag racer, helped him with that. "I then decided I needed a bulletproof rearend," he says. "Jaws Gear and Axle of Sacramento suggested a Dana 60. Probably a bit much, but hey, I want to drive it not fix it. With the transmission and engine in place, I was feeling pretty good about my build. I had John from Schimm's Rod Shoppe do a house call to how see how I was doing.
"Moving along it was time to call John over to talk about bodywork, fit, and finish. All three of which I knew the outcome but was very uncomfortable on how to get there. We decided to bring the body panels to John piece by piece. I assured John they fit great when I took them off. While John was doing bodywork, I ordered new bedsides and a smooth tailgate from Mark-K. I wanted to have stainless bedstrips with no fastener heads, and really liked the idea of having an interior tailgate latch with no chains or visible latching. I also decided that I wanted to have bed wood that was different. Being in the carpentry trade my whole life I ventured off to the local hardwood supply house, Auburn Hardwoods. The Bolivian Rosewood just reached out and grabbed me. In the rough-cut it's kind of hard to see the true beauty of wood, but it's nothing a little elbow grease won't take care of. I applied 16 coats of Marine Spar varnish, and it finished to the look I wanted to achieve." Kevin goes on to note it takes 24 hours for the varnish to dry. You do the math on how much time he has invested in the wood bed alone.