As is true with many of us, Steve Contris had been tossing around the idea of building a classic pickup for quite a while. As time passed, the urge grew and Steve found himself frequenting the Big Oak Garage in his hometown of Hokes Bluff, Alabama. He’d stop in often checking out the goings on in the shop and eyeballing all the cool projects rolling in and out. It didn’t take long before he decided it was time for him to step up and begin the search for a classic pickup project of his own. Having a soft spot in his heart for early Chevys, he began looking for a solid foundation for his future classic pickup project.
Not long after Steve began his search he received a call from a buddy who let him know about a ’54 his neighbor had for sale. The truck was supposed to be pretty solid so Steve made arraignments to swing by and check it out. When he did so he was pleased to find that, all in all, the pickup was indeed in restorable shape with the worst of its wear confined to the interior. And as fate would have it, the ’54 was also Steve’s favorite body style. At this point he decided the Chevy was the perfect candidate, so he struck a deal and became the proud new owner of a well-worn 1954 Chevy pickup.
The time Steve had spent hanging out at Big Oak Garage not only served to motivate him to make his classic truck hunt a priority, but convinced him that when he did find a project truck, Big Oak would be his shop of choice for its rodstoration. Shortly after the purchase was finalized, Steve delivered it to the shop and sat down with the guys to hammer out a plan. According to Steve, the guys at Big Oak were as excited as he was to tackle the job. In fact, one of the most difficult tasks at that point was to calm ’em down a bit as they offered up countless ideas.
After Steve shared his plan for the ’54, the crew at Big Oak wasted no time tearing into the project. The cab and sheetmetal were stripped from the original chassis as the Street Rod Garage began fabricating a custom frame to serve as the Chevy’s new foundation. Meanwhile, Steve shipped a 350ci SBC to TA’s Machine Shop for an over-bore (0.40) and related machine work. At the same, time he had the folks at Frost Transmission freshening up a stout little TH350 for use behind the small-block. All the while the Big Oak crew worked diligently on the cab assembly and the balance of the pickup’s sheetmetal, massaging it back to pristine condition and adding a few custom touches as they proceeded.
The Street Rod Garage soon finished Steve’s new chassis, equipping it with their own custom IFS, custom crossmembers, and a 9-inch Ford rearend hugged by QA1 coilover shocks, and big Wilwood disc brakes all around. Soon after Big Oak received the new chassis, it was completed, painted, and fitted with new brake lines, etc., and the newly assembled (by Big Oak Garage’s Jimmy Posey) small-block Chevy was mated to the fresh TH350 and slid into place between the new chassis’ framerails.