There are lots of ways to enjoy our hobby, thanks to the virtually unlimited availability of parts for our old trucks. If you want to restore yours back to factory original, a huge selection of remanufactured parts is usually just a phone call away. If driving 50-year-old technology is not part of your plan, the combination of aftermarket crate motors, custom chassis, and modern suspensions can transform your vintage ride into a road course rocket! But Gene Wood found one more approach that gets the job done quite nicely.
Wood became an enthusiast at the ripe old age of 14 when he started working in a body shop after school. Over the years, he learned the trade, working on cars as both a job and a hobby. A half century later, he has more than a half dozen custom-built rides to his credit with his latest designed to fill a very specific purpose. Gene and his wife Jan are about to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and want to commemorate the event with a trip to California from their home in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
Gene's plan was to build a classic truck that was reliable enough to get there and back as well as economical enough to not break the bank. And, with years of experience, he knew exactly how he was going to do it. Gene began with a 1951 Chevy pickup body shell found at the Goodguys show in Columbus, Ohio. Using the metalworking skills he acquired over the years, he began transforming it to like-new condition. About the same time, he located a wrecked 2002 S-10 that had been rolled, but the chassis, suspension, and powertrain were still in good shape. Gene's had several big honkin' V-8s in previous rides, but the 4.3L V-6 and automatic in the S-10 had plenty of power, was reliable, and would give him the economy he was looking for. His plan was to reuse everything right down to the factory computer, catalytic converter, and stock mufflers. Power steering, power brakes, air-conditioning, and factory stereo simply added to the fun.
The first step was to cut 8 inches from the extended cab chassis, box and reinforce the framerails, shorten the driveshaft, and swap a wider Camaro rearend into place. The truck runs the original S-10 suspension, shocks, and disc brakes. What makes Gene's approach unusual is the amount of parts from the S-10 donor truck that he was able to incorporate into the design, like cutting the firewall out of the old 1951 and replacing it with the one from the S-10, leaving all its components still in place. He followed up by cutting the floor pan out of the vintage cab and installing the one from the S-10, allowing him to incorporate the modern dash, center console, and even the GM seat rails for the reupholstered Olds Bravada power bucket seats.
Once the modern chassis was ready to be married to the 1951 cab, lots of subtle changes were added to the vintage tin like the all-new bed with a flush-fitting tailgate, LED taillights, and an aluminum tonneau cover with a metal frame, supported by a pair of gas struts. Inlaid wood covers the bed floor. The contours of the rear fenders were changed to flow into the new rear pan, complete with license plate box. The door handles were shaved and Camaro side mirrors added along with single-pane power windows.
The two-piece hood was welded into a single unit, the headlights received a subtle frenching treatment, and the original Chevrolet grille bars were accented with an additional bar, turned upside down, and welded in place at the bottom of the grille. Turn signals and driving lights are nestled between the bars. Front and rear bumpers were removed and several areas around the bed and cab were filled in with sheetmetal panels. The truck rolls on 16x8 American Racing Torque Thrust rims, wrapped in Toyo Extensa All Season radials. They add to both the looks and handling of this new/old ride.
Inside, the truck has the look of a modern S-10, complete with factory dash, center console, and trimmed Oldsmobile seats that Gene upholstered in a combination of charcoal leather and Amber Glow fabric. Look closely and you'll see a subtle recess around the seatbacks. Gene says he gained about 2 inches between the inner panel and the outer sheetmetal, significant when it comes to comfort and legroom. Gene does his own paintwork and felt the rounded contours of the Chevy cab and fenders really needed a bright color to highlight their curves. He chose a Chrysler formula, spraying a basecoat, clearcoat shade of Amber Glow.
It took about three years to complete his "best of both worlds" truck and Gene is very happy with the results. Using the S-10, he had all the components necessary to create a late-model driver, one that's quick, reliable, and gets good mileage. What's the best advice he has for new truck builders? Throughout the build process, Gene says, "I've learned to step back and look at it, to see if that's really what I wanted. Patience is an advantage." What's in store for the future? Gene plans to build a matching teardrop camping trailer that will be the perfect addition for he and Jan's long-awaited California trip.
1951 Chevrolet pickup
Gene & Jan Wood
Frame: 2002 S-10
Modifications: chassis rails shortened 8 inches, boxed, and reinforced
Rearend/ratio: Camaro rear with 3.52 gears
Brakes: four-wheel discs
Rear Suspension: S-10 factory leaf springs And shocks
Front Suspension: S-10 factory coil springs and shocks
Steering: S-10 power steering
Front Wheels: 16x8 American Racing Torq Thrust
Rear Wheels: 16x8 American Racing Torq Thrust
Front Tires: Toyo Extensa P225/55R16
Rear Tires: Toyo Extensa P235/65R16
Gas Tank: factory
Engine: 4.3L V-6 with custom sheetmetal radiator shroud
Valve covers: stock
Manifold/Induction: factory fuel injection, K&N filter
Ignition: factory ignition
Headers: factory exhaust manifold
Exhaust/Mufflers: factory muffler
Transmission: GM overdrive automatic
Modifications: shaved door handles, Camaro side mirrors, and single-pane power windows. Center brake light cut into the cab. Numerous sheetmetal panels added to fill openings.
Fenders: frenched headlights up front and rear fenders recontoured to meet the custom rear pan
Hood: two-piece hood converted to a single unit and shaved smooth
Grille: original grille bars augmented with an additional bar, turned upside down, a filler panel added, and welded in place at the bottom of the grille. Turn signals and driving lights reside between the grille bars. Front bumper removed.
Bed: new sheetmetal bed with flush-fitting tailgate, custom rear pan, LED taillights, and steel framed, aluminum tonneau cover with gas struts. Custom wood panel inserts on the bed floor.
Bodywork by: owner and Blackwood SheetMetal in Columbus, Ohio for the bedsides
Paint By: Gene Wood
Paint Type/Color: Chrysler Amber Glow, basecoat/clearcoat
Headlights/Taillights: frenched headlights and LED taillights
Outside Mirrors: Camaro
Dashboard: Factory S-10
Gauges: Factory S-10
Air-conditioning: Factory S-10
Stereo: Factory S-10
Steering Wheel: Factory S-10
Steering Column: Factory S-10
Seats: Olds Bravada, cut down to below the back window
Upholstery By: owner
Material/Color: charcoal leather and Amber Glow fabric