Proving It Doesn’t Have to Be Complex to Be a Winner

The key to every memorable build is always a higher level of originality. When  you create something that someone hasn’t seen before, your work automatically stands out from the crowd. One approach is to begin with an already unique vehicle, then find a way to subtly rearrange all its dimensions. If you can pull it off, you will soon be pulling into the Winner’s Circle! That’s the approach that Paul Newman used when creating his latest full custom pickup. As the owner of Classic Muscle Motor Company in Daytona Beach, Florida, Paul has created dozens of automotive works of art over the years, each enjoyed for a while and then sold to fund the next shop project. While his business specializes in American-made muscle car creations and restorations, these specialty builds are a great way to showcase the talents of the team. It’s a way to give potential customers an opportunity to see their imagination and fabrication skills firsthand. “We always like to have a big, unique, show vehicle at the shop,” Paul told us and his latest project certainly meets that goal. His last two custom builds, a bagged 1951 Metro van and 1948 Chevrolet COE, also on air, were over-the-top with a heavy dose of modern electronics and stereo. This time around, he opted for a simpler approach, aiming for something less complex yet distinctive in its own way.

12 Valve Cummins, nicely shoe-horned between the fenders.

Here’s how it began. The first step is always finding something genuinely unique, then formulating a plan to take it to the next level. Sometimes it begins with an idea and other times it’s a target of opportunity. That was the case when Paul came upon this rare 1942 ton-and-a-half  Chevrolet pickup truck in North Dakota. Because of World War II restrictions, very few commercial vehicles were built during those years unless they were for the military. The potential of this old red farm truck was immediately apparent. It was in wonderful shape for its age and the original plan was to remove a few dents, add a few custom touches, and keep its patina. Obviously, a few things changed along the way.

Bumper were sectioned and stretched to match the new dimensions.

Turning an 80-year-old truck into something that’s able to handle the demands of modern interstate traffic means incorporating modern underpinnings. That began with a complete disassembly. The cab and the front end were removed to give the team the parameters necessary to lock in a modern chassis. It was important to include a number of essentials like power steering, power disc brakes, and just for fun, there was an idea about a diesel power plant. The team located a 1987 Chevy 3500 1-ton dually chassis, the perfect starting point.

Builds of this style just can’t be complete without a visor.

When the high volume of work at the shop began to divert attention from the project however, Paul’s buddy, Rich Romack from Purple Monkey Customs in Umatilla, Florida stepped in, adding dozens of details. While everything was apart, the frame was upgraded with a full air suspension, using Airmaxx bags, a pair of Viair compressors, and a 5-gallon reserve tank. Drop spindles brought the independent front end closer to the ground while the four link installed by Paul’s team established modern handling. It was also the perfect time to power up the ride with Rich using a 12V Cummins turbo diesel from a late model Dodge. An adapter plate connected the motor to a heavy duty, 4L80 GM automatic trans with overdrive, managed by a Holley TCM controller. In stock form, the Second Gen Cummins sports a “p-pump” fuel injection pump, new injectors, a larger intercooler, and an upgraded Holset HX35W turbocharger. The exhaust was split, making both chrome stacks behind the cab functional. The combination revitalized the old truck although more power tweaks and engine detailing are already on the short list.

The interior is just as nice, if not nicer, than the exterior.

Although the new frame and powertrain established several fundamentals, it also created several more problems. With the front end and cab temporarily in place, Rich realized that major modifications to the length and width were needed. In order to have a bed that fit the new longer wheelbase, four aftermarket bed sides designed for ’47 to ’54 Chevrolets were needed to create one long bed. Two tailgates were also required to bridge the gap, carefully cut to retain the Chevrolet logo in the center. The next step was incorporating a set of aftermarket ’47 -’54 Chevy rear fenders, widening each by eight inches to accommodate the dual 22.5-inch Alcoa tractor trailer wheels. To allow the rims to use modern low-profile tires, they were trimmed to 22-inches. The front fenders were also sectioned, with the cut following the peak created by the art deco headlight fairings. Four-inch wide sheet metal panels extended them to match the wider wheelbase. Custom running boards, complete with external battery boxes, joined front and rear with a set of period-correct Chevy taillights adding to the mix. The final effort was stretching the old bumpers to match the new dimensions. The front bumper was cut in half and a second piece added to the middle. Bumper guards covered the welds. The rear bumper was also cut with the gap in the middle used as an opening for a trailer hitch. Rich raised the bed floor six inches, then added those eye-catching Cypress planks, accenting them with an epoxy pour and tiny LED lights between each plank.

As the truck drew closer to completion, some elements of the plan took a detour.
The well worn red truck was originally scheduled to be a rat rod, retaining its original patina. The recently fabricated bed however, was bright and shiny new metal. Rather than attempt to create a matching patina for the bed, the decision was made to transform the old Bowtie with a custom mixed shade of maroon. Lots of original parts remain that emphasize the vintage character of the truck like the grille, hood sides, door handles, and headlight buckets. The custom visor, cab running lights, stacks, and those wicked Ben Hur wheel spikes create an  aggressive look.

The final phase was the interior with the major revision being a relocated firewall to compensate for the new power plant. The dash was outfitted with modern Dolphin gauges along with an ididit tilt column and billet wheel as well as a Lokar shifter to control the 4L80. Bucket seats came from a late-model Chevrolet and leather and carpeting completed the upgrade. Stereo was omitted since driver and passenger probably couldn’t hear it anyway over the roar of the motor. The build took approximately nine months from start to finish and the truck has become an enjoyable weekend ride. Paul says, “It’s great fun to drive and it already has a Best of Show trophy to its credit. You will never see another one like it.”

Wheel spikes create an  aggressive look.

What are Paul’s final thoughts on this latest build? “We didn’t go crazy with the sound system or the interior. Our previous builds featured wild interiors, custom-made door panels, unique center consoles, navigation, elaborate stereos, backup cameras, and more. This was a much simpler build.”  Sometimes less is more!


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