As enthusiasts, we’re naturally more in tune with our own cars and the ones around us, than those who just see automobiles as items of convenience.
We apply just that little extra bit of throttle while in a tunnel, heel-toe when it’s not explicitly necessary, and take the long way home to sneak a glance at the more interesting cars in our neighborhood.
Admit it, you have a pretty good idea of how many exotic, modified, or just plain obscure cars rest within a five-kilometer radius of your front door. You’re not only aware of the cars that are operable, but the non-operable ones as well. Maybe you saw a flash of chrome under a tarp, or heard a ratchet clicking away late one warm summer night and followed the sound to its source.
If you’re the extroverted type, you’ve probably introduced yourself, and maybe even lent a hand before returning home and thinking: ‘boy, that guy might be in over his head’.
Hi, I’m him, man in over his head. I might seem hopeless, but I submerged myself willingly and hope to one day come back to the surface.Why Wait? The Time Is Now
My own descent into madness began five years ago. At that point I had owned four cars, each of which had similar modifications: Wheels, a hefty drop, a couple exterior mods, a nice little sound system, and in some cases a few bolt-ons under hood and a cheeky exhaust out the back. Nothing earth shattering, and nothing very permanent.
Usually, once my usual go to modifications were complete, I’d get the itch and start considering another project to – not so shockingly – do the same thing. But this time, before I could make another bad decision, my wife said “enough.”
Tired of seeing me futz about with no real end game, and lose money doing so, she suggested buying something to keep. I knew I married her for a reason.
In hindsight it was a wild suggestion to make, and though she might now want to run back that idea, I’m glad she got the gears turning. A serious build was always on my horizon, but more as a hazy mirage than a firm idea.
With an infinite amount of potential builds on the table, I’m sure many of you are wondering why I chose an old farm truck from the ’50s of all things.
Sure, a more performance-oriented build might have been more fun, but it also would have been much more of a selfish choice. My wife is not one much for racing, and my son is over a decade away from being able to drive legally.
As cruisers go, a muscle car of any variety would have been cool, but none of the ones I really like were within my budget. A truck, however, sat right in the sweet spot – not too expensive to buy, own, or insure, but still decades older, and more challenging than anything I’d previously worked on.
After looking at plenty a bogus examples locally, I pulled the trigger on a truck a friend vouched for from a few provinces over.
Not trying to jump right out of the jet without some sort of map, I got a friend of mine – actually the same friend that built this Dodge Omni – to sketch up a few of my ideas for the final product.
All said and done, it will be kind of neat to see now close I get to what you see above.Becoming Comfortable With The Uncomfortable
Life, if nothing else, is but a series of challenges, and in the automotive realm I wanted this project to be my most challenging yet. Through the years I’ve made enough connections that I could have farmed this build out – at a cost, of course – but that would have entirely defeated the purpose.
Satisfaction at the end of this build requires my hands getting plenty dirty.
Cut the metal, break that bolt, narrowly miss death by a broken cut-off wheel and lose all the 10mm sockets – that needed to be me. So with the help of a friend, who’s well versed in this sort of thing (see below), I tore the truck apart pretty quickly after it arrived.
All things considered, the tear-down went pretty well. A couple of mouse nests, a few dodgy farmer repairs and several sheared bolts later I had a bunch of parts in a pile and a cab that was ready to put on a chassis I purchased from a different friend.
For the technical, the new chassis started as standard 47-55 or ‘Advanced Design’ era frame.
The front clip has been replaced with that of a GM G-Body, and the rear is a custom 4-link suspension built around a third generation GM 9-bolt F-Body rear end. I’ll be using a 4.8 LS as a power plant, backed by a 4L60e, and the air ride system will be based around Air Lift Performance 3H management.
For the non technical, new parts, old body.
At Taylor’d Customs we mocked up the body on the chassis, as well as filled in a few gaps like shock mounts and fuel cell mounts before sending the frame and associated parts out for sandblasting and powder-coating.
Once it was all done, the project moved to my garage.
My garage is absolutely nothing special. It’s a standard two-car in the middle of the suburbs, equipped with mostly mechanics hand tools, a grinder, welder, drill and a chop saw I really should give back to the friend I borrowed it from. There’s no heat, and it is only wired for 110V.
But as I’ve quickly learned, you don’t need a whole lot more than that to build a vehicle.
Within those four, sadly non-insulated walls I learned to shave a firewall, set up a fuel system, design my own air management rack, and run brake lines.
I really hate flaring brake lines by the way.
But one of the most important things I learned throughout the process is humility. It takes a lot to bump up against your own lack of talent one night, regroup, and return to do the same the next night.
Unless it’s your profession, life doesn’t really want you to build cars, and it will throw as much as it can at you to knock you off course. Believe me, there were times I figured I should have taken up crochet, or just stuck to models and remote control vehicles.
But eventually through the try, fail, try process, I started to make some progress, and as of recently, the truck touched the ground for the first time in four years looking less like a pile of parts and more like the makings of a vehicle.Why Isn’t This A Speedhunters Project?
After posting photos of the truck on the ground, Trevor shot me a message asking why I had yet to share my project on here. Honestly my hesitance was largely because I didn’t think it would stack up. In comparison to the last domestic builds on Speedhunters, mine is amateur hour.
But then it dawned on me that it’s been a long time since a grass-roots build was showcased on the site. I imagine there’s plenty of you, like me, fumbling through it looking for inspiration from others in similar situations.
Maybe I’m looking too far deep into the culture, but I feel that if more people built things themselves, there would be a greater appreciation overall for the vehicles showcased no only here but the internet at large.
‘Just’ drops off the sentence ‘another LS swap’ really easily when you’ve done it yourself. Contrary to popular belief, these motors don’t just fall into engine bays, wire themselves up and start running. LS swaps are low-hanging fruit, but in general the car community seems to be at its’ most critical right now.
It’s easy to hate from an armchair, but it’s much harder to do from a work bench. Having a project of my own has allowed me to better appreciate the work of others, even when it’s something I wouldn’t have done.
A lot of time the journey is as much of the car’s story, as the final product and most times nothing is ever really ‘finished’.
To that end, my contribution to the SH Garage will be unlike the others, in that it will be more a celebration of triumphs and less of a traditional build log.
Wheels hitting the ground, paint finally being laid, heck, pushing it out of garage – those are all important milestones that occur before the first drive that are worth celebrating.
So as I continue to get my hands dirty, and inch forward to my own personal goal, I’d love to see what projects sit in your garages.
We’re all in this together, so show me what you’ve got. A little motivation goes a long way when you’ve got a list of things you’ve never done waiting for you inside a cold garage.