Project 51: Meet Mr. In Too Deep

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.

Dave Thomas
Instagram: stanceiseverythingcom



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Benjamin Scott Cook

The project car updates are what keep me coming back to Speedhunters!


Same here :)
The other articles are great, but the passion I see in personal builds really resonates.


Datsun transmission?

Benjamin Scott Cook

Sure is. 5-speed for my '73 240z.


That looks super adventurous.

Funny I have a story idea on vices. Such unsung hero's in the garage.

I already snapped one in half. But it was a newer one. I'm on the hunt for a good used one now.

Benjamin Scott Cook

My first attempt at a tranny rebuild, I am enjoying it.

I searched garage sales for a year looking for a good, used vise. Eventually buying this new Wilton, a month later I found a barely used, older Craftsman for 5 bucks. Seems things happen that way sometimes.

I'd like to add that I appreciate and enjoy all the content on Speedhunters, but the project car updates make my day.


Man i take my hat off to you. Ive got a 74 alfa GTV and i want to have a crack at rebuilding the box myself - i have never done it before or even remotely close to it.
Ive got a vice, but looking at a shop press as well.
any tips?

Benjamin Scott Cook

Thanks man! I love Alfa GTV's. I would tool up, definitely need a press, split bearing puller, maybe a three jaw puller, there might be some jigs specific to the Alfa box, and a detailed manual. When you take everything apart take lots of pictures, and if you can lay out or stack everything in the order and orientation that it came apart. Some people use wooden dowels to stack everything on.


As the owner of a dropped ‘53 Chevy 3100 that took ten years and the help of many friends to build, I can fully sympathize. But thankfully you bought a great vehicle to start - easy to work on, parts are cheap, and they’re beautiful trucks. Plus you got a five window! Looking forward to future updates!


Heck yeah! That seems really similar to where I'm going.

Yep tons of aftermarket though the patch panels leave a bit to be desired fit wise.

Good think metal cuts and goes back together wellm


Old pickups have an immense potential, although I am thoroughly against lowering them. Play your cards right and you'll indeed get something worth keeping.


I have this bad habit of lowering everything heh.

I think it will be a lot of fun on 3 wide cruises with the family.


The process of a build, the ups and downs and the problem solving is what I very much enjoy. The final product is great to see but the appreciation of build is knowing what was put into it during the process makes the end so much better. I follow this build on you website and love the direction it is going and what it started out as. On of the few projects I have going on is my 88 S10 that I am installing a Honda k24 engine in and rolling on S2000 suspension. Can’t wait to see what else you have in store for your truck.


Heck yes! I love mini trucks, and I almost did this exact combination to my '74 Hilux, but then alcohol got involved and ideas started flowing. So here is my '74 toyota hilux that's been apart for almost a year, but unfortunately not a lot of actual time spent on it. Completely custom frame designed and built from scratch by me, with the entire drivetrain from a '13 Grand Sport corvette. So dry sump ls3, z06 6 speed manual trans and diff, z06 brakes, z06 suspension, etc with a LSA blower, e85 and lots of other goodies. It's taking a lot longer than we originally thought it would, because I refuse to cut any of the exterior body panels of the truck (the x brace in the bed will be bolt in for track days, and semi redundant as there will be horizontal tubes hidden under the bed side). So no widebody, nothing thru the hood, and nothing in the bed- at most wider wheel tubs. We had to narrow the front suspension 13" and the rear suspension 15" compared to how it sat in the corvette. This is the first time I've attempted to fully "build" a car, so I guess you could say I went all in.


oops, this was the picture I thought I attached


Hi, cage design looks good, but take the bends out of your rear down bars at the frame. The bends create a failure point, that and more serious scrutineers will not pass it. Might want to think about how and where they intersect with the frame as well. Your door bar might be a little high, given the work you are clearly putting into this, I'd recommend reviewing FIA Appendix J – Article 253‐8


Hey, thank you for your input, safety is a big goal of mine in this build, as it’s a small truck and I intend to street drive it a lot. The truck is being loosely enough built around an 8.50 NHRA spec to let me run at most tracks at the speed this will run (at best, very high 9’s), yet still allow a functional bed. It won’t actually comply with official rules unfortunately. As for the door bar, the seating position is actually rather high off the floor to be able to see over the dash in the truck, so it passes right between my shoulder and elbow per NHRA rules.


Ah cool. As long as you are aware of it not complying, all is good. I personally got caught with rear down bar issues and roof issues and had a huge sawsall party to rework everything. I do open road racing, so the rules are a little different. Your build it super fun, I want to build a small truck some time, mine is a full size, long bed at that.


Dang, that thing looks nasty. Love the wheel package. I think my next build will be a suburban, trying to figure out how to package everything in a vehicle as small as the hilux hasn't been easy. I guess the grass is always greener! haha


Thanks. Packaging is always an issue. I am doing everything I can to jam all major components between the wheels, add in a low ride height and the room disappears quick. So much time and energy figuring out what to cut out and where to move stuff to put weight in the right places. At this point we have cut, moved and lost about 800 lbs with the addition of a full rally cage.

It's hard on a truck this big, I can't even imagine the packaging issues on a Luv. P.S. love the paint on yours.

This photo is a different POV from the same day as the 1st photo.


This is epic. Hats off to you, you truly went all in.

Did you have to build the shop and chassis table as well?


Thank you! I've redone the back twice and the front end five times now, as I keep not being happy with it - particularly a steering setup that is 13" narrower than what the corvette had, so I can definitely relate to the struggles of a home built car.

I'm lucky enough to have a good friend with a large shop and that chassis table which he is letting me use, and most importantly he has access to a CNC plasma table. I'm always blown away by what people like you are able to get done in a two car garage, I'm very spoiled with having access to a lot of awesome equipment with friends and work.


Holy wow! A K swapped first gen? You have my interest.

Are you doing a build thread anywhere?


I am in the process of doing a blog/build thread website because I really miss the days that builds can be documented on a website and show off the details and stories of the process. I do have some stuff up on my instagram pages @tfigoose and @trueformind also I do have a YouTube channel documenting when I actually remember to pick up the camera lol.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Honda K24 in a Chevy truck? WHAT?!!! :O


I think this is the best project in the speedhunters garage because of how grassroots it is! Something anyone with a dream of hot rodding can connect to and see that anyone can do it. Photo below is my 74 Scamp that started off as a simple project but keeps growing in size!


Lowering it or Gasser?


It will be lowered this summer. So far it's had a custom dash, new interior installed, Rebuilt and modified the 318 that's in it then installed a 727 trans. Took the time with the engine out to clean up the firewall and paint the engine bay the color I want the whole car.


Taking the time on the firewall while the engine is out is such a good idea. As you can tell I did the same figuring I wouldn't want to go back!


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.

That sentence, I don’t know how or why, but it really got me.


Oooo you lucky devil, I dream of having a garage, or a parking space for that matter. I have to go to the supermarket car park for a flat space to jack it up ;).


I hope this is VR6 or W8 powered ;)


Nice write up. You're far too humble with your efforts though. I completely understand where you're coming from - five years into my mammoth build and loving every snatched minute of it...


Thanks! Trust me I went through a lot of grinding discs to make myself look half decent. Getting better as I go though.

Snatched time is the perfect expression!


First of all nice article and ditto project, a lot sounds familiar and definitely relatable. Second, I am currently a tad bit over my head too, with "just" another SR20 swapped S13 that slowly turned into more like a restomod project. Which I started as I was done driving it with slightly clenched buttcheeks everytime, for it was just waiting for the next thing to fail while praying to the cargods it would hold up for another drive. Due to no clear history on engine and gearbox, slightly limited funds, still learning on many levels what works and what doesn't etc. Oh and here in the Netherlands space doesn't really come cheap so this is the first year after starting on cars, around 12 years ago, I can now work indoors. Which means I had to do engine, gearbox, subframe swaps and everything else outside on the driveway at my parents house. But I know I'm definitely not an exception with that and am just proud to be part of that group that, often together with fellow minded friends and other connections, makes it work.

Caveman from the future

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.

That's the tru tru...


Ah at last a budget build by a non-professional!! I absolutely love it as it provides the real inspiration to so many of us out there that have taken the plunge in the deep end with a 'home build'.
Here is my KE10B Corrola with 3sge Beams heartbeat , still along way of road worthy but it is all my creation and gives me untold joy just being around it. Hopefully over the next few years i can start to get the last of the items ticked off and get it finished.


This is my E30 318is. Had it for nearly 6 years now. Since the last pic of the roof being fixed it's now a totally bare shell and I'm almost done doing all the engine bay stuff. Going to be a very long road until it's done, but this car is a lifer; so do it once do it right.


My first car was an Artic Blue 85 325e. I sold it to fund some stuff and I am not looking for it again to see if I can get it for my son (or me disguised as him).

Great cars!


My son Ed and I are bringing his 1969 Triumph Spitfire back from the dead. Floors, brakes and suspension were mostly completed in the driveway. It’s inside for the cold months. The short term goal is to build street car with the look of a ratty race car.


I too would love to see more grassroots builds- budgets by a non-professional-

I am also slaving way in my basement with a angle grinder and a vice- almost 9 years into the build but almost there-


That looks great. In 9 years how many times have you gone back and redone work from previous years? Asking for a friend...


HA- no way could I count the times....Numerous times something new and better comes out- just have to look the other way. Plus you find that great deal when you were just 'looking' on craigslist...


These are the type of builds I wish Speedhunters did way more of. I say that because these are the types of cars that are attainable to most of us and it makes it real. Sure all of the other stuff on here is cool but could I really afford it? So often after seeing builds like this I find myself pricing and specing out a similar build because it is attainable. I still look over and re-read up on Project Yankee. I hope these type of builds become more common here on Speedhunters. Thanks!


Anyone know if the Speedhunters store is ever coming back?


Great write up ! I am restoring a classic Alfa Romeo from the ground up, just like you I have limited space and some basic tools. I'm working on the project with my dad's help, who is a pretty good diyer but never worked with sheet metal but with some ingenuity he managed to form some pretty complex panels. I have restored a couple of cars in the past but this car in really bad shape. I went for it since I bought it as an unfinished project, and the previous owner had bought most parts needed to finish the restoration. I'm decided to make a video series and post on Youtube as it might inspire others to go for it! Here's the latest episode


Yes! More of this please! Great article! Love the grassroots builds! Even the comment section of this is good!


Great write-up! But not the first Speedhunter article to address this topic. To wit: "Just about anything can be built with a 4.5-inch grinder, a MIG welder, and determination." Speedhunters, 17 Dec 2018, Coyote-powered A pickup

Here's my ten-years-and-counting project: '28 Ford


Ha funny enough I wrote that. I'd love to say it was intentional foreshadowing...


Do I see some BMX race bikes in there?


I was waiting for someone to ask about the bikes, yes you do, big BMX/bike:
Haro Mini (son's race bike)
GT El Centro (son's park bike)
Standard 125r (my race bike)
DK Team V3 (my park bike)
An Eastern complete (wife's bmx)
And a 29er MTB that is also my wifes.


Yes I saw the BMX bikes as well. Another love of mine is BMX. I now ride a 24", at age 48 I needed something a little bigger. Standard Bykes builds bulletproof stuff. Awesome for you to post up what you have bike wise.


I really needed this. The internet is such a dangerous place full of car envy and feeling like you’re unfinished build will never be great. But this was so refreshing.


I don’t read a lot of Speedhunters articles. I normally just skim through them and get straight to the pictures, but I decided read this one right here and it was probably one of the best things I’ve ever read. I love how you started out talking about what it’s like to be a car enthusiast and then you get into the build itself and explain what’s happened, what’s going on, and what’s for the future. Then you go back on the topic of what’s it like to be a car enthusiast. Absolutely brilliant. I really appreciate this article and it’s absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever read


What a great story. I designed and built a car from scratch. Having never done anything similar before. I taught myself to weld, to work composites, and ask questions. It is a humbling and character-building activity that no one else can comment on until they have done it.
It always amazes me the knockers and critics as they are quick to find fault but not see the triumphs.
Many a time I was asked why did I design and build my own car; there are supercars at similar prices, and kit cars if you must build something.. These comments all fail to realize that it is the journey of the build that is the best part, and often not so much the destination.


Wow, are my eyes tricking me or did you build two?


Yeah. Had a few too many beers one night in the shed with my mates when I was almost done with the first car and.... all these parts I had to make a set of.....why not make a pure track weapon, they said........ Hmmm Here hold my beer was the answer.


Great article man, I can see a lot of myself in this story. I've been wrenching on my project for 4 years and sometimes I wish I'd taken up surfing instead. but the further I progress the more rewarding it becomes


Here's one I shot a few months back - 1951 Chevy, extensive chassis work, Nissan VH41 all built by a young bloke in the shed. Masterclass.


What a great article... and OH how it hit's home. Most people, car enthusiasts even, have no clue the amount of work that it takes to truly build a car. Build is a term that is thrown around all too loosely. The amount of dedication required is unfathomable for most. My hat's off to you, in-too-deep-guy. Attempting a real build on your own takes some stones but you never know what you can do unless you try.


stoked for you dave!