Sometimes, the most simple ideas result in the biggest impact. It’s certainly true of Thaven Naidoo’s 1948 Chevrolet Pickup build.
When Chevrolet introduced this model in 1947, it was part of the automaker’s brand new line of ‘Advanced Design’ trucks. The cab was both taller and longer than that of the pickup’s predecessor, while the engine was Chevy’s tried and tested 216ci/3.5L inline-six good for 90hp. Luxury came in the form of a heater and defroster unit.
That specification is a far cry from what Thaven enjoys from his truck today, but it does so while being sympathetic to the past.“We wanted to build a truck that was clean and classic on the outside, modern on the inside and crazy under the hood,” he says.
The concept of purchasing the best car you can for a restoration or restomod project is lost on many, but you only need to have been on the customer side of a build once to know why that is. Sometimes you don’t have a choice though, and in those circumstances you just have to take a calculated risk.
When Thaven picked up the truck it was in pieces, but from what he could tell it was solid. Thankfully, sandblasting later confirmed this.
It took 12 months to gather all the missing and replacement parts required for the truck’s restoration, at which time Slooten Automobile – a well-known and highly-regarded bodyshop in South Africa operated by Simon Slooten – got to work.
There are a number of ways Thaven could have taken the bodywork direction, but he saw no need to mess with Chevrolet’s design. It’s hard to argue with that decision looking at the truck now.
The time spent perfecting the panel surfaces and gaps plays a big part here of course, as does the refreshed and replacement chrome work, and the paint – a custom-mixed and cola-inspired hue that Thaven says took a long while to settle on.
The rear bed, with its tubs and wood finish, and the tailgate were both custom-made by the Slooten team, and all the glass is custom and laminated. A modern but not-too-obvious touch comes in the form of projector headlamps with integrated LED DRLs.
Steel wheels with polished hubcaps were standard fare on these trucks, and while Thaven wanted to stay true to that sort of simplicity he also needed a modern fitment – especially in the rear where a lot of power was headed. His choice of Heavy Artillery wheels from US Mags is a fine one, and I especially like the raw aluminium centres that were chosen for the custom staggered setup. The wheels measure 18×8-inch up front with 225/45R18 tyres, and a staunch 20×13-inch out back with Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R Radials in a 29x18R20LT fitment. All you really need to know about the rear tyres is that they each measure 437mm across.
While the exterior is largely reminiscent of the Chevy’s original design, the cabin is something quite different. In fact, the only remaining factory part is the dashboard, and that’s been completed refreshed to tie into the rest of the reimagined interior. It’s a mix of cola-coloured metal, tan carpet and tan leather, the latter covering everything from newly-designed door cards to the custom centre console and the customised Nissan Patrol-sourced seats.
The interior also features a custom leather-trimmed Grant steering wheel, TCI pistol grip shifter, Autometer gauges, full sound deadening and a Rockford Fosgate audio system.
For the mechanical side of the build, the pickup was entrusted to Mark Slooten of Slooten Race Cars. Yes, that’s Simon Slooten’s brother and someone who’s equally respected in South African muscle car circles. Thaven’s request for something crazy under the hood was well and truly received by Mark, who pieced together a serious twin-turbo Chevy LM7 V8 for the project.
“At the time [of the build] there were very few twin-turbo classic trucks around, hence the idea to go that route,” says Thaven.
The LS-based 5.3L LM7 is a good choice for high-horsepower forced induction builds as it features a cast iron block, and in this case that’s been 0.20″ over-bored to accept a set of SpeedPro forged pistons. The block is now also home to K1 H-beam forged connecting rods, a polished and balanced factory crankshaft, Comp Cams 278-degree hydraulic roller camshaft, plus ARP bolts and Clevite bearings throughout. The cylinder heads are LS1 items that have been fully ported and now use stainless valves and Comp Cams valve springs and retainers.
Of all the engine modifications though, it’s the twin-turbo system that slaps you in the face when you lift the hood – and when Thaven mashes the loud pedal. These are 58mm Precision Turbo units perched on custom stainless steel manifolds and utilising TiAL wastegates for boost control. Twin K&N filters inside the front fenders supply the fresh air, while custom intercoolers keep the intake charge cool.
Speaking of the intake, up top you’ll find a Fast LSXRT cathedral port composite manifold running a Fast 102mm throttle body. On the fuel side of things is a custom 80L tank, twin Bosch Motorsport 044 pumps, a Fast rail and 1,000cc injectors.
The result? Tuned through a Haltech Elite 950 ECU the engine has made 800hp and 1,200Nm on E85. Being flex fuel enabled, it can also run on regular pump gas with 500hp/750Nm available.
Putting this down to those fat rear tyres is a beefed-up GM 4L80E automatic transmission with a Coan 2,800rpm stall convertor, custom chromoly prop-shaft, and a Ford 9-inch limited slip differential running into 31-spline Moser axles. As you can tell, everything has been built tough for utmost reliability. Thaven can beat on the powertrain all day with no worries at all.
The final pieces of the puzzle are the suspension and brakes, and of course those areas were addressed by the Slooten brothers too. The truck now features custom Afco coilovers at all four corners, custom front upper and lower A-arms, and urethane bushes throughout. BMW E92 disc brakes feature front and rear, and a B&M line lock makes smoking the bags a cinch. Not that they need much persuasion with so much power in play.
From every angle Thaven’s ’48 Chevy Pickup is a work of art – unsurprising given it was put together by some of South Africa’s finest custom automotive artisans. The best thing, though, is that it’s properly used – just as Chevrolet intended back in 1948, albeit now with a simply stunning twist.
Photos by Stefan Kotzé
Thaven thanks: “My wife and kids for their motivation to start the build and their support during the build. I’d also like to thank the follows guys: Mark Slooten (Slooten Race Cars), Simon Slooten (Slooten Automobile), Phillip Parke (Fuel Garage), Prean Govender (ICE Motorsport), Ebrahim Patel (Creative Rides Audio).