Not that my preferences matter any more than anyone else's, but over the years my personal leanings have become pretty evident to my acquaintances and readers-traditional styling and homebuilt hot rods. The first is guaranteed to get my attention under any circumstance, and the second my utmost respect. A perfect case in point is this really cool A pickup I ran across at the NSRA Nats in Louisville last August.
Chris Vannarsdall's pickup and the story behind it (though thankfully just one of hundreds or even thousands like it across the country) is the embodiment of rodding to me. An uninitiated soul runs across an enlightened individual who introduces him to the realm of hot rodding-kind of a high-octane fairytale if you will. It started innocently enough one day when Chris' father-in-law handed him a stack of old rod magazines from the '50s and '60s; the rest, as they say, is history.
Having cut his teeth, so to speak, on traditional-style rods, it was only natural that he began his newfound hobby emulating that style. He soon found a rust-free '30 Ford pickup cab and frame-over in Chicago. It had sat for 16 years awaiting a restoration that never materialized, so he grabbed it while he could. The next three years were spent meeting the local hot rod "oldsters," listening to many a "back in the day" story, collecting parts, and planning the build-obviously time well spent.
As in most cases, the process started with the foundation. The stock A frame was boxed and a set of replacement crossmembers added. Up front, Chris utilized a 4-inch-dropped I-beam, a transverse spring, and a pair of old radius rods previously used on an old dragster. Out back, he fashioned his rear suspension using a combination of POSIES quarter-elliptic springs, an old pair of split wishbones, and a pair of Chevy motor mounts to tie 'em together.
Chris had originally decided to power the pickup with a Flathead V-8, but he ended up trading the engine for a complete '51 Chrysler with a 331 Hemi. Hey, there's nothin' cooler than a Hemi-powered hot rod, right? With a few components from Racer Brown, Ross, and Bob Walker of Hot Heads fame, along with his own fabrication skills (building the dual-quad intake), Chris' Hemi was completed. He backed the 331 with a modified M21 four-speed and used a custom driveshaft to connect it to an old Franklin quick-change he narrowed himself.
With the rolling chassis complete, Chris turned his sights on the body. He took the pristine pickup cab he'd found and proceeded (his very first attempt, we might add) to chop and channel it with obvious success. He then shortened the pickup bed about 10 1/2 inches as well. With the body mods successfully completed, he did his finish bodywork and covered the whole thing in DuPont Sunoco Blue, adding a bit of flattening agent to lower the gloss.
Inside the cab, Chris had added a '36 Chevy truck dash, a homemade column topped by a Hudson steering wheel, and a seat he'd assembled out of plywood and foam. He also sewed the white and blue upholstery himself. As is the case with nearly all hot rod projects, there's a whole host of folks who pitch in and help out. In Chris' case, it was his better half Sue Ellen, and pals Mike West, Ron Alexander, and John Waldin. Chris' young son Jacob kept the whole process on track by literally following Chris around the garage during assembly with some of the vintage rod magazines in hand, thus ensuring a true traditional style.
Chris' pickup is, as I said earlier, a perfect example of a way-cool hot rod-traditional in style, and thoroughly homebuilt, two of my favorite hot rod traits.
There's nothing like a dual-quad...
There's nothing like a dual-quad Hemi wrapped in traditional hot rod garb.
A man after my own heart,...
A man after my own heart, Chris built the entire pickup in his home shop, including the upholstery job. This is what rodding's all about-building them yourself and driving the wheels off 'em.
Chris' pickup sports a great...
Chris' pickup sports a great chop and channel combined with a great stance, straightforward hot rod styling, and a big honkin' engine-the perfect recipe for a timeless creation.
A 331 Chrysler backed by a...
A 331 Chrysler backed by a modified M21 four-speed and a Franklin quick-change has to add up to a wild ride.
Believe it or not, one of...
Believe it or not, one of my favorite aspects of Chris' pickup is its expanded metal grille insert. I'm gonna copy that one on my Homebuilt Hauler.