Just the Facts
Model: Roadster Pickup
Owner: John Nissen
Who knows what you'd be reading about right now if John Nissen hadn't picked up the phone. It was Bill Mack, a friend from high school days, calling with some bad news and some good news. The bad news, he was closing his shop. The good news was that John was invited to help clear out the contents. That contents included a 1936 Dodge pickup—a roller with the top cut off and a 1932 DeSoto grille added. Once John got the Dodge to his own shop, Nissen's Hot Rod Garage in Williams, California, he started thinking about how to proceed.
"A bare bones build was planned, so out came the frame jig to begin a chassis," John says. He used 3x1-1/2 120-wall tube for the custom framerails, kicking the 'rails up in the rear. A Dodge "smiley" axle from Bill was flanked by Ford spindles and split 1948 Ford wishbones. The 1957 Ford 9-inch was another of the parts John already owned. Gears are 4.11:1 with limited slip. A four-link was used to locate the rear. Posies quarter-elliptic springs were installed on both ends, along with Panhard bars. The lever-action shocks—GM in the front and Armstrong in the rear—were obtained online from the HAMB website. The engine of choice was a Flathead. John's reasoning? "I last owned one 50 years ago and thought it was time for another." Gary Howard at Flathead City in Grants Pass, Oregon, applied his expertise to building the 1941 Mercury, bored and stroked, balanced and blueprinted, and capped with a pair of original Sharp heads. A FAST EZ-EFI system is matched with a Sharp four-barrel manifold. Speedway headers and shop-built exhaust pipes route gases through MagnaFlow mufflers. The 41 Merc is backed by a Chevy S-10 five-speed, assembled by Cornhusker Rod & Custom in Alexandria, Nebraska.
With all the parts collected, John realized that "now the trouble begins". Designer Christian Dotson came up with a concept that comes to life with an original 1936 Dodge pickup body. John told us length and track width were influenced by vintage Indy cars.
John can quickly install side windows when driving conditions demand it. The cowl was rewo
Bill Mack had eliminated the top at the upper end of the reveal and John rolled the door tops to complete the transformation to roadster. He swapped the hinges to create suicide-style doors. The body was channeled over the 'rails and angle channeled forward of the cowl to align the hood with the bed. A 1932 DeSoto grille shell surrounds a custom DeSoto-style insert. Handmade nerf bumpers adorn the front and rear.
The removable hardtop was built out of aluminum, then covered with Haartz top fabric at Sanford's Custom Upholstery in Anderson, California. A suede headline was stitched underneath.
The 1938 Dodge bed was altered with 1948 stake pockets. Pre-paint sheetmetal prep was handled by B&J Body Shop in Rancho Cordova, California, where Brian Tornatore covered the pickup in bright yellow picked from the Sherwin-Williams book. Craig Judd in Chowchilla, California, finished things off with extensive fine line pinstriping inside and out.
Wheels from Rally America were shot in a contrasting orange-red coat. The 16x7 and 16x5.5 Jimmy nine-spokes with rings and knock-off caps were paired with skinny 750-16 and 600-16 Excelsior Sport tires. A Wilwood dual master cylinder feeds a pair of 11-inch Ford rear drums, and Wilson Welding Lincoln brakes with modified Buick drums in front.
With such an assortment of influences, John had a thousand options available for the interior. He was eager to use the Hillman dashboard he'd found at a swap meet, installing a custom engine-turned insert in the center and packing it with Auto Meter gauges. Tom Stevens at Nissen's Hot Rod Garage wired the truck using an American Autowire system. A restored Superior 500 wood steering wheel was mounted on a Speedway column to add a touch of vintage race car to the mix. Mazda Miata seats were re-covered in tan vinyl at Sanford's Custom Upholstery. Al's Auto Upholstery in Lower Lake, California, finished the door panel upholstery and carpeting.
John says that as the buildup advanced, his goals were advanced as well. What had started out as a low-key driver was quickly evolving into a potential competitor for America's Most Beautiful Roadster. "I am a very lucky man in that my wife, Dawn, reminded me of the original intent of this project. It was a low-key roadster pickup built to have fun in. And at 69 years of age, I might be happier chasing the sunset in the rpu then in chasing the AMBR award and all that is involved in that.
So the rpu was finished as a driver, and that's exactly how John and Dawn are enjoying it—although the road has been known to lead them to a car show from time to time (including the West Coast Nationals, where the Dodge was a STREET RODDER Top 100 winner). John named the truck "Final-Final" indicating that this will be his final project. However, by you time you read this, the gears might be turning on another hot rod project. It wouldn't surprise us one bit.
Old meets new with a Sharp intake manifold fed by a FAST EZ-EFI four-barrel–style fuel inj
Craig Judd’s elaborate pinstriping, applied all over, "really lit that truck up", in John’
A favorite interior detail is the ’30s-era Hadees heater. Gutted and flipped, it serves as