1953 Chevy Truck - Just Kiddin' Around

A Young Gun Takes On A '53 Chevy Buildup

Bob Ryder
Jul 1, 2004
Photographers: Wes Allison
Photo 2/2   |   1953 Chevy Pickup front Side View
Many people say that today's youth is getting a bad rap, since the younger generation has been immersed in video games, computers, chat rooms, and cell phones since birth. The planet has never possessed a generation so diversified in technology. This computer-literate generation has developed its own high-tech language and means of communication that has become foreign to many of us. Not only are they portraying their life's journey in computer files and journals, they are forecasting their future with the aid of a computer. Of course, every generation's youth has their own identity. For instance, the baby boomers had musclecars, long hair, incense, beads, and a war that didn't make sense to anyone, except those on Capitol Hill.
A young kid from Fresno, California, possesses a rolling masterpiece that could take many enthusiasts a lifetime to accomplish. Byron Erkenbrecher is a graduate of Fresno Christian High School and is now a 19-year-old student at Fresno State. Byron had a vision of building a cool early model custom truck when he was in the seventh grade. Convincing his dad, Ron, of his intent, they set out on an expedition. A few months later, they discovered a '53 Chevy driver in good condition. After throwing down a fistfull of Franklins in exchange for the pink slip, Ron drove it home. Initially, it was to be a father and son project, but later, Byron's close junior high buddy, Jordan Gilmore, became involved. The two teamed up with Ron's expertise, since he is a previous street rod and musclecar builder who knows his way around a toolbox. Ron stressed the importance of organization. The boys photographed assembled parts and components in detail before anything was removed and disassembled, then every part and fastener was labeled and bagged. Within days, the truck was just a bare frame and an empty body carcass.
Knowing a custom ride begins with the frame, Byron sourced out KRA Customs' Jeff Zander, who designed and built the custom frame with 2x4-inch framerails that were extended 6 inches from stock, then fabricated a triangulated four-link rear suspension and installed a Chubby Chassis Mustang II front IFS kit. The four-link rear suspension bars and upper wishbone, along with the front upper and lower A-arms, were dipped in the chrome tank, contrasting the powdercoated purple frame, as well as the Art Morrison Ford 9-inch rearend stuffed with 4.11 gears. Pro-Shock components, teamed up with Firestone airbags fed by two Thompson compressors at each corner, give the truck its athleticism and ability to impact the earth's crust and rise to a comfortable ride height.
A handmade polished aluminum fuel tank is linked to the engine with polished fuel and air lines supported by chrome-plated hardware. Wilwood disc brakes in the front and rear are responsible for the truck's straight and true braking. To maintain a nostalgic rolling stock, Byron bolted up a set of 19-inch Colorado Custom Slater five-spoke twisted wheels wrapped by P245/35R19s in the front and P285/30R19 Michelin rubber in the rear.
The fat-fendered '53's grunt comes from a 350ci small-block Chevy that was machined and stroked to 383 cubic inches by the crew at Beck Racing Engines (BRE). BRE brass freeze plugs were carefully aligned and installed into the engine block. After machining the 350ci Chevy cast-iron block, a set of Clevite main bearings were installed onto the block's crank bores, and the 400 cast-steel crankshaft with 0.200 inches machined off the main journals was then laid onto the block's main bearings. A Fel-Pro rear main seal was covered in silicone and positioned into place.
Next, Durabond cam bearings were carefully installed into each of the camshaft bearing bores. After sizing the 5.7L (350ci) connecting rods, Clevite bearings were fitted into the correctly sized rods and caps. Each of the Keith Black hypereutectic pistons were pinned to the 5.7L connecting rods, and Childs & Albert dura-moly rings were slipped into the piston ring lands. After the connecting rods and pistons were slid into the cylinder bores, an ARP chrome-moly main bearing and rod bolts were torqued to spec. A Crane hydraulic camshaft was then inserted with matched Crane lifters and BRE chrome-moly pushrods. To ensure indexed and precise timing of the crankshaft with the camshaft, a Crane Cams Tru-Roller timing chain set, a Fel-Pro gasket, lock kit, and bolts were secured. A set of Fel-Pro head gaskets were sandwiched between the block, and Dart Iron Eagle cylinder heads were secured with a set of ARP head bolts. BRE one-piece swirl-polished stainless steel valves, measuring 2.020 and 1.600 inches, are sprung by BRE high-performance valvesprings and chrome-moly retainers. Also included in the mix are BRE heavy-duty heat-treated valve locks and Teflon pollution control valve seals.
The Crane Cams roller rocker arms are anchored with BRE screw-in rocker-arm studs and GM guideplates. A Melling high-volume pump drive unit is secured with ARP studs and nuts. After checking the Muldoon oil pan for fitment, a one-piece Fel-Pro silicone oil gasket was aligned, and the pan was bolted in place using BRE pan bolts. To ensure no air leaks, a Fel-Pro Performance intake gasket was laid down before installing the Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold secured with 12-point ARP bolts. To eliminate any oil leakage or seeping, Fel-Pro valve cover gaskets were installed between the Dart cylinder head surface and the BRE chrome steel valve covers with baffles, grommets, and breathers. A BRE high-flow, high-profile K&N air cleaner filters the air before entering the Barry Grant Demon 825-cfm carburetor mounted atop the BRE carb spacer and gasket. A Mr. Gasket 110-gallon-per-hour fuel pump keeps the Barry Grant Demon carburetor nourished with plenty of fuel. The fuel lines are plumbed with Russell/Earls A-N fittings and solid stainless fuel lines and hardware. The ACCEL blueprinted HEI distributor is sparked by an ACCEL Super Coil. MSD Ignition wires link the spark to the Champion spark plugs.
On the exhaust side, a set of custom ceramic-coated headers were bent and welded by Steve Kent. The headers flow into a pair of Warlock mufflers. A Griffin aluminum radiator, aided by a 16-inch Spal electric fan, keeps everything cool during those hot summer cruises. Polished hoses, a water pump, a power-steering pump, and March pulleys and brackets enhance the engine compartment. The horsepower is bolted up to a fully detailed TCI 4L80-E automatic transmission. With this Chevy 383 stroker assembled, it was ready for a strenuous workout on the dyno, where it squeezed 435 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque on 91-octane pump gas.
The exterior, however, is what really sells this beauty, which is based on a '53 Chevy five-window coupe pickup that has received its fare treatment of body mods. It is covered with DuPont Lemon Glow, both inside and out. The exterior mods were started by completely shaving the skin, the mirrors, the windshield wipers, the upper and lower bodyline in the bed, the door handles, the gas door, the cowl and side vent, the body seams, and the emblem holes were filled and smoothed. The front headlight buckets were frenched and stuffed with a pair of tri-bar headlights.
To achieve the one-piece appearance, the front fenders were welded and smoothed to the body's side supports. The Bitchin' Products firewall and inner fenders smooth out the engine compartment. In addition, a custom stainless bumper sucks up against the apron and fenders. A 6-inch stretch section was grafted to the center of the cab, and the doors give the elusion that it is chopped. By stretching the cab, it creates a much more spacious interior. The cab also received electric-powered one-piece side windows, eliminating the window wing vents, and a V-butted glass windshield. Byron's imaginary vision was tested when he came up with scrapping the stock bed and replacing it with a modified '95 Chevy bed that was narrowed to meet the stock bed specs. The front of the bed was reshaped to fit the contour of the rear of the cab. The bed stake holes were capped, filled-in, and smoothed. The rear stock taillights of the '95 bed were also filled-in and smoothed, and to complete a totally smooth shaved look, the tailgate was first welded up, then shaved. A Sir Michaels steel roll pan features intense LED taillights, and the stock '53 rear fenders were then profile-matched, welded to the bed sides, and molded in to complete the one-piece bed appearance. A tailor-made, snug-fitting bedcover was fitted flush with the bedrails, which can be elevated electronically.
With all of the body mods achieved, the '53 was then prepped for paint. Bill Colby spent endless hours straightening, sanding, filling, and block-sanding the fenders, the hood, the cab, the bed, and the interior. These areas were worked over every inch of their flat, concave, and convex surfaces in preparation for paint. Bill fired up his paint compressor, poured his mixed portions into his spray gun pot, and the old '53 metal surfaces received endless coats of DuPont Lemon Glow paint followed with multiple coats of clear that were wet-sanded between each coat to create the bright lemon-yellow's endless depth. A pair of custom-built smooth running boards link the front and rear, like bark on a tree.
Opening the door of the stretched cab exposes us to the creative craftsmanship and stitchwork of Craig Renn, who redesigned the entire styling of the interior cocoon. Starting with the smoothed and reshaped metal dash that intersects into a flowing center console running the entire length of the floor, it was color-matched to the body with two-tone gray-leather side panels. Craig covered the internal surfaces with a layer of Dynomat to deaden any road noise and enhance the audio sound quality. After covering the door panels with two tones of gray, the headliner was scalloped with flames all the way down the back section of the cab.
The smoothed dash features a set of Dakota Digital gauges. The electrical is all loomed neatly by Street Works. An ididit polished aluminum steering column is capped with a Colorado Custom leather-wrapped steering wheel, which also complements the Lokar Performance Products e-brake and pedal assembly. To view the traffic behind him, Byron glances at the Trenz billet aluminum flamed rearview mirror. Vintage Air contributes to the cabin's comfort zone, and California Car Stereo imbedded two JL 10-inch subwoofers into a triangulated sound chamber, secured and concealed behind the custom tilt seatbacks. A Kenwood head unit is concealed in the center console, and a pair of PPI amplifiers is hidden under the seats. The incredible power creates skull-splitting and eye-popping sound waves that develop into tremors, creating crevasses and fissures in the asphalt. Mid and high sound waves are produced by a combo of MB Quart separates hidden throughout the cab.
With the bedcover raised, it exposes us to the inner panels and compartments of the bed, which have been covered in two shades of gray leather. The bed's front compartment is occupied with two Optima Red-Top batteries. The inner side panels and fenderwells also received a layer of gray hide. The floor section of the bed has been left open to showcase the craftsmanship of the KRZ chassis and rear suspension. The underside of the bedcover is also covered in matching gray hide, but with a diamond-flamed mirror embossed in the center.
Exposure to this one-of-a-kind masterpiece demonstrates the commitment that went into Byron's '53 to us older custom truck enthusiasts - we know the custom classic truck hobby is in good hands of the today's youth.
It is always cool when a son is influenced by his dad's passion for custom rods and trucks. Having something in common with your son adds to the catalyst of a dad's lifelong commitment toward his bond and love. This experience has definitely given both of them the kind of pleasure that's priceless
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