1948 Chevy Panel Truck - Fat Rat Panel
A '48 Panel That Has More Than Just Big Fenders
It is a pretty rare occurrence to come across a truck as old as this one, but it's more rare to find one with such a detailed history behind it. The owner knows everywhere this panel has been since it was purchased 50 years ago, and it's an incredible story.
The story starts with Donald Zody of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, who owns a moving company called Zody's Moving and Storage. The company was started by Donald's father in 1930 and has been a family affair since day one. Now, some 74 years later, Donald runs the show with his offspring in tow for the long haul. At some point in Donald's life, his father had a panel van similar to this and it was Donald's desire to build one not only in memory of his father but to show the company's deep roots. Donald's son Doug just happened to be storing a disassembled '48 Chevy Panel in his garage and a deal was struck to create what you see here. It's how Donald came to own the panel wherein the story lies.
Originally purchased new in 1948 by the Frick Refrigeration Company in Waynesboro, it was driven by a gentleman named Ruben Stumbaugh. At some point in time, Ruben bought the truck from Frick and set about doing refrigeration business on his own with the vehicle. Ruben's neighbor, Mr. Swisher, purchased the '48 for $150 and used the panel to go to restaurants to pick up garbage food for feeding his hogs. The next stop for the panel was a local wrecking yard, where the Chevy was relegated to housing duty for the yard dogs.
Preston Ferguson stepped in and rescued the '48 panel from certain disaster and commenced to repair and upgrade the truck, installing a 350 Chevy small-block and Turbo 400 transmission. He also added a sunvisor, skylight in the roof, lights all over, and imitation fur on the interior. But, as the truck's life has shown, it wasn't long before it was passed on to another owner. Preston let the truck go to Richard Pratt who drove it for a short while before he too sold it, but this time it was finally sold to Donald Zody in 1987. Donald, at the time, allowed his son Doug to remove the 350 for a hot rod project and Doug continued with the removal of just about everything until it was just a carcass in his garage. There it sat for more than 10 years and brings us to where the current buildup began.
Doug had been into hot rods for some time by then and he had knowledge of parts and accessories, so father and son began the journey. The stock chassis was stripped of its layers of paint and rust before being completely boxed in preparation of years more of service, not to mention the big-block. Although all the original pieces were available to reassemble the panel, Doug had a bit more street rod influence in mind. With the help of Randy Mohn, also from Waynesboro, the boys were off to the races. In the front of the '48 went a Mustang II crossmember and suspension from Fat Man Fabrications. The Fat Man unit features a standard coil but is equipped with the big 11-inch disc brakes. The front was a far cry from its original straight axle and drum brake setup, and the rear received just as much attention. A 3.73-geared Dana 60 was narrowed and hung from a Vintage Specialties parallel four-link. Suspending the Dana rearend are Carrera coilovers, and Moser axles are slowed by a matching set of 11-inch disc brakes. A stainless fuel cell, built by John Stockslager, hangs between the rear rails. Tubing for the brakes and fuel system are stainless as well. Rolling attire chosen for the Chevy are Budnik Blade Runner 15-inch wheels. Five-inch-wide fronts in P215/70R15 rubber are barely noticeable in comparison to the 15-inch-wide rear wheels steaming away in monster 31x18.5 Hoosiers.
Donald's '48 Chevy Panel is motivated by a '69 big-block Chevrolet engine. Encompassing 454 cubic inches, all of the work was handled by Tony Bitner Racing Engines, housed locally in Waynesboro. The open chamber heads were ported before being laced with roller rockers. A 0.533 Crane bumpstick tickles the action of the 9.2:1 pistons by way of a Speed Pro timing set. MSD Ignition components light the fires and Jet-Hot-coated headers push the spent gases out a 2.5-inch exhaust. Horsepower is fed to a Turbo 400 tranny, and turning torque into motion is a Keller Truck driveshaft twisting the aforementioned Dana rearend. Finishing the shiny treatment of the underhood area are a polished alternator, Zoops brackets, a K&H air cleaner assembly, and a 750-cfm Edelbrock carburetor.
With the rolling skeleton in proper condition, attention was turned to the aged body. Doug Zody enlisted the help of Tony Downin. Doug and Tony attacked the seams, door handles, and light holes. All the seams on the panel were shaved, and the factory door hinges and latches found themselves in the trash, replaced by hidden latches and Bear Claw door catches. The pair fabricated a one-off roll pan for the rear and finished the smooth look with some Hagen flush-mounted taillights. At the front of the '48, the grille and bumper were left stock, but it was deemed the headlights needed modification. With French buckets in hand, Doug and Tony tucked them in tight and added Higgins 7-inch tri-bar halogen headlamps.
Custom-cut, one-piece side windows by Tim Helsinger are fit with a Specialty Power Windows. The windshield was also replaced, thanks to Tim's handiwork. Since the bodywork was completed, Tony Downin and Pooch, of Waynesboro, sprayed out a two-tone coating of PPG products. The Zody family trucking logo was prominently placed on the barn-sized side panels of the Chevy.
Inside the family truckster is a pair of '98 Suburban front seats followed up with a pair of S-10 extra cab jump seats mounted to the sidewalls. A mixture of tweed and leather from Lonnie Helman adorn everything but the floor. Speaking of the floor, those walnut panels came from a tree cut down 20 years ago in Donald's dad's backyard - how's that for history? The boards were milled and finished by Bobby McCardell before being laid on the floor with fresh stainless trim. Steering this van-tastic '48 panel is an ididit steering column topped with a 14-inch LeCarra steering wheel. Close tabs are kept on the necessities with the help of Classic Gauges. A Vintage Air Monster Cooler makes it comfortable to drive on those humid summer days. Donald's other son, Jeff, is responsible for the wiring of the sound system. JVC and Panasonic bang out the tunes when Donald doesn't feel like hearing the rumble under the hood. Handling the rest of the electrical needs is a Ron Francis wiring harness.
With the whole family involved in a historical project such as this, we can be certain that this classic will be in good hands long after Donald is gone. The Zodys couldn't have made it happen alone, and they are quick to thank Randy Mohn, Tim Helsinger, Tony Downin, Doug Walck, Kenny Lemmon, Dorsey Dick, Bill Mowen, Tim Wetzel, Wendall Winbrenner, R.B. Speedway, and Chevys of the '40s. The Zody family has created a saga of long-standing proportions. We can't wait to see what happens with Jeff and Doug. What will they build to honor their father Donald and his Zody heritage?