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Trophy Hauler: 1957 Chevy Pickup

Hardworking With a Twist

Joe Greeves
Sep 20, 2019
For many, retirement is finally the opportunity to implement some of those ideas you've been dreaming about for the last several decades. When the kids are grown and you're no longer dealing with the pressures of a nine-to-five, it affords an opportunity for creativity in a dozen new directions. Ryan Wheat from Summerville, South Carolina, has retired from two exciting careers: a specialist on nuclear submarines and a registered nurse in the operating room. Even though he is still active as a coordinator for the local Veterans Administration, he's finally able to spend more time on his hobby of building cool custom rides. His 1937 Chevrolet two-door sedan is currently a work in progress, but he took a break in the construction process when he realized his Chevy show car would need to be trailered to shows. That's when the direction shifted toward creating a tow vehicle for the car.
Photo 2/18   |   Trophy Winning Tow Vehicle Rear
He found this 1957 Chevy pickup thanks to a connection with friends who own CMX Customs in Summerville, close to Ryan's home. They purchased the truck with the intention of flipping it, but Ryan always loved that year and believed it would make the perfect tow vehicle. He bought the truck and planned to transform it into a good driver. He also worked out a deal with the shop. "I'm definitely not a pro," he told us, "but the shop agreed to help me with portions of the build that were beyond my abilities."
Originally a pro-Street truck, the '57 came without a motor and trans but most of the body was in good shape. The front fenders needed some work, the bed was minus a floor, and the tailgate was gone but thanks to Auto Metal Direct replacement panels, all issues were easily resolved. Up front, the chassis was modernized with boxed frame rails along with a combination of a 1970 Camaro front clip, CPP tubular control arms, CPP 2-inch drop spindles, and big block Chevy coil springs. A Flaming River power rack and pinion ensured responsive steering. All the pro-Street elements in the rear were scrapped and a C-notch cut to allow proper travel for the Summit Racing triangulated four link. It holds a 1970 10-bolt Chevy rear with 3.73 gears and Positraction. Effective stopping power came from the factory Camaro disc brakes up front and a Summit Racing factory disc conversion in the rear. Monroe shocks up front and QA1 coilovers in the rear stabilize all four corners. Ryan pulled the gas tank from the cab and relocated a 15-gallon aluminum fuel cell to the rear of the truck, adapting the fuel filler to the driver side rear fender with a Hagan touch latch. Finally, he plumbed in an Airlift compressor and rear helper bags, effective additions when the truck was in tow mode. Since wheels can make or break any ride, lots of research went into the choice of the distinctive 20x8.5 Raceline Bandit rims up front, wrapped in Diamond Back Redline radials. Larger 22x10 versions were added in the rear.
Photo 3/18   |   Trophy Winning Tow Vehicle Wheel
Powering his Chevy with a Chevy was the plan from the start but one look at the sanitary engine room and you might think this show-quality engine doesn't run. The 5.3L V-8 was fitted with an LS1 intake, fuel rail, and a K&N cold air kit. A GM stage II cam provides additional boost while the stock exhaust manifolds feed Street Thunder chambered mufflers, creating an appropriate performance rumble. Coil pack covers were fabricated by Clayton Machine Works, adding script from '55 Chevy front fenders. Custom touches to the engine bay include the recessed and smoothed firewall, smooth inner fender panels, and a custom radiator surround with everything painted to match. A 4L60E transmission multiplies the power.
Photo 4/18   |   Trophy Winning Tow Vehicle Engine
Moving inside, the striking hot rod red interior was done by Troy Swavar from Interiors by Troy in Summerville, SC. The bucket seats are from a 2006 Chevrolet Silverado, highly modified with bolsters and three-point harnesses, done in leather-look, Prodigy vinyl. The new center console holds a tall 32-inch double-bend Lokar shifter along with a Pioneer NEX8200 stereo featuring a 7-inch touch control monitor. Kicker speakers positioned throughout the cab entertain driver and passenger. The filled in dash displays a collection of Dakota Digital VHX analog gauges, highlighted in red to match the interior. Red LEDs even light the sill plates. The driver holds on to a cut down vintage '55 Bel Air steering wheel on a Flaming River tilt column while the Vintage Air Gen II air conditioning adds to the creature comforts. Always mindful of the functional side, the truck is equipped with an electric trailer brake control.
Photo 5/18   |   Trophy Winning Tow Vehicle Interior
Since the lines of the truck were what attracted him in the first place, Ryan kept the exterior mods subtle. The stock grille was rechromed and the supports painted to give the illusion of a floating grille bar. The front and rear bumpers were flipped and tucked with a lighted Chevrolet V emblem accenting the new tailgate. The truck sports four custom taillights, originally from a 1939 Chevrolet and now equipped with LEDs. They're staggered to match the contours of the rear fenders. Inside the bed, the floor was raised 3.5 inches for clearance and covered with digitized aluminum planks, the same width and thickness as traditional boards. Made by Smokey Road Rod Shop in Newnan, Georgia, Ryan's Smokey Walnut planks were easy to install and, unlike wood, are maintenance free. The final change was the one-piece glass in the doors using a Brothers vent window delete conversion kit. Once the body panels were smoothed, Rick Machosek, of CMX Customs, sprayed the stunning white cr me br l e paintjob.
Looking back over the 18-month build, Ryan smiles when he says, "It kind of snowballed, getting better and better. Every time you go shopping, you always lean toward the best of everything. The end product is way more than I ever expected, but I am adamant that it is a driver. I have 8,000 miles on it and plan to continue driving it." Although almost all of the truck is complete, future plans call for a Gaylords fiberglass tonneau cover, naturally done in Hot Rod Red Mercedes convertible top material that will match the interior of truck. The truck has only been on the road just a few months prior to photographing it at the Daytona Turkey Run, but it has already collected a series of Best in Show awards. We're looking forward to seeing this trophy-quality ride in action, working for a living and pulling Ryan's Chevy street rod. It should be quite a sight!
Photo 6/18   |   Trophy Winning Tow Vehicle Bed
Inside the Build
Year/Make/Model: 1957 Chevy Pickup
Owner and City/State: Ryan and Margaret Wheat; Summerville, South Carolina
CHASSIS
Front Suspension: 1970 Camaro front clip with disk brakes, CPP tubular control arms, CPP 2-inch drop spindles, big block Chevy coil springs, Monroe shocks, Flaming River power rack and pinion, Summit Racing 1 5/8-inch antiroll bar
Rear Suspension: Summit Racing triangulated 4-link, Summit Racing factory disc conversion, QA1 coilovers, Summit Racing power booster with proportioning valve, C-notched and boxed frame coated with POR-15
DRIVETRAIN
Engine: Chevy 5.3l LS from a 2002 Tahoe, GM Stage 2 206/210 Cam, Chevrolet Corvette LS 1 intake, Corvette 28 lb. injectors, K&N/Spectre cold air kit, Mallory electronic ignition, 2.5 inch aluminized exhaust system with Sweet Thunder chambered mufflers, Clayton Machine Works coil pack covers with handmade aluminum fuel rail covers using Chevrolet scripts from a '55 Chevy Bel Air, 16-inch SPAL fan, aluminum radiator, KwiK Performance pulleys and brackets, recessed firewall, custom inner fender panels, and radiator shroud, engine room and accessories painted white to match the exterior, engine block and trans painted red to match the interior. 2002 Chevy Tahoe 4L60E transmission with tall 32-inch double-bend Lokar shifter.
Rear end: Chevy 10-bolt rear, 3.73 gears, Positraction
BODY
Rechromed stock grille, floating grille bar, front and rear bumpers flipped, custom rear valance, tailgate with a lighted Chevrolet V emblem, four 1939 Chevrolet taillights with LEDs, raised bed floor 3.5 inches, Smoky Walnut digitized aluminum bed floor, one-piece side glass, Mr. Gasket billet side mirror stems with Hagan Fatz convex 4-inch mirrors, round Hagan gas filler door on driver's side rear fender, AMD replacement panels, PPG White Cr me Br l e paint by CMX Customs, Summerville, SC
INTERIOR
Shop: Troy Swavar from Interiors by Troy in Summerville, SC. Hot Rod Red, leather-look, Prodigy vinyl, 2006 Silverado re contoured bucket seats, three-point harnesses, custom center console, dash filled in and covered with Prodigy vinyl, Dakota Digital VHX analog gauges with red backlighting, Vintage Air Gen II A/C with lower panel to house A/C controls and vents, steering wheel is a cut down reproduction of a '55 Chevy Bel Air on a Flaming River tilt column, Hot Rod Red carpet and headliner with Krist Kustoms aluminum trim used on the headliner and around the instrument cluster, sound deadening throughout.
Stereo: Pioneer NEX 8200 7-inch touch control monitor, Kicker 200W amplifier, four Kicker 6-inch component sets, 10-inch Kicker flat subwoofer, bass adjust knob located inside console.
WHEELS AND TIRES
Wheels: 8.5x20, 10x22; Raceline Bandits
245/45R20, 285/40R22; Redline Tires (Nitto) by Diamond Back Tires
Special Thanks: Ryan sends special thanks to CMX Customs, Vinnie and Lourie Minichiello, John Hill, Rick Machosek, Steve Ballou, Vernon Daniels, and Greg Godwin for their help in creating his dream truck.
 

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