Lil' Red Chevy Truck

Published: 03:21PM May 19th, 2011

Chris Davies’ 1950 Chevrolet 3100 pick-up truck is a true labour of love, incorporating the best features of a classic pick-up with all the latest upgrades to make it a pleasure to drive on modern roads…

Lil' Red Chevy Truck

Mini mooneyes and wide whitewalls are a nice mild custom touch

Chris Davies had always hankered after owning an American pick-up truck, but raising a family took priority... that is until around five years ago when the kids had flown the nest and there was more time to indulge in hobbies and pastimes. He took the plunge and purchased a classic 1950 Chevrolet 3100 long-wheelbased truck from an enthusiast in Reading, Berks, in September 2006.

It was fairly original and powered by a straight-six engine with a floor-shift manual transmission. On the drive back to his Essex home, it became quite evident to Chris that his new pride and joy wasn’t the easiest or most pleasant thing to drive, or stop … and to boot it broke down a few times too! This didn’t look like being the fun experience that he had dreamed of, and it was unlikely his wife Sharon would be enamoured getting behind the wheel either.

The initial plan had been to get the truck repainted from its current pale blue to a brilliant radiant red. Chris was then introduced to Terry Shaw and Andy Whitby, Essex-based masters of American vehicle restoration and modification. Once they had begun stripping the truck down for painting, Chris discussed with them about the possibility of fitting a Mustang front clip and making the truck much more user friendly to drive, as in its current technical specification, it clearly wasn’t.

This opened up a whole new can of worms, but ultimately lead to a very positive outcome. And while it meant that the budget spiralled upwards, the end result was a truck that looked and drove as though it was virtually brand-new.

The truck was subsequently dismantled down to the last nut and bolt, although it was not necessary to remove the cab from the chassis. The decision was also then taken to shorten the chassis and convert it from a long wheelbase to a short wheelbase, ostensibly for aesthetic appeal. The chop involved removing approximately 8 to 10 inches of chassis rail and fitting new SWB side panels to the buck, as the originals were pretty battered and it wasn’t really cost effective to shorten and repair them.

The rest of the body panels were in fairly good order, so no major surgery was required there, other than some minor repair work, and to fit a new tailgate and a Heidts Mustang II front-clip kit which incorporated disc-brakes.

The chassis and all body panels were stripped of paint, and taken back to bare metal in readiness for repainting, this included the inside of the cab and even the dashboard.

A considerable amount of work was required to the front bulkhead and dashboard in order to fill in myriad holes that had been drilled over the years.

Chris spent much time perusing paint colour charts until he thought he’d found the ultimate shade of Cherry Red. However, Terry Shaw, using all his years of experience and knowledge of automotive paintwork, suggested using another shade which he thought would be more suited to Chris’s expectations and this was the final choice. Terry repainted the truck using a colour mixed up by paintwork refinishing company Leonard Brooks. In bright sunlight it reflects a dazzling radiant finish, something that Chris always imagined would look great on the truck – and it certainly does!

Now that all the bodywork repairs, painting of the chassis and body were complete, Terry and Andy focused their efforts on rebuilding the running gear. Actually it wasn’t so much rebuilding, but more like renewing. Chris was kept busy sourcing and purchasing new parts from the US and UK. These included the Heidts front clip, complete with A-arms, coil springs and a Mustang steering rack that was all packed in a large box and delivered from the US to Chris’s home. In order to upgrade the feel of the power-steering to perfection, Andy fitted a variable ratio kit.

Chris also purchased a brand new 5.7 litre Chevrolet crate engine from Real Steel (see: or call: 01895 440505) and a TH 350 automatic transmission was sourced, checked and overhauled as necessary, along with a fully refurbished rear axle. The new suspension set-up now adopts that classic slightly nose-down stance which looks just right. All the ancillaries such as radiator, brake master-cylinder, carburettor, starter motor, alternator and wiring loom, were all sourced brand new.

Renowned trimmer of Yanks, customs and rods, Neil Tadman, was entrusted to trim the interior in a two-tone theme, using a red and black vinyl that perfectly complements the red paintwork. In order to find the ideal comfortable driving position in the limited confines of the cab, Chris had intended to use a tilt/telescopic steering column from a Corvette, but in reality the wheel proved to be still too close, so a clever modification has been to use a similar set-up from a Chevrolet day van.

The column assembly was delivered to the hotel where Chris was staying in Las Vegas while on a weekend trip with friends, and then taken home in his suitcase. He then obtained a steering wheel from an Impala (purchased from a breaker’s yard in the US) that’s been painted black and red to colour coordinate with the rest of the interior. The interior of the cab also boasts all new glass, wiring, dashboard instruments, switchgear, door handles, locks and rubber seals.

Exterior fixtures and fittings were all purchased brand-new – things like bumper irons, all the brightwork, light fittings, Corvette steel wheels, beauty rings and hubcaps, badges and so on. The floor of the pick-up bed has been decked out using an oak-faced exterior marine plywood with stainless steel runners. The embossed Chevrolet legend in the tailgate has been enhanced using chrome decals which are a nice finishing touch, and so much more appealing than simply painted red, white or black. The stunning attention to detail and build quality on this truck extends to the underneath and even the new propshaft has been painted to replicate the Stars and Stripes flag!

An enormous amount of work has gone intorebuilding Chris’s truck, transforming it from a rather antiquated pale blue, straight-six, floor shift model, to a beautiful shiny red concours example, that’s as pretty as a picture, which drives, handles and stops so much better than it ever did.

It’s now very user-friendly, with both Chris and his wife Sharon enjoying getting behind the wheel. With the huge amount of replacement parts that have been fitted, this truck is to all intents and purposes virtually brand new and naturally Chris is delighted with the finished result, and since completion he and Sharon have clocked up around 3000 miles attending various shows. Catch them if you can at a show this summer!

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