THE LONG ROAD HOME

From loser to cruiser in seven years

Street Trucks - - CONTENTS - TEXT BY JOHN MATA JR. PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY TUCKER HAR­RIS

46

THE WORLD OF CUS­TOM VE­HI­CLES ISN’T ALL ABOUT BIG WHEELS AND SHINY PAINT. A lot of un­doc­u­mented be­hind-the-scenes work goes into the cars and trucks you see at shows or read about in mag­a­zines. Some sto­ries are more ex­treme or in­trigu­ing than oth­ers, but they all usu­ally boil down to the same thing—mo­ti­vated en­thu­si­asts who are will­ing to put their time, money and san­ity on the line to build the ride of their dreams.

Some builds go rather smoothly, and oth­ers builds tend to re­quire a bit more time and ef­fort. Then there are the projects that re­quire the need to be com­pletely blasted apart over the span of nearly a decade to fi­nally reach the “show” stage. The lat­ter projects are usu­ally more in­ter­est­ing to read about (af­ter the fact), and we re­cently learned about such a tale in the build-up of David Phillips’ ’56 Chevy Truck.

“The only things still orig­i­nal on this truck are the cab and rear fend­ers,” David says about his truck’s pro­gres­sion. “We had to re­place al­most ev­ery­thing as the project crept on, even though it was run­ning and driv­ing when I found it not far from me in Jack­sonville, Florida. Un­for­tu­nately, the wrong

hands had pre­vi­ously cus­tomized the truck. It had the typ­i­cal rusty spots that can be ex­pected from an older truck in the bed, cab cor­ners and some of the floor pan, too, but the worst part about it was a poor frame swap that some­one had done. It was down­right un­safe to be driv­ing around in.”

David quickly started scout­ing for lo­cal shops that could first start with re­pair­ing the frame, and move on to the rest of the truck after­ward. Well, it turned out that the chas­sis was in bad enough shape just to scrap al­to­gether.

“Mak­ing a new frame from scratch seemed to be a bet­ter so­lu­tion rather than make al­ter­ations to one that wasn’t built cor­rectly in the first place,” he says.

The sus­pen­sion overhaul went through a try­ing pe­riod of changes that ul­ti­mately started with a Mus­tang II front setup but ended up with a com­plete front and rear Corvette C4 sus­pen­sion sys­tem, which were ex­po­nen­tial im­prove­ments over the pre­vi­ous mess. Full Ac­cuair e-level air-ride con­trol paired with Ride­tech Shock­wave bags pro­vided the re­li­able air-ride ca­pa­bil­i­ties that David had first en­vi­sioned hav­ing on­board the truck.

Now, this might sound like the progress on the truck hap­pened overnight, but that wasn’t the case by a long­shot. While some por­tions of the build did start tak­ing shape rather quickly, a good part of seven years from the day David bought the truck to where it is to­day was wasted.

THE EN­TIRE SEVEN YEARS THAT DAVID HAD SPENT SEE­ING HIS ‘56 CHEVY TRUCK PROJECT THROUGH WASN’T ALL A POS­I­TIVE EX­PE­RI­ENCE, BUT ONE THAT WAS ED­U­CA­TIONAL AND STILL RE­WARD­ING AS IT CAME TO ITS CON­CLU­SION.”

“Half of that time, the truck sat at var­i­ous shops I had in­volved in the build,” he says. “It seemed like each shop had its own is­sue. The first one kind of stopped work­ing on it af­ter a while, and the sec­ond one had a lot of good ideas but didn’t re­ally know how to carry them all out. It took a long time to ac­com­plish some of the most sim­ple things that should’ve moved along much quicker.”

Among the “sim­ple things” David is re­fer­ring to, most of the down­falls hap­pened to land in the body and paint de­part­ments.

‘The real is­sue I faced was poor metal work, with bad body­work be­ing a close sec­ond,” he says. “I think it was more of a lack of knowl­edge on how to build the type of truck I was go­ing for rather than skill level. Things like not ac­count­ing for a panel or in­ner fender, door gaps, and over­all qual­ity of the re­place­ment sheet metal were garbage, too, so none of that helped mat­ters much.”

To re­solve this is­sue, David was left to hit the books, and re­search and fact check shops for their rep­u­ta­tion of hon­est, qual­ity work.

“So much time was lost be­cause of this, but I ended up find­ing the right teams to col­lec­tively save me from los­ing too much steam to get the truck where it is to­day,” he says.

Once David found the right hands and minds to build the truck to his stan­dards, ev­ery­thing started to fi­nally fall its right place.

“Lots of fab­ri­ca­tion work has gone into the truck in­side and out,” he says. “The 400 SBC that is in it now is the same one that was that was al­ready in the truck when I bought it. As we went for­ward on the paint and body work, I had the frame, mo­tor and trans­mis­sion color matched to the same color paint that was used on the ex­te­rior.”

One of the vi­sions that David ini­tially had for his truck very early on was for it to be painted a rich, shiny red color. To set the red off, a tan in­te­rior space was the first thing he had thought of. Need­less to say, that’s the visual ap­pear­ance he chased as the build pro­gressed.

“As I started to see real progress be­ing made, I de­cided just to go all out at that point,” he says.

What started out as a pipedream to own a cus­tom clas­sic Chevy truck one day, has now evolved into a re­al­ity for David. He pa­tiently saw his way through some pretty frus­trat­ing times and had a good chunk of time (and prob­a­bly cash) lost in the process but the truck is com­plete—or at least close enough for him now.

“All I wanted from this project was a clean cruiser,” he says. “I wasn’t af­ter any­thing too fancy, just some­thing nice to drive around in. I didn’t start out with too strong of a game plan at first though, which is why I ended up where I did. That’s just a les­son from the ex­pe­ri­ence that I’d like to share with ev­ery­one else to learn from.”

The en­tire seven years that David had spent see­ing his ‘56 Chevy truck project through wasn’t all a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, but one that was ed­u­ca­tional and still re­ward­ing as it came to its con­clu­sion.

“There are still a few things I need to do to the truck be­fore of­fi­cially call­ing it a wrap, be­cause tech­ni­cally, it’s not done,” he says to close his story. “I’m glad I saw this truck through be­cause I’m lov­ing be­ing able to take it to shows now. I prob­a­bly had it sold two or three times dur­ing the build process due to get­ting frus­trated with it, but I’m so happy it’s still here with me.”

ABOVE: IN­TE­RIOR WORK PER­FORMED BY IN­NER­WORX LLC US­ING SCION XB SEATS CUT TO FIT AND WRAPPED IN REL­I­CATE LEATHER AND SUEDE UP­HOL­STERY.

“THE ONLY THINGS STILL ORIG­I­NAL ON THIS TRUCK ARE THE CAB AND REAR FEND­ERS.”

FULL AC­CUAIR E-LEVEL AIR-RIDE CON­TROL PAIRED WITH RIDE­TECH SHOCK­WAVE BAGS PRO­VIDED THE RE­LI­ABLE AIR-RIDE CA­PA­BIL­I­TIES.

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