CHRIS LEE’S ’49 FORD F3 PICKUP

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In the ’90s, Chris Lee was into sim­ple things like Sen­tras, SR20 swaps, and then, later, WRXS and the sort of bolt-ons you’d ex­pect from a kid with a fac­to­ry­tur­bocharged Subaru. It was all very pre­dictable, tame even, and is ex­actly what led to “Blas­fa­mous”—a post-wwii-era Ford pickup made new by way of things like a Toy­ota engine, a Nis­san trans­mis­sion, and a chas­sis built en­tirely from scratch or, as Chris puts it, “[it’s] a ground-up, home­grown mess of parts as­sem­bled in what I de­scribe as a gi­ant anx­i­ety at­tack.”

At­tempt to cob­ble to­gether a rat rod of your own and you’ll soon find out there isn’t any pre­ex­ist­ing blue­print. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are too lim­it­less to be bound by the opin­ions of any sort of In­ter­net-re­sid­ing ex­perts. Googling how ex­actly you ought to go about get­ting things like a 1JZ-GTE, a Camaro ra­di­a­tor, and a Bronco rear end to all oc­cupy the same space un­der­neath a ’49 F3 pickup cab won’t bring up much of any­thing, ei­ther.

In con­cept, the en­tire pro­ject went to­gether in re­verse. Rather than pen­cil­ing down a plan and amass­ing what­ever parts he’d need to do things like, say, get a cou­ple of mod­ern­day Mazda seats in­side the cab, Chris be­gan cor­ralling a small wreck­ing yard’s worth of car parts within his “tiny garage” and wor­ried about how they’d all come to­gether at an­other time. “Most [of the] parts were cho­sen based on avail­abil­ity, price, and luck,” he says. “If it was cheap and I had cash, I bought it, and then fig­ured out how to adapt it to the build.”

Adap­ta­tions like the com­plex bases Chris whipped up by cut­ting and weld­ing to­gether 14 dif­fer­ent pieces of steel just to get a pair of RX-7 seats to fit. Or the rear ex­te­rior that’s com­posed of a cut-down Chevy bed, a Ford tail­gate that pre­dates his F3 by at least a decade, and a frame that was, quite lit­er­ally, taken from the trash. “The fram­ing for the bed [was] picked fresh from the garbage,” Chris says about the re­pur­posed twin­sized bed that’s been ac­cented with bed rails made from the sort of wood pal­lets you’d nor­mally chop up and toss away.

The whole process took Chris 32 months, he says, of which he ex­pended just as much ef­fort not do­ing cer­tain things as he did do­ing others. “I de­cided that I didn’t want to just drop a cab on an S10 chas­sis, and I didn’t want an Ls-pow­ered cus­tom ve­hi­cle to com­pete with the mil­lion al­ready out there,” he says. “Next thing I knew, I was knee deep in parts and ideas, and [had] no clue on where to start.”

And by knee deep, he’s talk­ing about the one-off chas­sis he built in lieu of that S10. Ac­cord­ing to Chris, it’s all been hand­made, just like the can­tilever shocks he fab­ri­cated into place along with the ad­justable four-link sus­pen­sion at both ends and tubu­lar con­trol arms. De­spite the in­tri­ca­cies of all of this, don’t think for a minute that Chris spent any of those 32 months bound be­hind a key­board, con­jur­ing up de­signs dig­i­tally. “De­sign [and] en­gi­neer­ing were mostly done with card­board and a me­chan­i­cal pen­cil,” he says de­spite his back­ground us­ing com­puter-aided de­sign soft­ware. Be­sides the ini­tial ren­der he’d made us­ing the com­puter, “ev­ery­thing else was eye­balled.”

And cus­tom. Aside from the adapter that al­lows the 1JZ and 350Z’s gear­box to co­op­er­ate with one an­other and a disc brake con­ver­sion kit made for the old Ford, ev­ery­thing else un­der­went Chris’ card­board and me­chan­i­cal pen­cil treat­ment—this com­ing from a guy who was rel­a­tively new to the world of fab­ri­ca­tion. “I started the same way most back­yard builds start: with a Sawzall and an an­gle grinder,” he says. “I chopped the roof and went from there. Noth­ing on this cab is un­touched.”

And noth­ing on this car is free of Chris’ do­ing, like the doors’ in­te­rior han­dles fash­ioned from his own hands, or the mil­i­tary sur­plus ef­fects he used like WWII-ERA gauges, or the am­mu­ni­tion boxes he re­pur­posed for things like an in­take and a cen­ter con­sole. “Ev­ery­thing was a chal­lenge,” he says. “When I de­cided to build a rat, I saw the di­rec­tion most peo­ple went and fig­ured it would be easy enough. [But there were] no ref­er­ences to put this stuff to­gether and a lot of nasty re­sponses when I first hit the fo­rums with the idea.”

Few fo­rum mon­keys could ex­e­cute some­thing of this mag­ni­tude, though, nor would they have the time. “Ev­ery sin­gle night af­ter work, week­ends, hol­i­days,” Chris says about the hours in­vested. “Hell, I even quit a few jobs to give my­self week­long runs at build­ing.” It’s a far cry from a Sat­ur­day and a SR20 swap.

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