1949 Chevrolet Truck - Flashback
John Griffith’s Wicked ’49 Chevy
From the December, 2011 issue of Custom Classic Trucks
By Chuck Vranas
It’s often the most uncomplicated memories that make the longest lasting impressions, especially when you’re young. The creaking of an old rocking chair as it works the boards on a farmer’s porch and the crackling sounds rolling in from an AM transistor radio is all it took for John Griffith of Hanson, Massachusetts, to flash back to his simple past growing up in rural West Virginia on his Grandparent’s farm. Living on the farm there were always plenty of chores to get through, but every so often, there was time for a much-needed break and chance to step away from it all. Mondays hosted the horse and cattle auctions in town, so John and his Grandfather would take the drive to check it out with their neighbor who just so happened to own a ’49 Chevy pickup. Even though it was a rough workhorse, a ride in the bed of the Chevy gave John as much excitement as a ride on the roller coaster at the town fair. On that rare occasion, a ride across the farm while sitting in the cab sealed the deal in his young mind that someday he would actually own a truck just like this one. Upon graduating from High School in ’67, John’s Dad surprised him with a ’55 Chevy coupe which was downright cool, but as the years passed he would always have a new pickup in his driveway.
As time moved forward, John relocated to Massachusetts where he was able to find a small working farm, which brought back many of his youthful memories. It was the perfect place to raise a family and run his business from. However, one consuming memory still remained forever biting at his heels, that of the ’49 Chevy hauler he always dreamed of. Fate can have a funny way of finding you like the day his brother-in-law, Bo, dragged home the remains of a ’53 Chevy pickup left for dead from a cornfield in rural Connecticut. He told John that it would be a great starting point to complete the chapter on reliving his youth. Every New Englander knows the beating vintage steel takes from harsh road salt and brutal winter weather and it was no surprise that the only salvageable parts on the ’53 were its doors. Never one to let the odds set him back, John moved forward in search of a decent cab and chassis for the project. After scouring the area, he answered an ad in the local newspaper, which turned up a decent start to the project. A deal was made and he finally had all the basic parts to start with. In making the decision of what style to follow for the build, John studied countless trucks and manufacturer’s parts offerings till he came to a decision. His ideal rendition of the ’49 would need to have a wicked stance, clean lines, performance and reliability. Armed with this information, he sought out a builder who could share his vision and bring the truck to life. A meeting with Dennis MacPherson of DMC Racing in Halifax, Massachusetts, was all it took since Dennis and his team brought endless capabilities to the table for both the sheetmetal restoration and custom fabrication required to take on a job of this magnitude.
To breathe new life into the vintage chassis, the team at DMC first blasted it clean, boxed it for additional strength, and then smoothed it out to give it a factory fresh look. For that nose in the dirt stance and to make the truck handle like it was on rails, a Total Cost Involved IFS was incorporated along with power rack and pinion steering and QA1 coilover shocks to soak up the bumps. Out back, the chassis was treated to a custom-fabbed tubular crossmember, combined with leaf springs and QA1 coilover shocks to help secure a GM 10-bolt rearend in place. For plenty of stopping power, 13-inch Baer rotors and calipers push plenty of fluid through stainless lines to bring everything to a halt. Giving the truck just enough dazzle, a set of 18-inch Budnik Famosa wheels shod with low-profile Michelin rubber sets the pace. In wanting to give the truck plenty of punch, John contacted Reid’s Automotive in Whitman, Massachusetts, to build a stout 355ci Chevy smallblock. The team at Reid’s assembled the V8 using a speed shop full of go-fast goodies including Keith Black slugs, a Comp Cams stick, and Air Flow Research aluminum heads. To add plenty of fuel to the mix, a Barry Grant SixShooter sends the message loud and clear once MSD lights the fire sending spent gasses through a DMC Racing-fabbed custom 2½-inch stainless exhaust with MagnaFlow mufflers. Keeping shifts nice and crisp, a DMC Racing-built 700-R4 spins the power through a custom driveshaft to spin the wheels.
With the bottom end of the truck complete, the team at DMC focused on its vintage sheetmetal and wasted no time getting started. First, the two-piece hood was converted to one piece, followed by adding a set of frenched Hagan headlights accented by a smooth firewall from Bitchin’ Products, and custom front and rear roll pans. Giving the truck one of its many signature features, the team then added suicide doors using a kit from Hagan, which added loads of personality. Once all fabrication was complete and the body was shaved clean, a factory replacement bed from MAR-K completed the rear while fresh fenders from Chevs of the ’40s were added to the mix. To breathe even more life into the project, Peter Newell of Competition Specialties in Walpole, Massachusetts, massaged the sheetmetal to perfection making sure every inch of the truck was mirror straight. He then filled his spray gun with plenty of DuPont midnight black vibe and laid down a dramatic coating that forever changed everything. Once in the final assembly stages the truck was treated to a vibrant chrome grill from Chevs of the ’40s along with a bed floor crafted from curly maple. Focusing on the interior, DMC Racing smoothed out the dash and had Newell shoot it a warm ivory before filling it with Classic Instruments. The interior design was then handed over to Karen Silva of Cape Cod Upholstery in Middleboro, Massachusetts, to work her magic in transforming John’s business office. Using a Glide Engineering seat and door panels from Rod Doors as a base, she masterfully covered everything in a combination of Sorbet Crème ultra leather and faux Ostrich Bisque, with a traditional roll and pleat pattern accented by just enough contemporary flair. A Vintage Air system adds plenty of cool to the mix while sounds from Pioneer fill the cabin, and a Budnik wheel navigates the course. With the 10-year journey finally completed John has already laid down a few thousand miles on the truck, including an occasional moonlight cruise through some local cranberry bogs, and to us, that’s just plain wicked. This is one truck that will never gather any dust!