1953 Chevy Truck - Beautiful Sleeper
When Wild Meets Mild
By John Gilbert
Photography by John Gilbert
It was love at first sight for Daroll Frewing and his '53 Chevrolet Advance Design pickup. He knew from 100 feet away that the Commercial Red 3100 was the truck of his dreams. Daroll didn't set out specifically to buy a Chevy pickup made in '53--it was the smooth, rounded lines and distinctive, horizontal grille bars of the '47-'53 A-D trucks that caught his fancy.
When Daroll spotted his '53 he was at the Pomona Swap Meet walking the endless rows with his wife Dee. The couple agreed that the five-window truck was likely the finest example they would ever come across. What was astonishing about their find was that the '53 was originally owned by a San Diego trucking company that without a doubt had never used the Chevy as a day in, day out workhorse. Everything about the little Chevy was just amazing from its rare crimson-hued, factory red paintjob to the absolute absence of rust and dents.
As a part of Daroll's automotive collection--which includes a pristine example of his first car, a black '59 Chevy Impala convertible complete with a 335-horse 348--the '53 spent its first 15 years stock as a rock, packing a dipper-rod 216 with 6-volt ignition. It was the 6-volt charging system that triggered the '53's transition from stocker to show truck in just over three years. Tired of discovering a dead battery after letting the '53 sit idle for a few weeks, Daroll set out to find someone who could upgrade the electrics to a 12-volt system. The search led to Extreme Automotive in Corona, California. Amazed at the gennie '53's pristine condition, Phil Leatherman advised Daroll to keep his truck completely stock with the exception of a 12-volt alternator upgrade. If Daroll hadn't explored Extreme's impressive shop facilities, that's probably how it would have went--but it was not to be. By the time Daroll had finished touring the family run business and got a good look at some of the incredible vehicles the Extreme crew was working on, he had an advanced case of customized classic truck fever.
Daroll's need for a 12-volt alternator had suddenly escalated into a Weiand 6-71 blower stuffed on top of a 355-inch GM Performance ZZ4 small-block motor. One thing led to another, as always, and the non-syncro 1st gear three-speed stick tranny was tossed out in favor of a beefed Turbo 400 with a custom 3,500-rpm Hughes torque converter. Next in line was the stock Chevy closed driveline with 4.11:1 gears for a 9-inch Ford with 3.70:1 gears. With the horsepower more than quadrupled, there was no stopping now. Everything about how the '53 rode, drove, or stopped had to be matched to the output of the Sanderson-equipped, Weiand-blown ZZ4. Starting with the front suspension, the stock straight-axle with drum brakes was thrown in the same bin as the stock drivetrain, and then a TCI Mustang II front crossmember was added. At the controlling end of the Mustang II rack-and-pinion steering resides a fully polished stainless steel tilt-steering column capped with a Budnik beige-leather-wrapped billet steering wheel. Restored stock Chevrolet gauges, including an ammeter, are connected to a complete 12-volt wiring harness by American Autowire. The stock Chevy fuel gauge now reports capacity to a custom 15-gallon rear-mounted fuel tank by Ogawa Enterprises. The wheels and tires on Daroll's '53 were sourced from Wheelsmith and Kumho, respectively.
Diving deeper into the cab of Daroll's pickup reveals a stunning leather interior done by Ron Mangus of Rialto, California. Ron started with a pair of cut-down Pontiac bucket seats, and ended up with upholstery that not only looks good, but smells as aromatic as a fine Corinthian cow. Inside the bed, Phil and the Extreme crew finished off a Bruce Horkey Ash hardwood bed kit with a liberal application of clear fiberglass resin.
The body and paint work were done in-house by Extreme Automotive. After not much more than a good basic prep, every last panel of the '53's original sheetmetal was ready to be reunited with the chassis it left the factory with. Instead of re-spraying the original Chevrolet Commercial Red, Phil Leatherman squirted on almost a 55-gallon drum full of DuPont Dale Jarrett Red, and then buried it in DuPont clear. The finishing touch, after applying several more coats of clear with block-sanding done in between coats, was to color-sand and rub the '53 out to the super-slick finish that helped lead the truck to a first-in-class win at its 2008 debut at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona. Which is kind of neat really, since the GNRS is held within the very same Fairplex where some 20 years earlier Daroll and Dee first spotted the little red '53 at the Pomona Swap Meet. CCT