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1948 Chev 5 Window Pickup - Conundrum

Carroll's Blind Date

By Bob Ryder
Photography by Bob Ryder

Carroll Smith from Pasadena, Texas, has been rollin' in hot rods, customs, and muscle cars, since his teenage glory days. However, he never had a pickup, let alone a custom one. The challenge intrigued him, so he set out on a quest to discover a '48 Chevy 3100 five-window pickup. You would think in Texas there would be an ample supply of '48 five-windows, either abandoned in some barn, field, or out on the open range. This was not the case. Carroll had to rely on the internet.

While surfing on, Carroll came across a '48 Chevy five-window located in California, and the description sounded like it was what he was looking for. So, Carroll bid on it, and his bid won. After it was delivered, it was seriously scanned and appeared in pretty good shape. However, it had ailing brakes, suspension, fuel delivery, and starting issues. It needed some serious work to make it a reliable daily driver.

Then, Carroll decided to build a dream truck. He had direct access to any GM parts for the project, because he owns Monument Chevolet in Pasadena. As an ex-custom freak, Carroll had a vision in his mind of what the '48 would look like. Contacting Rodney Hutcherson, Carroll and Rodney threw design ideas at each other and the fragments agreed upon were compiled from Rodney's creative visionary mind onto paper. The rendering was a unique piece of line art, like no other on the planet. Carroll and his son, Brandon, were fired up.

The rendering was blown up life-size and pinned up on the wall of Roy Pigford's shop in Baytown, Texas, where the chassis would be designed and fabricated. The frame was constructed from 2x4-inch rectangular tubing, it was tack-welded, then welded into a jig to eliminate any movement.

An 18-gallon stainless steel fuel tank was fitted between the rear framerails. The suspension pickup points were also figured. Brackets were made, located, then welded into place. The front suspension spindles and upper and lower control arms are C5 components with the appropriate brakes calipers and rotors. The '00 C5 Z06 six-speed transaxle rearend is minus the torque tube (to obtain the proper wheelbase). Also, there are C5 independent rear (IRS) suspension upper and lower control arms, hubs with multiple-piston calipers and rotors.

To allow the suspension to be more flexible, Air Ride Technologies Air Ride Shock Wave pneumatic shocks were installed at all four corners of the suspension. A set of one-off Boyd Coddington's 18-inch wheels up front and 20s in the rear were wrapped with BFGoodrich g-Force T/A rubber, 225/40ZR18 front, and 295/40ZR20 rear.

Conundrum's 510 hp comes from a '91 Corvette LT5 350ci engine. A pair of factory Corvette ZR1 headers flow into a custom-made set of polished stainless steel exhaust. A custom fabricated air intake inhales air that is directed from the massive grille opening. The secret to changing the LT5 ugly duckling into a beautiful swan was Danny Barnett's attention to detail and surface finishes. An LT6 Tremec six-speed manual transmission was extracted from an '00 C5 Corvette. Danny Barnett went through the LT6 Tremec six-speed transmission to make sure it was in optimum operating order.

Every piece of sheetmetal was cut, massaged, and reshaped to sustain the 3100 series DNA. This incredible metal sculpture was formed by the hands of Eric Peratt at Pinkee's Rod Shop in Windsor, Colorado. The entire '48 Chevy five-window image was chopped, sectioned, and pancaked to maintain its perfect, proportional identity. The custom grille was created using a 1/8-inch thick aluminum plate that was dimple-holed and a pair of aluminum spheres, flanked by a polished aluminum horizontal bar. The front fenders and headlight cavities were reconfigured and shaped to house the Jeep Liberty headlights. A mild front bumper was blended into the lower leading edge. The top surface was wedged 2-1/2 inches at the center of the roof, then tapered to 2 inches at the A-pillars.

The cab was chopped 2 inches, while the '48 two-piece windshield was carefully extracted, a '96 Ford Ranger one-piece windshield was grafted into the A-pillars, roof, and cowl. The hood was pancaked, then pie-cut, due to the 2-inch section of the cab and doors. Linking the front and rear fenders is a pair of custom smooth running boards. A lower-profile custom-built bed and tailgate was constructed from 16-gauge sheetmetal, the stock rear fenders were widened 1 inch, then cut down, and reshaped. The custom bed was then lined with bamboo for something different. Following the endless hours of body mods, it took nearly as long to fill, block-sand, and prep the surfaces before Rodney Hutcherson Design and Paint in Pasadena, Texas, applied the DuPont Custom Conundrum Coconut Yellow.

What really gave the Conundrum character was its final assembly. Danny Barnett and Matt Prior, two employees of Carroll Smith at his dealership at Monument Chevrolet in Pasadena, were never meant to be the final assemblers of the project. However, as the pieces were delivered from the paint shop, Danny and Matt began assembling until completion. These two guys, both of whom had never built a hot rod before, basically assembled a masterpiece.

The audio sound is headed up by a Kenwood head unit and amplifier, four 5-1/2-inch Eclipse speakers, and a pair of Rockford Fosgate 8-inch subwoofers deliver the thunder and lightning.

Opening the door exposes every admirer to an all-custom interior, featuring a one-off custom padded leather dash, with a central control panel that confines an '06 Cadillac analog clock, Vintage Air climate control, and Kenwood audio knobs. The instrumentation cluster is also from an '06 Cadillac Escalade, an ididit steering column is capped with a custom one-off steering wheel, and the center console houses the Tremec six-speed spherical swiss-cheese shifter and Air Ride pneumatic suspension controls. The custom stitch work was all done by Gabe's Upholstery in San Bernardino, California. The immaculate custom-made low back bucket seats were covered with pond-scum yellow leather, while the dash and center console was wrapped in chocolate brown leather.

This one-of-a-kind masterpiece was a Great Eight finalist for the prestigious Ridler Award at the '07 Detroit AutoRama. And remember, this is Carroll's driver!

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