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1949 Chevrolet Truck - Family Jewel

Rick and Audrey Melone’s ’49
From the November, 2011 issue of Custom Classic Trucks

By Ron Ceridono
Photography by Isaac Mion

Select to EnlargeLike most custom classic trucks the ’49 Chevy seen here spent a good deal of its life working, in fact this particular example was in the employ of Scobey, Montana, when new. Alvah Shaw, who was a volunteer for the city, regularly drove the truck and eventually bought it for use on his ranch.

After years of rough use and Montana winters, the well-worn truck was passed on to Alvah’s son, Art. The plan was to restore the truck, but as it often happens, the rebuild was started but never completed. Art passed the truck on to his daughter, Audrey and son-in-law, Rick Melone. After a couple of starts and stops and some progress, the Chevy was handed over to Laddie Lentz of Smiley’s Performance Engineering in West Laramie, Wyoming, for completion.

Select to EnlargeThe foundation for the hauler is a 2x6-inch rectangular tube frame built by Dana Smith. Power is supplied by a small-block Chevy nestled between a custom fan shroud and a firewall recess that was made from a wheelbarrow. A stock Turbo 400 is hooked to a 10-bolt Chevy rearend. Gone are the 16-inch stockers, the pickup now rolls on American Torq Thrust wheels inside Z-speed rated Falken tires, 235/45-17 front and 275/40-17 rear.

Straightening the truck’s sheetmetal after years of use and abuse was what could be described as a challenge. The cab corners, floor, bottoms of the doors, and firewall were all replaced. The bed was scrapped in favor of an LMC replacement and the thrashed rear fenders were replaced fiberglass replicas.

Select to EnlargeSome of the unique features of the truck are all the areas where the clearances have been “tightened” as Laddie describes them. The front fenders have been moved back to reduce the gaps between the body and running boards and the bed has been moved forward to fit tighter against the back of the cab. Laddie tells us the end result is the truck has been “shortened” in excess of four inches due to the nip and tuck.

When asked what color was used on the truck Laddie explained that the Chevy was a special fleet order and was painted orange when new and the Melone’s wanted to duplicate it. The only decent remains of the original finish was found on the cowl vent, so a custom blend of triple stage urethane was mixed up and applied.

Select to EnlargeInside the cab, Laddie formed sheetmetal panels for the cowl, doors, headliner and behind the seat. They were then covered by Gary McKimm of McKimm’s Upholstery. The stock dash was fitted with instruments from Classic Industries and air conditioning and heat from Vintage Air was installed. But while the cab has the usual updates, a couple common additions weren’t made. The Melone’s retained the stock window regulators so their grandkids would know what it was like to crank windows up and down, and there’s no sound system as they prefer to talk to one another on the road.

This truck has been lots of things to the family that’s owned it. Starting out as a work truck, it was later on its way to becoming a restored stocker and finally ended up being built as a modified driver. In this latest form, the Chevy has proven itself to be an award winner even though it’s only been on the road for a short period of time. That’s a real family jewel.

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Under the hood is a 355-inch small-block Chevy equipped with Vortec heads, Quadrajet carburetor on an Edelbrock manifold, and a Vintage Air FrontRunner drive system. The transmission is a Turbo 400 Exhaust headers are cast Sanderson’s that lead to stainless pipes and Magnaflow mufflers.
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Replacing the stock seat is a bench from a Ford Ranger. To keep passengers safe, aftermarket shoulder belts have been installed. Armrests were fabricated from sheetmetal then upholstered. Topping the ididit tilt steering column is a restored stock steering wheel that has been modified to fit. Pedals are from Lokar and electric wipers from Classic Industries replace the original vacuum driven assembly.
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To supplement the aftermarket rear lights, a third brake light from a Honda Prelude has been integrated into the top. The rear bumper is from a ’54, a custom gravel pan was shaped to fit. LMC supplied the reproduction bed. Audrey Melone took part in the build by staining the Oak bed floor before the stainless rub strips were installed. Hidden under a lift-up plank is the filler for the hidden aluminum gas tank.
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Up front, a Fatman IFS with power rack-and-pinion steering and coilovers replaced the original suspension. Brakes are a combination of Granada rotors and GM metric calipers up front with Speedway discs in the rear; Lokar cables activate mechanical parking brake calipers.
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