1947 Chev Truck - Porche Man's Pickup
Mike Gurley's Homebuilt '47 Chevy
From the May, 2010 issue of Custom Classic Trucks
By Tim Bernsau
Photography by Joseph Dowling
Inspiration can come from an infinite number of sources. Do you remember what it was that inspired you to build your first custom classic truck? Was it the pickup you drove as a young gun and now regret selling? Was it somebody else's cool old hauler that made you vow to build one just like it someday? Was it your dad's or granddad's old work truck-the one you taught yourself how to drive in? Was it an eye-catching show truck you saw at the fairgrounds or in the pages of some magazine?
For Mike Gurley, the inspiration for this burgundy '47 1/2-ton came from a few disparate sources. The year 1947 was not only the first of Chevrolet's successful Advance Design truck series, it was also the year Mike was born. The enduring popularity of these pickups combined with Mike's personal nostalgia were the reasons for building this particular truck. The inspiration for building this particular truck with this particular look is a bit less expected: a Porsche 911 Targa. If the 911 influence isn't obvious to you right now, keep reading. When we're done, maybe you'll see it.
Mike's been a gearhead since he was a teenager in the '60s, but he hadn't had a project vehicle in a long time when he started planning this one. Like many enthusiasts, he took his search to eBay, where this mostly stock truck was listed. It was an old Colorado farm truck that ended up in the Los Angeles area. The seller was a street rodder and this was going to be his next project, until he changed his mind. Mike flew out to see it and bought it on the spot.
When he got the Chevy home to Plano, Texas, he pulled his regular vehicles out of the four-car garage that would become his project shop for the next 4 years and got busy.
Getting the truck to sit and ride the way Mike wanted it to was accomplished with a new chassis from Total Cost Involved. The independent front suspension includes a pair of dropped spindles, bringing the front of the pickup 3 inches closer to the ground.
"Tearing apart the stock rear end to replace it was a chore," Mike told us. "There must have been 50 rivets in there-about the size of your finger. And I had to grind and drill and pound out all of them." The new rear suspension components include leaf springs and shocks. TCI also provided the power-assist GM disc brakes, mounted front and rear.
Powering the truck is a Chevy 350, but this is no simple small-block. Mike bought the engine from a hot rodder who works at the local Chevrolet dealership. It's been built up for high-performance and has made about 50 runs down the dragstrip.
Mike drag raced a 265-powered '51 Chevy sedan in C/Gas as a high school kid in the '60s, and had no problem dropping that kind of muscle into his truck. The block has been stroked to 383 cubic inches (by adding a 400 crankshaft), which boosts torque. The Speed Pro hypereutectic flat-top pistons make 10.3:1 compression in the Dart Iron Eagle heads, topped with a pair of GM Performance polished valve covers. A Crower roller cam operates the valvetrain components. The engine is fired by an MSD 6 Series ignition, and is fed by a 770-cfm Holley Street Avenger carburetor on an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold. A set of full-length headers directs the exhaust to Flowmaster 40 series mufflers. Backing up the engine is a Turbo 700-R4 AOD transmission. The Currie rearend runs 3.89:1 gears and a Posi.
The Chevy may have the heart of a beast but it's got the body of a beauty. This body style has become an iconic classic over the past 60 years for one reason: it's great looking. Although the raw material required some replacement and repair, Mike was smart not to start radically carving up the stock sheetmetal. He replaced the front fenders with steel reproductions from Firewall Classics. The reproduction running boards, rear fenders, front grille assembly, both bumpers, rear roll pan, and all the glass were provided by Chevy Duty. The firewall, cowl, and vent covers are from Bitchin Products. Mike welded the stock hood together and smoothed it. Most of the trim was intact when the truck was purchased, but was replaced for better chromed pieces. Mike swapped the door handles and headlights, and added modified '32 Ford taillights and a third brake light. Most of the bed needed replacing as well. The new floor is oak with stainless dividers from Chevy Duty. The stake holes were covered and smoothed. Santa Fe model rims from Billet Specialties complete the external appearance of the Chevy, and were matched with Michelin tires, measuring P215/50R17 and P245/50R18.
We mentioned something about a 911 Targa. Mike owned one sometime between his drag racing days and now, so when it was time to pick the paint for the '47, he chose PPG Metallic Burgundy, the same color worn by his Porsche. It probably takes a little more material to cover a '47 Chevy truck, but, as you can see, New Concepts in Plano did a great job. Since these photos were taken, James Crawford (who passed away recently) added some gold pinstriping around the wheelwells.
The Porsche influence isn't restricted to the exterior. Dee's Trim Shop, also in Plano, covered the Corbeau buckets in the same type of saddle-colored Porsche leather Mike sat on as a 911 owner. The leather extends to the dash. Classic Instruments gauges include a speedometer and a quad combo. The custom steering wheel, on an ididit column, also got the leather treatment. The headliner matches in looks, but is actually more economical vinyl, which extends down the rear of the cab to the floor. The carpet is contrasting burgundy. Mike built the console that fits in place between the seats. Fresh air is provided by the Vintage Air A/C setup hidden behind the radio grille, and to a Specialty Power Windows kit. The radio was upgraded to a Custom Autosound head unit with a hidden 10-disc CD changer.
The buildup was a 4-year project for Mike. Although he did most of the mechanical work himself, he thanks the guys at Sachse Hot Rod Shop for contributing to the project. They welded the front end, plumbed the brakes, helped with parts, and answered a lot of questions.
Now Mike's having fun taking the '47 to shows in his area and also meeting with fellow Chevy/GM truck enthusiasts in the Picks N Panels of North Texas. Future club members might include his grandkids. They aren't old enough to drive, but Mike says they're already eyeing the truck for the day they will be.