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1948 Panel Truck - Purple People Pleaser

A Chevy Panel That's Sure to Put a Smile on Your Face

The scene is easy to picture, like a clip from "Leave it to Beaver" or "Father Knows Best": A delivery truck ambles up an idyllic 1950s suburban street carrying cargo to happy customers. Maybe it's flowers to celebrate an anniversary, lumber for a home improvement project, or ice cream for the kids. Regardless, the vessel dispenses scores of smiles along with its much-anticipated packages.

Okay, so maybe it's an overly nostalgic sentiment, but we just can't help but think of old delivery trucks as "happy" vehicles. Even Brent Wagner's '48 Chevy panel, which was used at Norfolk Navel Base in Virginia, undoubtedly brightened soldiers' faces as it delivered goods from the civilian world. The only person who probably wasn't smiling was the driver, who had to endure the washboard ride and tin can acoustics of the utilitarian beast!

Decades later the old truck put a smile on Brent's face because, after years of searching, he'd finally found a suitable candidate for the project he'd been envisioning. Brent not only wanted a cool rod, but also a promotional tool for his Pikeville, Kentucky, tire business. What better vehicle than a panel truck? Now all he had to do was give it some visual appeal and bring the comfort level up to modern SUV standards--no easy task!

The chore became easier when Brent met Tom Hurd and Don James at Last Chance Garage & Body Shop in Germantown, Ohio. These guys had the know-how to make Brent's dream a reality, and dove right in by crafting a comfortable chassis using a highly modified stock frame, Jim Meyer independent front suspension, and '79 Trans Am rearend on custom leaf springs. A well-dressed ZZ4 crate engine and Turbo 350 automatic also found their way into the mix. Naturally, rolling stock is an important factor for Brent, so a lot of thought went into selecting the 17- and 18-inch Colorado Custom "Slater" rims and BFGoodrich rubber.

Impressive as it is, the custom chassis merely sets the stage for the gorgeous body. There's obviously a ton of real estate on a panel body like this, and the Last Chance Garage crew got to know every inch of it while working their magic. The mods are many, but mostly fairly subtle, like trimmed and molded drip rails, a shaved and filled hood, and smooth bumpers tucked close to the body. Frenched headlights, flush-fit taillights and fuel filler, and a V-butt windshield smooth out the lines even further. Every single piece of bright trim was either shaved or painted, which meant that every body panel had to be block sanded to perfection before the deep, custom-mixed DuPont purple paint was applied.

This panel may have hauled a lot of people and cargo over the years, but never with as much style and comfort as it does now. Billy Scott gets credit for much of that since he's the one who covered the Dodge Caravan seats, custom door panels, and sculptured rear panels with yards of supple leather. The elegance doesn't stop there, as there's also a smooth dash with custom aluminum inserts and Auto Meter gauges, not to mention creature comforts like power windows, Vintage Air, and Kenwood tunes.

Of course, all this custom craftsmanship comes with a price --money and time. "What I envisioned as a six- to eight-month project evolved into a three-and-a-half year adventure," Brent says. "But it seemed that the anticipation, headaches, frustration, and nights of wondering if this deal would ever come together, all faded away so quickly the moment the guy punched my entry card at our first event [Goodguys Columbus 2001]."

Heck, Brent and the guys from Last Chance Garage were still finishing up last-minute details when Jim Rizzo walked up and gave them a CLASSIC TRUCKS Top Five Award at that show. Since then the truck has continued to paste smiles on faces wherever it goes, so we feel it's only fitting to call it the Purple People Pleaser.

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F A C T S & F I G U R E S
Brent Wagner
Pikeville, Kentucky 1948 Chevy panel


Frame/Manufacturer modified stock / Chevrolet
Modifications boxed, C-notched, Z'd front section, custom X-member; all work by Last Chance Garage, Germantown, OH
Rearend / Ratio '79 Trans Am / unknown
Rear suspension C&E leaf springs
Rear brakes discs
Front suspension Jim Meyer IFS
Front brakes Wilwood disc
Master cylinder ECI
Steering T-bird rack-and-pinion
Steering column ididit
Front wheels, size Colorado Custom, 17x8
Rear wheels, size Colorado Custom, 18x10
Front tires, size BFGoodrich, 245/45R17
Rear tires, size BFGoodrich, 305/45R18
Gas tank No Limit, 18 gal.


Year and make '00 Chevrolet ZZ4
Displacement 350 ci
Camshaft ZZ4 roller
Heads stock aluminum
Valve covers Billet Specialties
Manifold / Induction polished aluminum / Holley 670 cfm
Headers Sanderson
Exhaust / Mufflers 3" / Flowmaster


Make and model TH350
Converter B&M
Shifter on column


Body style / material panel truck / steel
Manufacturer Chevrolet
Modifications molded drip rails, shaved trim and handles, tucked and smoothed bumpers, frenched antenna, Hagan gas door,
custom fit and finish
Hood shaved and smoothed
Grille smoothed stock, reworked so
hood closes behind top bar
Bodywork by Last Chance Garage, Germantown, OH
Paint by Tom Hurd and Clint Collins,
Last Chance Garage
Paint type / Color DuPont / custom-blend purple
Headlights / Taillights frenched / custom
Outside mirrors Sun Spec


Dashboard smooth w/ custom billet panels
Gauges Auto Meter
Air conditioning Vintage Air
Stereo / Speakers Kenwood / in doors and rear panels
Wiring Painless Performance
Seats '00 Dodge Caravan
Upholsterer Billy Scott, Louisville, KY
Material / Color leather / bone
Carpet purple

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