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1948 Chevrolet Pickup - Showstopper

Or, HowGM Powertain vortec Brand Goes About Building a Platform to Showcase Its Latest Engine

All of us are aware what can happen when a committee becomes involved in any multi-task project--especially a ground up build like a classic truck. Well, here's the exception to the rule. This '48 Chevrolet pickup was built to serve as a functioning platform for the GM Powertrain Vortec Brand to show off their latest 2004 L3500 powerplant. This 3.5L inline five-cylinder, yes, five cylinders--is destined as one of many future power sources for General Motors vehicles.

When one thinks of General Motors one can't help but think of an incredibly large corporation where it might be impossible to do something as unusual as a '48 Chevrolet pickup. Apparently not so! Al Alvarez, marketing manager global Vortec engines, wanted to make a statement at trade shows, indoor car shows, outdoor classic truck events, and rod runs that would be the perfect "display" for the Vortec brand engine. Enter Scott Leon, a senior experimental engineer for General Motors assigned to the GM Desert Proving Grounds in Mesa, Arizona, whose assignment it was to make all this happen. (Editor's Note: It should be noted that while you are looking at the final results stay tuned as the coming months will reveal stories on just how this truck came about.)

Scott is a long-time hot rodder and he knew exactly what had to be accomplished and in short order he and Al were on the same page. It's amazing what can be accomplished with ample resources, talent, time, and a good dose of creativity. Scott knew that a '47 through early-'55 Chevy pickup would have the greatest appeal at automotive/truck events across the country and opted to base the project on a '48 Chevy three-window 1/2-ton pickup. But that's just the start. The pickup is a compilation of parts from several early trucks as well as a healthy dose of late-model appointments.

The chassis was the first chore to tackle. Scott rounded up a Chevrolet S-10 shortbed pickup chassis with a 108-inch wheelbase and shortened the front framerails 8 inches. Additional fabrication included the transmission crossmember and the radiator core support and the relocation of body mounts. From here the Vortec inline five-cylinder engine, 4L60E tranny, and a Chevy Blazer rearend gears were fitted. The running platform was built at the GM Desert Proving Grounds in Mesa, Arizona under Scott's watchful eye and with plenty of support from fellow proving ground technicians Charles Lutkenhaus, Dennis Skutecki, and Chris Stubbs.

Other chassis appointments include the use of a ZQ8 23mm rear anti-roll bar and a 33mm front bar, and ZQ8 DeCarbon gas shocks at the corners. The ZQ8 is a Sport Suspension Package for the S-10 disc brakes. In back, a single leaf was removed from the spring pack and a 3/4-inch spacer was added to finish the rear suspension. At the corners are S-10 brakes operated by a '68 Corvette master cylinder, a Camaro prop valve, and an original '48 pedal assembly.

The front suspension is also based on the same donor S-10 but a pair of Bell Tech 2-inch dropped spindles, a pair of four-cylinder front springs, and a quick-ratio power ZQ8 steering box are employed. A Jeep intermediate shaft links the steering box to the Chevy van steering column that's topped off with a 15-inch leather wrapped '57 Corvette wheel. The shift detent on the column was fabricated to reflect the use of an overdrive transmission. All this steering and suspension controls a pair of '96 Vette-style front wheels that measure 16x8 and Vette rear wheels that measure 17x11. The front wheels have a 55mm positive offset with 3-inch adaptors (3 3/4-inch backspace) while the rear wheels have a 35mm positive offset and 2-inch adaptors (5 1/2-inch backspace). There's no mistaking that the exterior of this truck has undergone extensive sheetmetal modifications. Not the least of which is the use of a S-10 stepside bed that was re-skinned and shortened five inches. Note that the running boards have been eliminated while '48 fenders are used on the bed having undergone extensive mods themselves.

As notable a modification to the truck as there is has to be the rear rolled pan that incorporates '61-67 Corvette taillights. When the turn signal function is engaged the lights operate in a sequential fashion. Very cool! The hood was widened and sectioned three inches while the front fenders were also sectioned but this time two and a half inches with new corners. Also in front is another fabricated rolled pan and the five-bar grille has had half an inch of space removed from between each bar. The doors feature one-piece glass while the door handles are '52-55 Chevy.

All of this sheetmetal work (and there is even more we haven't mentioned) was aptly handled by Scott himself and Rob Marchese, Lary Wagner, and Greg Morrell of California Street Rods in Huntington Beach, California, where the truck underwent all of its body and paint work, upholstery and final fit and finish. Greg of CSR painted the truck in PPG Vortec Red.

Speaking of Vortec--note the graphics on the tailgate. Okay, we understand why the name Vortec appears; it's a clever reference to the truck's powerplant. But the style of letters is taken from the same style as the name "Chevrolet" as it appeared on the tailgate in '48. Now, that's cool.

The interior is based on a stock dash that has custom gauges with old-style faces refinished to hide the modern innards. They now reflect the more aggressive speedometer and the four-pack engine monitoring gauges. A custom face was also made for the 7,000-rpm tach. The bench seat was made from two '89 S-10 seats put together in a fashion that yielded one seat four inches wider than stock. It was then covered in '57 Corvette factory Shoreline Beige material. Nick Perich of California Street Rods performed the stitchwork that included the Corvette-style door panels as well.

There's a lot more we could write about and in time you will eventually get the "rest of the story" on the pages of Classic Trucks. For now, however, take a look at this beauty and wish it were yours--we do! Maybe we will get the opportunity to bring it to some events this summer?

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F A C T S & F I G U R E S

GM Powertrain Vortec Brand

Pontiac, Michigan 1948 Chevrolet
Frame Chevy S-10 pickup
Modifications shortened 8"
Chassis Builder Scott Leon, Engineer GM
Rearend / Ratio '01 Chevy Blazer / 3.42:1
Rear suspension leaf spring
Rear brakes GM disc, 10"
Front suspension '01 Chevy S-10 pickup
Front brakes GM disc, 10 1/2"
Master cylinder '68 Corvette
Steering box S-10, ZQ8 (quick steering)
Front wheels, size '96 Vette-style, 16x8 (GM SPO)
Rear wheels, size '96 Vette, 17x11
Front tires, size BFG G-Force T/A, 245/45ZR16
Rear tires, size BFG G-Force T/A, 315/35ZR17
Gas tank '89 S-10, 13-gals.
Year and make '04 GM Vortec 3500 (Inline 5-cyl.)
Displacement 3.5L
Exhaust / Mufflers custom 2 1/2" / Walker Dynomax
Make and model GM 4L60E
Shifter column shift (modified for overdrive detent)
Body style / material '48 3-w pickup / steel
Manufacturer Chevrolet
Fenders front/rear modified '48 Chevy
Modifications fenders, doors, hood, bed, eliminated running boards
Hood '48 Chevy widened and sectioned 3"
Grille '48 Chevy, 1/2" removed between each bar
Bed S-10 stepside shortened 5" and reskinned
Bodywork and Paint by California Street Rods, Greg Morrell (painter), Rob Marchese (metalwork), Lary Wagner (metalwork)
Paint type / Color PPG / Vortec red
Headlights / Taillights Halogen '48 Chevy / '61-67 Vette, sequential
Outside mirrors '53-57 Vette
Bumpers fabricated rolled pan front & rear
Dashboard '48 Chevy steel
Gauges custom by Scott Leon
Stereo / Speakers GM EV-1 (electric car)
Air conditioning roll down one or both windows, or open cowl!
Wiring custom by Chris Stubbs
Steering wheel '57 Vette, 15" leather wrapped
Steering column '81 Chevy van, shortened 2"
Seats '89 S-10 bench, widened 4"
Upholsterer California Street Rods, Nick Perich
Material / Color '57 Vette / Shoreline beige
Carpet wool / '50s style-loop / dark beige


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