For 35 years, Doyle Thomas of Longview, Texas, has toyed with the custom car and truck hobby. His unique automotive interests have created a collection of over 35 street rods, trucks, and Corvettes. As the owner of a chain of Whataburger restaurants across East Texas, he has combined the fast food franchises' initial idea with his personal hobby and evolved them into something unique. Doyle's restaurant themes range from hot rods to rock and roll, with alternating hot rods as the centerpiece of some dining rooms.
About two years ago, Doyle decided to dabble in classic trucks. Typical of his desire to serve up a special spread, he concocted the idea of an early model pickup on a 3/4-ton chassis. The truck was actually an afterthought to something bigger. Upon purchasing a '48 Spartan aluminum travel trailer for an extensive restoration, Doyle realized he needed to tow it from show to show. The in-progress trailer will become a display case on wheels for his street rods, with a custom-built sitting area in the front.
Doyle immediately contacted an old friend from Florida. Experienced shop owner Tim Raspberry, of Phantoms in Jacksonville, has been creating custom pieces for the boating industry and in recent times turned his hobby of street rodding into a business. Four years ago, Tim introduced the rodding community to his all-fiberglass '48 Chevy body at the Street Rod Nationals. Since then, he has delivered 18 completed vehicles, with a long list of backorders. After seeing Tim's original truck, Doyle decided he wanted one, but personalized. Tim immediately began customizing the original for his long-time friend and customer.
The dimensions of Tim's 'glass Chevy cab differ in every way from the original steel '48 Chevy pickup. First, it's channeled over the frame 10 inches to give it the right stance with a stock chassis. Four inches are sliced from the top, while the cab is stretched an additional 22 inches. A suicide-style third door on the passenger side was included, as was a custom bed and tonneau, which comes lined with diamond plate as an option. A 30-gallon GM fuel cell was mounted in the stock location.
The extended cab was positioned on a stock '88 Chevy 3/4-ton standard longbed chassis and secured with a total of 12 bolts. A 'bagged '99 Chevy rearend with 3.56:1 gears was also installed. After pulling the burned-out '99 Chevy Z28 motor, Tim dropped in a new Corvette LS1 and left it stock internally. Because of its all-aluminum construction, the LS1 doesn't overheat and is the only engine Tim puts in his creations, describing other V-8s as antiquated dinosaurs. The 4L60E transmission was also left stock. A set of 11-inch drum brakes at the rear and 12-inch ventilated and cross-drilled discs at the front reigns in the rolling convoy.
Tim passed the project on to a friend and collaborator to match the superior bodywork in the interior. Byron Terry, owner of Terry Brothers in Jacksonville Beach, started by installing a set of red leather-appointed Oldsmobile Intrigue bucket seats. The rear seats were then custom made by Byron, who Tim calls, "an artist who doesn't charge like a prima donna." The rest of the interior was completed with a custom dash and yards of red leather.
After the exterior and interior work was completed, Tim delivered the truck to Doyle in New Orleans. The 618-mile drive, made in only eight hours, further testified to Tim's belief in all-stock mechanicals. The Colorado Custom Wheels 18- and 20-inchers, front and rear respectively, wrapped in P245/50ZR18 and P275/45ZR20 BFGoodrich rubber also inspired confidence on the road.