Art Deco architecture, design, and art (also known as Streamlined Modern) was prevalent from 1900 through 1939. Many automobiles, buildings, and home furnishings of this era were influenced by this style of construction and decoration. However, when asking artists or architects to define the term, it's unlikely you'll receive a common definition. Webster's dictionary defines Art Deco as, "an early 20th-century style of decorative art featuring geometric designs and bold colors." It's true Art Deco featured geometric shapes in architecture, but most often it was curved and streamlined in automobiles. Industrial designs were sometimes evocative of Egyptian art and genteel-appearing yet made for the masses.
Automotive journalist John Gunnell compares the styling of the '41-47 Chevrolet 1/2-ton pickup to the substantial Art Deco-influenced Wurlitzer jukebox of this era. A stock '46 Chevy grille wears 4 horizontal chrome slats above 17 vertical sloping grille bars. The grille, front bumper, and fenders were supposed to imply strength and ruggedness. But, the complex grille also makes a gracefully streamlined and attractive design statement. Chevy trucks from '41-47, essentially carried over from pre-WWII tooling, have become known literally as Chevy's Art Deco pickups.
Late-'30s through '47 Chevy truck owners and hot rodders hopefully are aware of their vehicle's design heritage. If not, they might compromise the truck's elegant grille in an effort to enhance it. Which brings us to Millie and Jack Davis of Boise, Idaho. The Davises built a '46 Chevy pickup with a grille that's improved over the original article, as is the rest of the vehicle.
With the dream of one day hot rodding the pickup, Jack purchased it for $500 over 25 years ago. Work began on the project some 17 years later when Jack and daughter Stephanie took it apart. Robert Dowdle boxed the framerails and added a Heidt's IFS frontend comprised of Heidt's 2-inch drop spindles and stainless steel A-arms. A '74 Ford Thunderbird 9-inch third member added a bulletproof rear mounted with a Heidt's stainless steel triangulated four-link for smoothing surface irregularities. South of the differential, a Lasasco 21-gallon stainless steel fuel tank was installed.
For fitment well ahead of the rearend, Jack sourced a '76 GM small-block, which Blackwood Auto Restoration-father Jim Blackwood and son Keith-respectively, rebuilt. The father/son team bored the block .030-over and installed a 383ci stroker balanced rotating assembly pumping TRW pistons. Dual 500-cfm Carter four-barrel carbs and aluminum heads help the formidable powerplant produce a dyno'd 500 horsepower. A B&M 3,000-stall converter-enhanced Turbo 350 trans transfers power to the drive wheels.
Thankfully, the Blackwood shop is quite accomplished at building street rods. They performed the Chevy's extensive facelift, raising the Art Deco frontend to its highest level. By removing the four horizontal chrome strips on the hood and replacing the stock headlight buckets and lights with '04 Mercedes 320 units, they achieved an '04 streamlined modern look. Shaved door handles and deleted chrome trim completed the exterior body mods before Jim and Keith laid down lush liquid layers of the PPG '97 Chrysler Champagne and Moss Green topcoat. Nampa Paint & Glass replaced the cab's greenhouse with custom-tinted windows.
Within the cab, the Blackwood team wired the Westach instruments via a Painless Performance Products harness. For the interior, talented trimmer Vern Tally of Weiser, Idaho, stitched a tan leather and cream fabric.
Four years of effort over an eight-year period brought the pickup called "Jack's '46" out of its 25-year hibernation. The father/son team of Jim and Keith Blackwood worked with the father/daughter duo of Jack and Stephanie Davis to make Jack's dream a reality. In the process of completing the pickup, they improved upon the rich heritage of its Art Deco design. Who says the masses can't appreciate fine art? It's the nicest jukebox on wheels we've seen in quite some time.