Somehow we neglected to write his name down, but a wise man once said, "The best of both worlds is to have a steady job with good benefits-and then have a customizing shop on the side."
The thought behind this was a guy could pick and choose what he built without having to worry about dealing with some goofball customer or meeting his shop's overhead. For Sonny Bennett of Montgomery, Texas, such is the case. He works as a Houston fireman and builds custom cars and trucks on his days off. Of course there's lots more to being a fireman than just rescuing a cat out of a tree or yanking a housewife's stuck toe from a bathtub drain (but that's another story). Sonny has spent the last 35 years customizing and owning the vehicles of his dreams. His past pickup trucks have included everything from a '36 Ford and a '56 GMC to a '72 Chevy. And the cars have run the gamut: '55-57 Chevrolet Bel Airs, a '36 Ford Cabriolet, a '67 Mustang, and a '68 Camaro, just to mention a few.
These were all pretty neat rides, but the project Sonny really wanted to get started on was to find a '53 Chevrolet pickup and really kick out the jambs. His reason for choosing a '53 was that it was the year he was born. There's something about owning a truck that was built in the same year...a kinship of sorts. Sonny put the word out to his friends and before too long he had a prospect. His friend Dennis Haralson called and told him about a truck he found in Mt Pleasant, Texas, located in a barn. As if the old truck in the barn story wasn't incredible enough, this one had belonged to the original owner. The old guy had passed away and his widow was selling it. Sonny and Dennis hooked a tandem car trailer onto a truck and drove out to have a look-this was in April 1997. When they opened the barn doors, sure enough it was an Advance Design-series Chevy, but something wasn't quite right. Instead of vent windows and pushbutton doors, this truck had one-piece side windows and flip-down handles. It turned out to be a '51, but Sonny wasn't upset.
A TPI 350-inch motor and 700-R4...
A TPI 350-inch motor and 700-R4 transmission transplanted from a '92 Pontiac Trans Am built by Arizona Speed & Marine powers Sonny's pickup. The engine is equipped externally with top-quality parts from Street & Performance of Mena, AR. Competent engine cooling comes from a Brassworks radiator and a Spal electric cooling fan.
A Leather-wrapped Vintec steering...
A Leather-wrapped Vintec steering wheel from Billet Specialties fronts a custom dashboard packed full of analog gauges by Classic Instruments. Note the vents for Hot Rod Air beneath.