Although the roots of GMC trucks can be traced back to 1902, it wasn't until January 1912 that the first GMC emblem appeared on a General Motors truck. By '42, the model year of Larry and Wes Wolfe's GMC COE gracing our pages, GMC was destined to become the nation's largest producer of vehicles for the war effort.
With hundreds of thousands of GMC trucks sent overseas never to be seen again, the Wolfe's GMC was one of the lucky ones.
The truck spent the duration of World War II stationed in Kansas acquiring few miles. By the time Wes bought the GMC in Virginia for $400, there were only 20,000 miles on the odometer. These weren't easy miles, though, because of its second career as a farm truck short-hauling grain with a homemade dump box on its back. The body on a big truck ordinarily stays pretty cherry because it's out of the reach of low-flying idiots in smaller vehicles.
Unfortunately for the Wolfe's COE, its roof was used as a platform for farmhands to stand on while shoveling grain. Needless to say, the entire roof looked like Dumbo's trampoline.
The fellow Wes bought the GMC from wanted to whack the cab from the doors back and build a retro motorhome of sorts. But once he faced the reality of how much work he'd have to do to convert the GMC, he put it up for sale.
A question on Custom Classic Trucks' tech sheet asks truck owners if they built their truck in stages. Since they almost always list the frame as the first stage, we were surprised to discover Wes listed the GMC's cab as their first stage. Wes said they built the '42's cab first and then the chassis. If you're starting to think Wes and his dad might have an unfair advantage over most custom truck builders, you'd be right.
Over 35 years ago in their hometown of Covington, Virginia, Larry Wolfe opened the doors to Wolfe's Body Shop. These days, Larry and Wes make their bread and butter doing collision work.
For enjoyment, they like to build hot rods and customs to drive cross-country to rod runs and car shows. Currently the pair own a genuine '32 Ford each, as well as other desirable vehicles, including Wes' '68 Olds 442 coupe.
Looking at the rear wheels,...
Looking at the rear wheels, notice how nice the '37-38 GMC NOS 1-ton panel truck fenders adapt to the custom bed and running boards.
The '70 454-inch big-block...
The '70 454-inch big-block GMC engine was built by another father and son business located in Covington, Virginia. Heath Pence at Denny's Automotive & Machine Shop prepped and machined the 454 before installing a Crane roller cam, 0.30-over pistons and a 750-cfm Edelbrock carb.
Wolfe's Auto Body used three...
Wolfe's Auto Body used three complete GMC COE cabs to construct their one-off crew cab. This center post/doorjamb represents the remains of one cab.
Somewhere a Coke memorabilia...
Somewhere a Coke memorabilia collector is crying. Wes chopped and shortened a mint '50-model Coke machine to fit as a tool chest. He used gray Trek's decking to make his bed floor and Pro-Choice stainless steel hidden T-bolt strips for floor strips.
The cockpit sports a flat...
The cockpit sports a flat floor thanks to a conventional tilt steering column holding a Billet Specialties steering wheel with a dash-mounted shifter adapted from a C-series A100 Dodge van. The former Torqueflite shifter now controls a GM Turbo 400, precision-rebuilt by Todd Fixx and multiplied with a U.S. Gear overdrive.
Since GMC never offered a crew cab COE, creating one required an enormous amount of manhours. Wes sacrificed three cabs and six doors to end up with a four-door COE body that looked like it might have rolled off General Motors' assembly line. He began the tedious job by fabricating a subframe to support the four-door body independent from the '42's chassis. It's interesting to note that instead of moving the firewall back, Wes positioned his firewall forward. This allowed him to relocate the engine aft to a midship arrangement and cleared the way for a conventional steering column. By conventional, he didn't have to drop the column straight down into the floor like stock.
With the floor cleared of the column, Wes continued the cleanup process with a dash-mounted shifter. A gray leather-wrapped steering wheel from Billet Specialties fronts a dash cluster packed full of white-faced gauges from Classic Instruments. Air-conditioning vents mounted into the dashboard and the rear seating area keep ice-cold air circulating throughout the crew cab's interior. Speaking of the interior, it was upholstered in gray ultraleather by King's Auto Upholstery in Roanoke, Virginia. Freddie King saw to it his crew did a kickass job on every area, from its plush carpeting to the custom headliner.
With the exception of the truck's interior, everything else was done within Covington's city limits. Wes hauled a stack of 5x10-foot sheetmetal over to Phillip Bowen and Chris Persinger at JenFab in Covington to form the '42's one-off custom bed and running boards.
Not since the 1700s, when the British pranced around in bright red coats, has such a brilliant hue been utilized in a military application. The GMC's custom-blended DuPont red paint was mixed in-house on Wolfe's Auto Body's DuPont mixing bench. The ultra-glossy urethane finish is a two-stage system that consumed three gallons of PPG 2021 clear as the topcoat. Wes told us he spent nearly seven months on labor and over $3,500 in materials to paint the '42. To ease painting the inside of the bed and doorjambs, Wes used DuPont's single-stage paint.
With the COE crew cab complete, Wes and Larry used the shop's two-post lift to drop the four-door cab onto an updated frame-an '86 Chevy C30 chassis powered by a '70 454-inch big-block, to be exact. The frontend was lowered using Belltech spindles and coils, while the 4.10:1-geared 1-ton rearend is attached to leaf springs assisted by Firestone airbags.
Cab Over Engine custom classic trucks are a breed apart from other vintage haulers. They are expensive and time-consuming to build. There're no two ways about it, a person either has to be relatively wealthy or very gifted to complete a COE.
For the Wolfe family, their '42 GMC was a father and son team effort that consumed five years of hard work and inspiration. Wes said he and his dad would have never been able to complete the truck without the support of his mother Sandra, wife Melinda and daughter Hanna.
The Wolfes sourced a Buick...
The Wolfes sourced a Buick Century rear seat. King's Auto Upholstery performed the perfect trim work.
Wes installed roller-bearing...
Wes installed roller-bearing hinges from Weber Studios to help the doors with their heavy load. Custom-cut one-piece window glass replaces the stock door and vent windows.
Wes and Larry Wolfe caught...
Wes and Larry Wolfe caught discussing fuel mileage. "This thing has never broke out of the 10-mpg range. It's a good thing we built that stainless steel 42-gallon gas tank."
The front and rear bumpers...
The front and rear bumpers are from a '48 Chevy school bus. Guess that will teach them to park in front of the body shop. Just kidding, the Wolfes bought the bumpers from the same guy who sold them the '37 Dodge taillights.
Belltech dropped coils and...
Belltech dropped coils and springs set the stance. Eagle alloy wheels and Dunlop Frontrunner tires point it, and Kelly Springfield rear tires push it.