There are different levels of participation when it comes to owning a customized classic truck. Some guys have a new truck to drive during the week and only roll out their old one on the weekend to enjoy as a hobby. For Jim Rodriguez of Union City, California, customized classic trucks are a lifestyle, so much so that he refuses to own anything newer than 1965. By anything, we mean cars as well. Jim's automobile is a red and white '64 Chevy Impala with white interior he bought in '74. As this story is being written, Jim is out in his two-car garage pulling the '64's original 409-inch single quad motor with an aluminum Powerglide and getting them ready to rebuild. It's practically the same process Jim employed when he rebuilt and customized his '65 Chevy Suburban.
Jim's Chevy Suburban project began with a two-year search to locate an example that wasn't a rust bucket. He didn't originally intend to build the all-out custom you see gracing our pages. He just wanted something he could load his family into to take them camping on the weekends.
Step one was to climb under the hood and start with the engine and trans. Jim backed the Chevy into his two-car garage, hooked up a chain to his original powerplant, and yanked the '65 vintage stuff out. He replaced it with a 350-inch Chevy small-block crate motor with a Turbo 350 automatic transmission.
For induction, he chose an Edelbrock Performer carburetor and intake manifold. The Edelbrock carburetor is a highly improved version of the old Carter AFBs found on many a factory-equipped mid-'60s automobile. The original cast-iron exhaust manifolds were discarded in favor of Hedman headers dumping into dual Flowmaster mufflers. For engine dress-up and a nostalgic touch, Jim capped the carb with a '56 Chevy Bel Air air cleaner and Billet Specialties valve covers. Jim is a millwright by trade, so he turned his truck's engine compartment into a metal shop project-advanced metal shop, to be exact. The Turbo 350 three-speed automatic transmission received a B&M shift kit with a Lokar shifter.
Firestone bags with Early...
Firestone bags with Early Classics 2-inch drop spindles set the stance. Airbrushed side moldings by Wild Woman Graphics just fake you out.
An Impala-style steering wheel...
An Impala-style steering wheel from Billet Specialties caps a '65 Caddy tilt and telescopic steering column. The gauges are from Auto Meter.
The engine is dressed with...
The engine is dressed with Billet Specialties polished aluminum valve covers flanking a '56 Bel Air chromed air cleaner.