Talk to anyone who has ever built a customized classic truck and the odds are good that each person will have a slightly different version of a basic story. For some, the process went relatively easy, while for others, it was enough to drive them insane. When we asked Brian Burch of Huntington Beach, California, to tell us the saga of his wife's '54 Chevy pickup and his face started to scrunch up, we knew the truck had almost driven him crazy. "My wife had been hitting me up for what she described as a cute little vintage truck to run errands. My friend Tom had this '54 in his garage that he started to build but had too many other projects going. I had always liked it, but my wife, who had never seen the '54, had her heart set on a '59 Apache. One day Tom told me he was thinking about selling it, so I took my wife to see it. As soon as she saw it, the deal was done.
When we bought it, it had the appearance of being pretty close to finished: It was painted, it ran OK, it had a basic airbag system-all we had to do was put an interior in it and we were ready to drive it, right? Wrong!"
As it turned out, the Burch family and their '54 were just on the threshold of all the details that had to be done to the truck as it appears here. It's not that the '54 wasn't built right in the first place, but it seemed the truck was intent on testing its new owners to see if they were worthy of possessing it.
When Brian's friend Tom owned the '54, the truck was a refugee from the '80s, with white-letter tires, metallic green paint, and a third brake light to boot. In search of a shop to update the Chevy to suit his tastes, Tom enlisted the crew at Eightball Rods & Choppers in Placentia, California, to get the old man stink off of it. The first thing to go was the third brake light. Eightball could have easily gotten by just filling the hole back in, but to be absolutely sure, they chopped the top 3 1/2 inches. Now the rear window openings align perfectly.
Another area in need of an upgrade was the '54's suspension. There's nothing wrong with an '84 Camaro clip, but in order to get the old Chevy to lay hard, Eightball installed a pair of 'bags and cut the Camaro's crossmember out, replacing it with a length of 2x6-inch channel. In the rear, the original leaf spring arrangement was replaced with a bagged parallel four-link setup with a Panhard bar from KP Components. Prior to installing the four-link suspension, Eightball sectioned in an 8-inch step notch and raised the bed floor evenly as opposed to building a bridge notch cover for the differential.
When Brian bought the '54 from Tom, Eightball had color-changed it to black suede. Since Eightball had been involved with the truck from the start, Brian figured it would be a good idea to have them continue with the project. Eightball added a few body mods and repainted the truck with red fenders. For some reason, the black suede turned out to be a curse, with everything from the hood blowing up on the freeway to watermelon stripes appearing in the suede finish. After eight repaints and a lot of block-sanding, the bad luck subsided.
Once all the mechanical items were out of the way, Brain and Michele were finally able to take the '54 over to Westminster Auto Upholstery to get the leather interior done. Aware that more than a few chopped rear quarter-windows were broken while being installed, Westminster's Pete Engel did the entire headliner without removing the window glass. Once the nerve-wracking work around the windows was done, Pete re-contoured an S-10 bench seat and tuck 'n' rolled it in black and white leather and vinyl to match the rest of the interior.
To handle the finer details on the '54, Brian contacted KA Custom in Huntington Beach, where Kevin Francis installed an Air Ride Technologies Ride-Pro controller and replumbed the air and fuel lines for show and go.
After a rash of bad luck and a whole lot of patience, Brian and Michele's '54 Chevy is ready to hit the road. We just hope that when it comes to running errands, Michele's luck around shopping carts is better than Brian's luck on the freeway. CCT
Doug at Brea Auto Electric...
Doug at Brea Auto Electric wired the '54. Inside the glovebox resides an Air Ride Technologies Ride-Pro controller alongside an Alpine monitor.
The walnut bed floor with...
The walnut bed floor with a dark ebony stain was done by the owner. Note that the gas cap's lettering hasn't been shaved.
Coker wide whites sure look...
Coker wide whites sure look pretty on the re-hooped steelies powdercoated by Nu-Tech.
Notice the Chevrolet script...
Notice the Chevrolet script has been shaved from the top grille bar...that's a lot of work.
An '84 Camaro 305-inch small-block...
An '84 Camaro 305-inch small-block with finned aluminum Moon valve covers and an Edelbrock intake with a 650 Holley provide the punch. The headers are from Hooker.