If a person is lucky and lives long enough at some point in their life they will able to build the truck of their dreams. In the case of Sam Head of Redondo Beach, California, the PPG Grabber Yellow '50 Chevy gracing this month's cover wasn't necessarily the truck of his dreams, but rather the only series of Chevrolet truck he hadn't built. To name a few, Sam has owned seven '67 C10 Chevrolets, a '66 and a '69 El Camino, a '62 Ford Unibody, a '53 Ford Courier, a '56 Ford F-100 panel, and a boatload of '73-87 crew cab dualies.
Sam's '50 evolved kind of like a Johnny Cash song with the frame being the first part of the puzzle. His brother Benny up in Fallon, Nevada, had a customer at his shop Benny's Auto Body who had decided half-way through the build that he was going to opt for a tube chassis.
The stock Chevy framerails Benny shipped to Sam came equipped with a Heidts Mustang II conversion up front and a parallel four-link out back. The front suspension features tubular control arms, 2-inch dropped spindles, and a set of adjustable Aldan coilovers. The rear is a basic parallel four-link with a Panhard bar and two more adjustable Aldan coilovers holding a '72 Chevy 12-bolt Posi rearend. The bulk of the stopping power comes from a set of polished billet aluminum Dynalite calipers with 11-inch rotors up front and to handle the rear there's factory drums. In place of the stock single master cylinder hangs a frame-mounted power booster and dual master cylinder setup from Classic Performance Products. Sam plumbed all new steel brake lines to add the finishing touch. For front wheels and tires the '50 rolls on a pair of 20x9-inch KMC Nova rims shod with Nitto NT555 245/35ZR20 tires. To add more off-the-line grip the rears are 20x10-inch KMC Novas with a pair of Nitto 275/40R20 Extreme Drag Radials.
Under the hood is a '69 Chevy 350 punched out to 355 inches by Vellios Machine Shop of Lawndale, California. To plug the holes Sam stuffed in a set of 9:1 pistons. The camshaft is an Edelbrock Performer with a Weiand Action Plus aluminum intake manifold with an Edelbrock AFB carb. To add a little nostalgia, Sam installed a set of Cal Custom valve covers he got from his son Calin along with a louvered air cleaner from Trans Dapt. The nostalgia stops and modern takes over with a serpentine system snagged from a '94 Chevy pickup to drive the ancillaries. In place of a mechanically driven blade-type fan an electric fan sourced from a later Ford F-150 is in place. To transmit power from the 355 to the 12-bolt rearend Sam had friend Steve Sharp build a beefed TH350 transmission. To handle the exhaust chores Sam picked up a set of block hugger headers from the swap meet to run down to a pair of three-chamber Flowmaster mufflers. Extending the '50 Chevy's range and definitely making it a lot safer to drive, the stock Chevy gas tank was removed from behind the seat and a 17.5-gallon tank from Chevs of the 40's was mounted in the very rear.
Sam told us the '50's body was hammered when he got it. "It literally looked like someone walked around the truck and hit it with a hammer. The bed was in pretty bad shape, the only thing usable was the tailgate, crossmembers, and headboard. I bought new bedsides from the Truck Shop in Orange, California, and picked up a set of clean fenders from Dave Bechtel." Getting back to the nostalgic look Sam hung a pair of '50 Merc taillights low on the rear fenders. "After a little trimming of the housing they fit the contour of the fenders perfectly." Further modifications included stuffing the '50 Chevy's one-piece windows into a pair of '53 pushbutton doors. With the bodywork straight Sam had longtime friend Vic Sapien lay down a slick coat of Grabber Orange found on the new Mustangs. After the paint cured Sam installed a new chrome grille and bumper from Classic Industries instead of trying to restore the originals.
The interior of the '50 is where Sam's start in 1959 at Hermosa Auto Upholstery in Hermosa Beach, California, as young kid sweeping the floor, and eventually ending up as the owner for almost 50 years really shines. "The first thing I did inside the cab was string a new Ron Francis wiring harness to everything including the new gauges I got from Chevs of the 40's. Then I got busy covering the headliner and some other trim in a tan vinyl. I got a set of leather-covered bucket seats out of an '04 Hyundai and shaved the headrests and fabbed up some new brackets. I used a tilt steering column from a '69 Chevy C10 and a Kugel shift rod to hook it to the transmission. I really didn't feel like cutting a big hole in the dash for a modern radio, so I built a custom box to fit behind the seats to hold the Pioneer head unit and 6x9 speakers. I scored a factory radio delete plate to fill the dash hole and my buddy "Bruce the brush" did a little striping on it."