When Leroy Martini's father, Roy, bought this '51 Chevy five-window, it wasn't a custom or a classic. It was practical and proud new wheels for a young professional carpenter. Leroy was still almost a decade away when the truck joined the family, but by the late '70s, Leroy was not only on the scene, but was old enough to appreciate his dad's red Chevy and the fact that it was going to belong to him someday.
As a kid too young to drive, Leroy had to patiently wait for that day, which wasn't easy. When his parents weren't home, he'd sometimes go out and start the truck with a pair of scissors, back it down the driveway and crawl forward-being careful to park exactly where he'd started.
When he was 15, the waiting was finally over, and Leroy's dad handed down the truck. Leroy made a few simple and cheap cosmetic changes, like diamond tuck upholstery, and drove it throughout his high school years. Even then, he was planning how he would build up the '51 into something extraordinary, coming up with ideas that, years later, would earn trophies at shows and a feature in a magazine.
He was 18 when he tore it apart to begin the rebuild. "My dad came unglued when I took it apart," he remembers. His dad may have suspected that it would be many years before the heirloom '51 would be together again. In the interim, Leroy continued to plan, collected parts, and saved his money to build the truck the way he had always wanted to build it: "I wanted it tubbed and blown. I wanted to sound good, and look like it goes 500 mph." His very first purchases were a 6-71 BDS blower and a pair of big, fat Hoosier tires.
The "sitting in parts" phase of the project lasted more than 15 years, but when Leroy finally got after it, he really got after it, and the complete build was done in four years-quick work considering he did practically all of it himself.
He decided to keep the body proportions untouched, shaving the door rain gutters and replacing the glass, and dropping everything with a modified suspension. The big change was behind the cab, where the beat up bed was replaced with a '54 bed, built from new sides and 18-gauge steel floor overlayed on 3/4-inch tubing, and finished with indoor/outdoor carpet. The tubs, dual batteries, and Triangle 20-gallon stainless fuel cell fill the aft half. Leroy added a rear splash pan, along with aftermarket taillights from a swap meet.
He built a rotisserie to work on the stock frame. He boxed the 'rails and added a Mustang II frontend including spindles and brakes, retaining the stock shocks and coils. The rear is '70 Mustang, with coilovers, four-link, and Posi 4.11:1 gears. You can see for yourself how low it goes; any lower and it'd be scraping shadows off the pavement.
That BDS blower is now topped with a shotgun scoop and a pair of Demon 650 carbs, and feeds a Chevy small-block. Walt at Performance Machine bored the cylinders 0.030-over. Block-hugger headers, double roller timing chain, and aluminum valve covers add to the eye appeal. The truck has a hood, but it hangs on the wall where it can't hide all that chrome. Leroy replaced the three-speed with a TH400 with a heavy-duty clutch and B&M shifter, converter, and trans cooler.
The old truck is still red, but now it's a 2000 Viper color, shot by the owner. He did work in trade for Mark Bonham in exchange for the chromework, and wrapped those Hoosier tires (31x18.5-15 and 26x4-15) around 15x12 and 15x8 Weld Draglites.
A wrecking yard late-model bench seat was cover in tan leather by Dante's Upholstery. The rest of the interior is Leroy's work. He built the door panels, cut the steel dash (filled with Pro Comp gauges and a CD player), and fabricated the custom shifter base-then installed the ididit column with a Lecarra billet wheel. The rollcage was built from 1 1/2-inch, 0.120-wall steel.
Now that it's done, Leroy can see with his eyes the truck he'd seen in his imagination since his teenage days. It's definitely the truck he always wanted. His one regret is that his dad, Roy, isn't around to see how well it turned out. But his daughters Megan (age 11) and Marissa (age 10) love the truck, and can look forward to inheriting the hand-me-down pickup someday. Who knows-they may already be making plans.