Forty summers ago, the whole world tuned in on their TVs as, 240,000 miles away, a pair of fellow earthlings planted their footprints in the dust of the moon. For most people then, as now, a voyage like that was beyond their capabilities-and certainly their budgets. Even so, nobody (hardly anybody) begrudged those guys their trip to the moon. Instead, we appreciated it as a remarkable achievement and a huge inspiration.
We don't want to over exaggerate the significance of custom-built trucks (or beat a metaphor to death), but in the small earthly realm of this hobby, there are a few vehicles that shoot for the moon and make it. Even if beyond the capabilities and budgets of most of us, these trucks can be appreciated as remarkable achievements and huge inspirations.
You'll find a lot of these trucks on the show circuit, which is where the world first saw Ballistic, Gene and Earlene Elpers' '46 Chevy. Its first showing was the 2008 Detroit Autorama, where the elite compete for the prestigious Ridler Award, and where Ballistic finished as a Great 8 finalist. Since then it has earned awards at numerous ISCA events. All this success has been satisfying for the Elpers, but not surprising. This was a seven-year project, undertaken for the challenge of creating a competitive show truck, and accomplished by the talented professionals at Lavine Restorations in Nappanee, Indiana.
Before any mods were made to the exterior, the guys in Nappanee created a custom frame from 2x4 boxed tubing. All suspension components are chromed, polished aluminum, or polished stainless. These include a Heidt's Mustang II frontend-complete with shocks, springs, and spindles-Baer disc brakes, and a Flaming River steering system. The rearend is from Kugel Komponents, from shocks and springs to the limited-slip rearend with 2.75:1 gears and inboard disc brakes.
The lowered stance called for filling the wheelwells with plus-sized rims and tires. The contemporary five-spokes from Billet Specialties' Profile collection measure 20x10 and 18x7. The low-profile tires are P295/45R20 and P215/40R18 BFGoodrich g-Force T/As, but don't bother checking; Gene sanded the sidewalls and buffed them smooth.
Body mods number in the hundreds. The most obvious change is the grille, where the familiar '41-46 bars were replaced with a not-even-close '37 Ford-style grille. The fenders were reformed to blend into the grille and molded-in hood sides. The converted one-piece hood top is hung on rear hinges. The front bumper and 7-inch headlights (with built-in turn signals) were molded into the fenders. The rear fenders were stretched in back and curled up to meet the curve of the tail, and extended in front to meet the running board, which blends into both fenders. The wheelwell openings have been reshaped as well.
The top was chopped 3 inches and a one-piece windshield from Jefferis Hot Rod Glass installed. Emblems and hardware were shaved, and new chrome trim was handformed from solid brass. The body was channeled 4 inches, dropping the beltline molding to meet the bedrails. A pair of '46 Chevy fenders form the inner wheelwells inside the bed, where the two-tone leather floor matches the interior upholstery. Gene made the Ballistic emblems inside the bed, on the tailgate, and elsewhere. Eric Lavine shot the perfectly finished sheetmetal with a custom mix of Standox paint.
The stock dash was smoothed and loaded with a row of carbon-fiber-faced Auto Meter gauges, each angled to face the driver. Classic Steering Wheels reduced the '55-56 Chevy wheel from 18 inches to 15. James Slabaugh covered the late-model Chrysler bucket seats with leather-a combination of weave pattern green and smooth cream. There's a motorized armrest in the console that slides back to reveal ignition, power window, and light switches. Memphis Car Audio speakers with polished stainless grilles pipe in music and a Vintage Air system pipes in fresh air. The Kenwood flip-out touch screen displays images from DVDs or from a backup camera built into the LED taillight.
The Chrysler EFI 6.1 Hemi-built by Street & Performance and Lavine Restorations-is controlled by a BigStuff3 engine management system and features a Momar manifold with two rows of billet throttle bodies, specially-built by Gene. The valve covers and oil pan are chromed, and the custom headers are polished stainless. Bowler Performance Transmissions built the GM 4L60E transmission, operated by a Retro Tek push-button shifter.
We didn't ask what kind of money Gene's got in his Ballistic '46, but we're sure it's astronomical. For those of you in the position to build an out-of-this-world truck of this level, let it inspire you to go the distance. For you more earthbound builders, appreciate this achievement and try to apply its level of imagination to your personal projects.