Chopped tops, reshaped fenders, and complicated suspension systems-all of these modifications are great for an old pickup, but the truck on these pages is just fine without them. And while simple qualities are often overlooked in favor of something with more "wow factor," we find it hard to dislike this uncluttered '53 Chevy. Its clean design is matched with a very dependable drivetrain and a suspension setup that offers a nice stance with a comfortable ride. What more could you ask for in a classic Chevy truck?
Larry Walker is the proud owner of this bright-red pickup, and we caught up with him at the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Kentucky. As it turns out, Bowling Green is Larry's hometown and the Hot Rod Reunion is definitely a must-go event for him-with 1,500 hot rods, 400 drag racers, and a huge swap meet who can blame him? Larry's truck looks right at home in the crowd, but its real home is the highway. The truck was built to be driven, so making it simple, clean, and dependable were the basic goals of the project from the start.
To give you an idea of this truck's previous condition, Larry paid $200 for it and the old adage, "you get what you pay for" couldn't have been any truer. The truck was certainly rough, but Larry was sure his brother Lewis could bring it back to life. Additional help came from longtime friend Ivan Turner and a few other folks along the way. With their help Larry managed to finish the truck in one year.
The crew started with the well-worn original equipment, and quickly stripped it down to find the usable parts and dispose of the rusted or heavily damaged ones. The frame would remain close to stock, aside from a new crossmember and mounts for a Mustang II suspension setup. They also cut a C-notch in the framerails to make room for the rack-and-pinion, which is a major step up from the original steering box and linkage. The suspension is made up of tubular control arms and adjustable coilover shocks, while a pair of 11-inch disc brakes brings the pickup to a halt. Rear suspension modifications consist of a new pair of leaf springs to lower the truck's ride height substantially. Larry used a late-model GM rearend, which is fit with a 3.73:1 gearset and kept it stock for the sake of simplicity.
When Larry established the truck's ride height it was time to pick out a set of wheels, so he opted for a set of Eagle Alloy five-spoke wheels. Coming in at 20 inches in diameter, the wheels are chrome-plated and wrapped in Ventus rubber, sized 245/35ZR20 up front and 245/40ZR20 out back to slightly enhance the truck's raked stance.
For power, Larry relies on a very mild 350ci small-block Chevy, which is dependable and easy to maintain. Internally, it's stock, but Larry outfitted it with a Weiand polished aluminum intake manifold and a 650-cfm Holley carburetor to help in the performance department, while the original HEI distributor provides the spark. Outgoing air flows through a set of shorty headers and 3-inch exhaust before reaching the Turbo mufflers, which keeps the small-block sounding healthy. And while most folks opt for an overdrive transmission, Larry kept it simple with a TH350 automatic transmission, as the rearend ratio and rear tire size are enough to keep rpms down at highway speed.
Rough and ragged, the truck's body panels were in bad shape, but it received much-needed attention from Jimmy Davis, at Davis & Son's Body Shop in Larry's hometown of Bowling Green. New body panels and hand-fabricated patch panels eliminated the rust, but the pickup still needed lots of massaging to be deemed ready to paint. After several cycles of primer and block-sanding, the truck received its final preparation before rolling into the spray booth. Torch Red is the color, and a few coats of clear provided plenty of material when it came time to sand and buff the fresh finish. The finished product is slick, straight, and very simple to match the truck's style. Davis & Son's also treated the chassis to a glossy coating of Torch Red.