Make your jokes about country folks, but you’ve got to admit that there’s more vintage tin where they live than where most of the rest of us dwell. Bob Calvin has been in the historic gold-rush Calaveras County (Northern California) virtually all his life. Within a half-hour drive of his home, he can show you the ranches and farms where he located most of the cars and trucks he has built over the years. The ’49 GMC panel truck you see here is the third of his eight currently running rods and when found, it had been the home o f a “hippie ranch-hand” for two years. The spacious interior had been insulated with newspapers and tarpaper, and he and his girlfriend painted their feet white and put their foot imprints on the ceiling (two up, two down)!

The truck was in remarkably good condition when Bob found it in 1999, thus most of the metal work done was to suit his tastes rather than repairing rust or damaged tin. Even in his busy retirement and multitude of projects, he managed to finish this one in 2½ years by going the very practical route of buying a donor car. From a ’76 Camaro with only 50K miles, he utilized the 350/350 engine and transmission combo, the front suspension clip, tilt steering column and the rear end, plus smaller items. When he was done, he called the scrap guy to take away what was left.

The biggest challenge of the whole project was the rear entryway (an architectural term seems appropriate for such a big vehicle). Originally it was a panel delivery, meaning that it had two rear doors (hinged on the sides), but Bob wanted the easy access of just one door, like a sedan delivery. To complicate the plan even further, he wanted it to open like a hatchback. He welded the two stock doors together, complete with the two original windows. Hanging the doors was the real problem; the now one-piece door weighs a ton. He had no blueprint for hinges to attach it to the body and spent countless hours adding sections of steel to stiffen the body all around the door opening. He also wanted it to open remotely like his front doors. The final issue was to find a pair of struts capable of handling the weight and leverage of this huge door. He’s on his second set of industrial struts, but it works like a charm now.

Bob’s tip for Jimmy owners who are trying to accommodate 10-inch-wide rear wheels is using Chevy pickup fenders of the period. “It’s not a bolt-on swap,” says Bob, “but the minor work to fit them will allow you two more inches in fender width.”

Other body mods include frenched headlights, third brake light and taillights, all from Hagan kits. After solving the back-door problems, adding a Toyota moonroof was child’s play. Stance control is in the form of Air Ride Technologies airbags. Amador Glass installed the two-piece, V-butt windshield and the acres of bodywork and paint were expertly carried out by Chris Peek. The shaved-bolt bumpers and other chrome parts were dipped and buffed by Lodi Chrome.

The GMC’s of this period originally had 6V, positive-ground electrical systems, which Bob replaced with a Painless kit, and after building his previous cars it was no problem to add the various door solenoids and electric windows, all with key-remote. With all the work entailed in this truck, his only minor complaint is that he used the “wireless” button-contacts in the doorjambs. “When you have the door open”, he said, “you can’t open or close the electric windows.”