Body expert Chris Peak made good use of 2000 Lincoln Towncar “Autumn Red”, with ghost flam
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.
There’s only one engine under the hood, despite the firewall reflection, but one is more t
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.”
You could just about carry a grand piano in back, but Bob stuck with a CD player for music
It looks like there’s a lot going on here—except for the radio—indicator lights and door s
There are no complaints about the 6-71-blown 350, it hauls! The polished blower sits on a Weiand manifold and carries two Holley 650 blower carbs on top. The 3-inch Gilmer-belt drive provides that sweet blower sound. Internals included a mild cam, geardrive, stainless steel valves and forged 7.25:1 pistons. A Mallory ignition with 9mm wires lights it off, and headers coated by Caps of Fresno complete the power supply. Bob went to the trouble to detail the packed compartment by running the wiring and HVAC hoses through the fenderwell to keep the inner fender panels and firewall clean-looking.
In Bob and wife Rita’s home, there is one room that is all car event memorabilia and trophies. “The trophies are nice as recognition,” they explained, “but we just enjoy taking trips in our cars, going with old friends and meeting new ones. The older you get, you build on what you’ve learned with other projects in the past.”
Apparently there’s no slowing down the Calvins. They have 31,000 miles on this one so far, and Bob is now hot on the trail of a ’38 Chrysler coupe in dusty, but very nice condition in a local barn! CCT