Alex Kruk fondly remembers watching his father manhandle the family’s two ’61 AMC Ramblers out in the driveway when he was a young impressionable kid. “My dad was pretty mechanically inclined, and if you know anything about these cars, you know your hands were always dirty just trying to keep them running.” It was about that same time, when he was just turning double digits in age, when he realized just like his dad, he too was hooked on cars. Before he knew it, his hands were just as dirty helping his dad keep the head gaskets intact on the feisty flathead AMC’s.
To add fuel to the already smoldering fire, the family across the street from Alex had five motorhead boys, all of them growing up during the muscle car wars of the late ’60s. The wildest son Ronnie had a ton of hot rods and fast rides, and that left an indelible impression on the younger neighbor Alex. A ’55 Chevy gasser, a ’64 tri-power GTO, and a ’57 tri-power Bonneville all spent time in the driveway across the street, and pushed Alex into getting a muscular ride to call his own.
When Alex turned 18, he purchased his first cool car to flog around town, a bone stock ’69 327 Camaro, which he wishes he never got rid of (join the club). From there, it was no turning back, he went on to grab a sweet ’71 Gran Prix. A few years later, Alex married his high school sweetheart Mary. Together they bought a 440 Charger, which Mary consistently terrorized the local streets of Westbury, Long Island, with. She just loved having all that power on hand, and craved the Mopar’s aggressive looks and coke bottle styling as well.
Fast forward a few more years, Alex and Mary started a family, and developed a business. For the time being, the hot rods were set aside while he tended to the everyday chores of keeping a family on its feet and keeping the business running strong. However, once he got a little bit ahead in this game called life, he bought himself a toy … a ’72 454 Vette, a car he still proudly owns today. But it didn’t stop there for Alex; no way. Back when he was 13 or 14 years old, his good friend Bob’s older brother had a pale yellow ’57 Nomad, which he took an interest in. This was a ride that Alex just had to have. It took a while to find one he could rebuild, but after an exhaustive search, one was located out in Illinois. It was a real project, but Alex quickly turned it into a bona fied head turner.
But then, in early 2005, Alex got another itch for a cool ride, thinking maybe an old school Rat Rod would be a neat project. So he scoured the Internet looking for a likely candidate, and found one to his liking in Kansas … a beat-up but dry ’51 Chevy 3100. Once shipped back east, Alex immediately started the tear-down process on the old beater. After adding a Fatman chassis and picking up a new ZZ4 crate motor, he realized this was not going to be any kind of Rat ride. At that point, the project was turned over to Richie Herman at L & L Auto Restoration LTD in Glen Cove, New York, for a complete ground up buildup.
Once Richie received the truck at L & L, the chassis and its components were completely torn down, and the project was started from scratch. Being a body man by trade, he first started off by mocking up the completed ride, checking fit and fitment of the trucks main components on the Fatman frame. From the original ’51, only the cab, front fenders, and hood were saved. Richie was then on the lookout for other vitals, scoring some fresh doors from a junkyard, and then buying a brand-new aftermarket bed for the rear of the truck. After the bed was secured, Richie went out to make a set of custom tubs, just so he could get some big time wheels and rubber out back in the near future.
Next, a set of stock rear fenders were procured and modified to hold the oversized rear running gear. Richie then cleaned up the rear fender’s stabilizer bracket, removing the factory rivets, welding it on and then finally smoothing out the welds for a neater look. Last, but not least, the rear gas filler panel was moved from the cab and placed out on the rear fender, closer to the relocated gas tank.
Richie went on to further touch up the body. Underhood, the engine bay was cleaned out, welds were touched up, and every crease and junction was smoothed out. This cradle that now holds the engine is like glass, and it’s the perfect encasement for the fully decked out crate ZZ4 which would power this ride. In the bed, fresh oak was laid out, and marine style pop up cleats were installed for a trick look, and to have a means of tying anything down that might roll around on acceleration. The roll pan was kept out back, and the bumper was flipped and installed. Unfortunately, there was an issue with where to install license plate, as to place it where it wasn’t obstructed from view. It was decided that the bumper would be cut out in the middle, making it into two separate bumperettes, which would make the local law enforcement community happy.
Once the body was set, Alex had to choose an appropriate color to paint his ride. Richie laid out several different colors on the truck … at the same time! He did this so Alex could compare different hues, and how they interacted with the truck. After a few changes, he finally settled on silver as the color. Richie then laid out a few coats of an Alfa Romeo Silver Standox paint on the body. His painting technique involves spraying the car with a few color coats and a coat of clear, letting it sit for a month to let the paint and body work settle. Next, he once again blocks the paint out, smoothing out any imperfections.
Once finished, he again shoots the truck with color, finishing it off with four coats of clear. During this process, the grille, running boards, splash pan and frame were sent out and powdercoated in silver, which almost identically matched the silver on the body. The 16x10 and 15x8 steel wheels were also sent out and powdercoated to a deep red, keeping with the vintage look of his ride. Alex wrapped them in Goodrich radials … 215/65/15 up front, and 265/60/16 out back.
As far as handling the road, the truck rides on polished SST suspension, which came onboard with the Fat Man chassis. Out back, a three link is in place, while the Chevy rides on Pro Shock coilovers in all four corners. For stopping power, four wheel power disc brakes help bring the ’51 to a halt in a hurry, while a narrowed Ford 9-inch rear, stuffed with 3.70 gears get the power out to the wheels.
The cab was sent out to RP Interiors in Horseheads, New York, to get the full treatment. Custom door panels, carpets and headliner were made for the Chevy, and they even did a custom console up in the headliner. The seats are also custom made by Leather Glide, and were reupholstered in leather at the shop. The dash was also smoothed out by Richie and painted to match the trucks exterior. Classic gauges were then installed throughout the cockpit, a tilt Flaming River column with flashers was installed, and then topped off with a polished aluminum Flaming River steering wheel … of course, wrapped in leather.
At that point, Alex insisted that Richie finish off the project, even though Richie had never wired up a complete ride before. So he hit the books, tackled the job, and ran all the wire that would get this truck runnin’. First off, he passed all the wires through the frame so they wouldnt be seen … neat trick. And in the engine bay … similar trickery can be found. Richie cut and fit stainless steel tubing, which he ran the engine harness through. This hid any wires from view underhood—a custom trick, which really cleans up the engine bay. Once again a nice touch which really sets this truck apart from the guy parked next to him at the car show.
Once back from the interior shop, the cab was remounted, and then all sights were aimed at the drivetrain. Richie laid the ZZ4 motor in the engine bay and hooked it up a 700-R4 four-speed transmission with lock up. The motor is totally decked out in chrome—anything that could be chromed, was chromed by Street Performance. Up top, a Demon Six Shooter is the cherry on top of this crate motor; not only for a vintage look, but also to keep this hungry engine fed with enough fuel. MSD ignition provides the spark to the nearly 400hp motor.
Nowadays, Alex’s sweet ’51 can be seen traveling the roads Long Island, collecting stares and glances wherever the pickup takes him. The silver Chevy has made the rounds at the local shows, grabbing awards wherever it’s parked, and making its owner proud. Last, but not least, Alex would like to send out a special thanks to Ron at Don’s East Coast Restoration and Joe Herman for their help with the project.
As for the future, who knows? Right now Alex enjoys running the 400 horses on the Southern State Parkway, pushing the ’51 and opening up those triple deuces. This Bow Tie is no ordinary truck, and Alex just loves making the ZZ4 and the Fat Man chassis sing … in horsepower harmony. CCT