With the bed floor raised, spectators get to view the C-notched frame rails along with the
When we first met Juan Carlo Ibarra, it was at the benefit show for the late automotive editor, Courtney Halowell, in Clearwater, Florida. There were more than 150 vehicles on display but Juan received the coveted Courtney Pick, earned for the three beautiful classic trucks he displayed at the event. Juan manages multiple rental properties in the Miami area and his cars and trucks are pure hobby, one that he has been enjoying for more than two decades. One of the best examples of his talent is this white ’48 GMC. He took the truck in on trade and it was a sad little basket case with a frame and body but no suspension. There was something about the pile of parts, however, that convinced him the automotive antique needed a fresh start.
Juan does all his own work and began the rejuvenation process by C-notching the frame, then welding in an ’81 Camaro front clip using 2-inch dropped spindles. The original plan for the rear was to create a simple four-link but sometimes, trucks write their own story and you just become a willing participant. No sooner was the new four-link in position when he realized he would have to create some adjustability in the new front end, a problem he solved with a set of airbags. The lowered front end looked good and, as we all know, one thing leads to another. It wasn’t long before the plan changed entirely, with Juan scrubbing the first idea for the rear and creating a new back half to replace the original chassis rails. It incorporated a deeper C-notch and he mounted the four-link upside down to ensure proper clearance now that the truck was resting comfortably on the asphalt. A pair of Viair 480s, mounted left and right on the rear chassis rails, feed the polished five-gallon reserve tank and activate the four Slam Specialties bags through SMC valves. Four Doetsch gas-filled shocks, with multistage valving ensure a comfortable ride on the street while guaranteeing precise handling at speed. Modern Coys wheels got the ancient pickup rolling in new millennium style with 18x7s up front and 20x8s in the rear, all wrapped in Nankang rubber. Juan is a perfectionist when he builds, taking the time to grind all the welds smooth before he sent more than a dozen different chassis pieces to Bulls Eye Powder Coating in Miami. They sent the pieces back covered in a beautiful shade of Copper Pearl. For contrast, the custom-made, 17-gallon aluminum fuel tank was powdercoated Wrinkle Black. All the colors and innovative engineering on the chassis are visible, thanks to a linear actuator that raises the bed floor at the touch of a button, a feature that always wows spectators.
Once the modern suspension components were in place and altitude was under the driver’s control, it was time for motive power. The tired original six-banger was made into a planter and a new 350 Chevy was mounted low in the chassis. Upgraded with a Holly 570 cfm carburetor, MSD HEI ignition, and ceramic coated headers feeding twin Magnaflow mufflers, the new V-8 sends 300 hp to the modern Turbo 350 automatic and Camaro 12-bolt rear. As pretty as it is powerful, the engine was accented with custom pieces that include a custom made aluminum air cleaner, a one-of-a-kind triangular accent, and valve covers, all painted to match. The smooth firewall holds the polished Wilwood master cylinder along with the modern A/C connections for the Vintage Air A/C.
While all the original body lines still show through, no ’48 GMC ever had a stance like th
Mounted low in the late-model Camaro front clip, the modern 350 V-8 creates 300 hp and ens
Like everything else on this truck, the interior is a tasteful blend of old and new. The o
Juan wanted to keep the exterior as original as possible, preferring clean and simple lines. “I don’t like it when the trucks are overloaded,” he told us. “The truck may be resting on the ground but the body looks just like it did in 1948.” While all the pieces were in the original overflowing baskets, everything needed a strong dose of tender loving care. The cab, fenders, running boards, and even the original door handles required lots of careful attention to bring them up to modern standards of fit and finish. The truck was originally equipped with a long bed, a rare option that Juan retained. His one main departure from originality was converting the three-window truck into a five-window using custom panels from LMC. While the finishing touches on the sheetmetal were wrapping up, it was time to update the interior.
The bench seat is the original factory version, modernized with new springs, padding, and an elegant combination of Ultra Leather and ostrich hide upholstery. Ostrich trim was added to the door panels, window surrounds, shift boot, and headliner. A chromed Flaming River steering column holds the Billet Specialties wheel and Juan chose a Lokar shifter and pedals. All the original gauges were reworked and modernized to run on 12 volts. Period correct loop pile carpet covers the floor. Carrying the inside theme to the outside, the same ostrich hide is used on the electrically actuated bed floor, now dotted with rows of sharp spikes left over from a Harley build (Load this “Bed of Nails” at your own risk!). William from Bahamas Auto Upholstery in Miami handled the stitch work. The final touch was the smooth Bone White paintjob, with Marlon and George from Auto Spec in Miami accomplishing the metal prep and final finish.
Is Juan happy with the finished truck? Although the initial goal was to create a nicely modernized old truck, the ’48 turned out to be an amazingly sophisticated ride and Juan couldn’t be happier. “I don’t think I’ve ever said ‘This is what I’m going to build and this is exactly what it’s going to look like.’ The build always writes its own story.” Clearly a story with a very happy ending! What’s the best part? Juan told us “None of my trucks are trailer queens. I drive them all!” Our kinda guy! CCT