Amid personal tragedy, Tom Swegles vowed to keep the pedal pushed on his passion for custom cars and trucks. An enthusiast since a teenager in Kentucky, Tom’s most recent hot rod is a 1955 Chevy small-window truck. After a stroke, which resulted in a left leg amputation, Tom was looking for something to replace his ’57 Corvette. Something that was a bit easier to get in and out of with little pain.
Tom started his custom car lifestyle in 1992 with a ’38 Ford that his friend Ron Phifer from Boyd Coddington’s shop had found. Since then he’s owned a ’57 Chevy Bel Air, a ’57 Corvette, and now this truck. Tom personalized the truck with new a interior, paint and graphics, wheels, and a rebuilt motor.
The interior is a mix of Mercedes camel leather and brown tweed done by Bill’s Interiors and a Stitchcraft console. The Lecarra steering wheel sits affront the modified, painted dash filled with VDO gauges. A simple stereo system installed by Poor Boys in La Habra, California, gently flows tunes over the Magnaflow exhaust and header cut-outs.
On the outside, the gas tank was relocated under the custom polished diamond plate bed along with the battery, which is situated under the cab. Silva’s Body and Paint in Westminster, California, performed most of the bodywork and laid the PPG Poppy Seed Red/Orange skin. Kelley and Son Crazy Painters in Bellflower did the ghost flames and pinstriping, while the chrome was finished by Cypress Auto Body in Cypress, California.
The truck is powered by a 1970 Chevy 400 bored to a 406 by Team C in Bellflower. The engine, balanced, blueprinted, and assembled by Rick Colangelo in Stanton, California, employs a SCAT Centerline crankshaft mated to Eagle connecting rods with JE Pistons pushing 10:1 compression on the AFR210 aluminum heads, flanking an Isky hydraulic roller cam. An Edelbrock water pump pushes coolant through a Mattson radiator. An Edelbrock 800-cfm sitting atop an Edelbrock manifold gives the beast its juice, sparked by a Mallory/MSD ignition combo blasting the exhaust through Hooker headers and Magnaflow mufflers. All this looks great under the hood with an all-chrome engine compartment.
The power is supplied to the rear via a 700-R4 transmission assembled by Wheeler Automotive in Huntington Beach, California. Sixteen-inch chromed American Torq Thrusts take the brunt of the power keeping the BFGoodrich rubber on the ground. Handling is controlled by a 12-bolt Posi limited-slip differential out back with Heidts 2-inch drop spindles and Edelbrock shocks in a Camaro clip up front. Stopping duty is handled by CPP four-wheel disc brakes. All of this is located within a custom chassis.
Tom recalls the motor was the biggest challenge to get right, but when it was figured out, all the time and effort paid off on his first trip up Pacific Coast Highway. He says he wouldn’t change a thing and enjoys the many compliments and trophies at local car shows. We say congratulations for another example of someone who continues to enjoy this lifestyle even under tremendous odds.
Tom was looking for something to replace his ’57 Corvette. Something that was a bit easier to get in and out of with little pain.