Whoever said, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” might have been working on a custom truck project at the time. In fact Charlie Lewis, the owner/builder of this ’48 Chevy 3100 ½-ton, might have said it a few times during the course of the project. From start to finish, the truck changed shops, changed owners, and changed direction.
Before Charlie owned the ’48, it belonged to his friend Andy. Andy’s plans for the truck included a chopped top and a blown big-block engine. He had it in a couple different Atlanta-area shops, but before a lot of work was done, Andy passed away. Charlie, who has owned several street rods and classic trucks, bought the Chevy from Andy’s wife and parked it in his garage for two years. During that time he started making plans of his own and collecting the parts he needed to make those plans happen.
Charlie’s changes to the truck started with the exterior, which is milder than the original plans. The top is unchopped, and Chevrolet’s Advance Design lines were preserved. The hood nameplates were kept in place, and the cowl vent and side vent were filled in to clean up the sheetmetal surface’s front. Hut Hutcheson at Whitman’s Glass in Carrollton, Georgia, installed the windshield, with V-butted glass to eliminate the stock vertical bar. Charlie ordered the pickup bed, flat tailgate, and tonneau cover from Pro’s Pick, and installed them himself, along with the beautiful oak bed floor. A 20-gallon capacity fuel cell from No Limit Engineering was mounted underneath the bed.
The ’48 was delivered to Winston, Georgia, where Max Craft at Craft’s Auto Restoration Services made sure the sheetmetal was cue-ball smooth prior to paint. The paint color choice was flat black, but eventually Charlie reconsidered and decided on silver. Max concurred and loaded his paint gun with Mercedes Brilliant Silver. The monochromatic paint looks great, especially contrasted with the chrome bumpers, grille bars, headlight bezels, and side mirrors. As Charlie put it, “What was sent to be flat black came home silver. I’m glad.”
A little more contrast is provided by the magnesium gray finish on the American Racing Salt Flat Specials. The rear wheels measure 17x8 inches with 16x7s mounted in front. The radial rubber is from BFGoodrich; dimensions are 265/65R17 and 225/60R16.
Under the hood, custom inner fenderwells, and a Bitchin Products firewall frame is the 400-horsepower GM 350ci crate engine with Edelbrock aluminum heads, built by Charlie. A Billet Specialties air cleaner and valve covers dress up the small-block and an Edelbrock four-barrel carburetor and polished intake manifold keep air and fuel flowing. Sanderson shorty headers carry away the exhaust gases. The 350 is backed up by a Gearstar-built 700-R4 transmission, controlled by a Gennie floor shifter.
At the other end of the driveshaft a Ford 9-inch rearend from a ’76 pickup is packed with 3.50:1 gears, and equipped with a Posi. The rearend is suspended by a pair of RideTech rear shocks. The original Chevy ’rails were replaced by a Fatman Fabrication frame. The Mustang II-style independent frontend features an MII steering rack, while Fatman anti-sway bars were added at both ends.
Disc brakes at all corners provide plenty of stopping power. The rear brakes are a combination of ’79-85 Cadillac calipers and ’79-81 Pontiac Trans Am rotors. In the front, ’70-77 Camaro calipers were added to ’75-80 Ford Granada rotors.
The inside of the cab is wrapped in red leather, originally chosen when the exterior was intended to be black. It goes just as well with silver—and ends up looking a lot lighter. The cab design is modern, but reflects the stock appearance. The original dash was replaced by a new stock dash. Dakota Digital gauges fit into the factory gauge locations. Controls and vents for the air-conditioning system from Vintage Air are situated in a below-dash panel.
Power windows come from Nu-Relics. There is no radio, but there is plenty of sound available, courtesy of a Kenwood External Media Controller and iPod providing Charlie’s choice of tunes. An owner-installed EZ Wiring harness delivers power to all the right places. Those bucket seats are from the Larry Dennis Company. The upholstery, including the headliner, custom door panels, and covering for the seats, was installed at Lewallen Street Rod Interiors in Cleveland, Tennessee.
It took about a year for Charlie to complete the build on the truck. In addition to the people mentioned above, Charlie credits Chris Stephens and Raymond Parker for their help with this project. The specific plans that Andy had for the Chevy—chop, blown big-block, et cetera—have been modified since Charlie took over, but the overall goal of building a great custom was achieved above and beyond expectations.
He drives the ’48 as much as he can and likes showing it at rod and custom events. The truck has participated in the NSRA Nats in Knoxville (where it won a Rep pick award), the Frog Follies, various Goodguys events, and the monthly First Friday cruise in Gadsden, Alabama. We spotted the silver Chevy in Columbus, Ohio, and wouldn’t let it leave before we could photograph this feature. Charlie’s plans for the truck are to continue driving it, showing it, and having fun. We don’t expect those plans to change.