Sometimes, if you're lucky, you can turn your hobby into a job and get paid for enjoying fun-filled days! Sam Turner has been in the automotive restoration business since 1988 and his shop in Roebuck, South Carolina, has been turning out prize-winning builds ever since. Sharp-eyed readers might recall his 1951 Chevy five-window, featured in our September 2012 issue. Although driving his finished trucks is always great fun, Sam finds just as much enjoyment in the build process. When one truck is complete, he begins looking around for a new one and that's the way he found his current gem.
A staunch Chevy fan, this 1956 Chevy 3100 was located through a friend back in October 2010. The restoration of the truck had been started, but the former owner passed away before he could complete the project. Sam liked the look of the truck and purchased it along with a collection of parts. Some work had already been completed with the cab mounted to the chassis and painted. The engine was in place, but there was no suspension or bed. Only the houndstooth bench seat was in the interior. It was clear that the former owner knew which direction he wanted to take the truck and Sam decided to respect his wishes. "There was only one way to go with this one and we call it ‘old school,'" Sam told us.
Everything begins with reconfiguring these old farm trucks and adapting them for use in the new millennium. All the half-century-old technology had to go and Sam's initial efforts were concentrated around modern handling. After boxing the framerails, he scrapped the original solid front axle and replaced it with a Chassis Engineering independent frontend, complete with coil springs, drop spindles, 11-inch disc brakes, and Delco shocks. Rack-and-pinion steering upgraded the original. The rear uses Chassis Engineering leaf springs and another set of Delco shocks to hold the 12-bolt Camaro Positraction rear, fitted with 3.73 gears and drum brakes. American Racing 15x7-inch rims up front and 15x8-inch versions in the rear were wrapped in BFG 70-series wide whites to get the rejuvenated chassis rolling.
Sam was already a fan of the 350 Chevy crate motor and the 2007 version that came with the truck pumped out 325 hp, thanks to a Holley 600 carb on an Edelbrock manifold, HEI ignition, and Southern Rods ceramic-coated, block-hugger headers. They dump into a 2½-inch system that's muffled by a pair of Flowmaster 40s. Cosmetics were next and the engine room was smoothed and painted to match, incorporating some unique touches that set it apart. Rather than the typical, oversized master cylinder on the new firewall, Sam chose a compact version from Southern Rods, with the main portion hidden under the cab and only a small fill reservoir located on the firewall. Billet Specialties accents like the pulley system, ribbed air cleaner, and valve covers added bright spots to the engine room. Vintage Air components completed the modern upgrades under the hood. To ensure that the Chevy would be a fun cruiser on the interstate, the V-8 was teamed up with a modern 700-R4 transmission.
The antiquated sheetmetal on the body was pounded smooth, and once the all-steel stepside bed and fenders were installed, it began to look like a truck again. Traditional oak planks in the bed separated by stainless steel strips fit in perfectly with the old-school flavor. The gas tank, originally located behind the seat, was positioned between the rear chassis rails. Access to the filler cap is provided by the center plank, now opening at the touch of a button, thanks to an electric linear actuator. New repro front and rear bumpers, H4 halogen headlights, LED taillights, and a third brake light mounted above the license plate continued the modern upgrades, while the wide whites and vintage-style side mirrors reinforced the old-school theme.
Inside, the bench seat is from Tea's Design, done in a black and white houndstooth fabric. Randy Robb from Spartanburg, South Carolina, installed the black carpet and leather headliner. Modern, white-face Classic Instruments gauges were added to the original Chevrolet bezel, with the blend of old and new creating a "best of both worlds" combination. A Flaming River steering column, Auto City Classic steering wheel, and a Lokar shifter and pedals create a wonderful tactile connection for the driver.
The elaborate stereo, built by Barrett Stewart and Dave Brown of Elite Audio in Greenville begins with a Custom Audio head unit in the dash. Behind the seat is a ported fiberglass enclosure and amp rack that holds the ARC Audio XDI803 three-channel amp and the single 10-inch ARC Audio sub. Memphis mids and highs reside in the kick panels. With a nod to traditional styling, there is just a touch of white inside on this DuPont Jett Black truck, sprayed in the shop by Dale Vicars.
Once the vintage rides are running perfectly, Sam usually sells the trucks he builds, but he says, "This one may stay a while. It's got plenty of power and handles great. Cruising the interstate at 80 is effortless." Like lots of timeless treasures in our hobby, this old-school pickup has been brought back to life thanks to the dedicated craftsmen involved and, as a result, will be a source of pleasure for decades to come.