In our opinion, one of America’s greatest exports is the enthusiasm for hot rods. It started here, but is now found in every hemisphere. Simon Gluckman, the owner of this 1953 GMC pickup, lives in Los Angeles, but is originally from London, England. Like many teenagers in the ’70s, Simon’s interest in classic American iron was triggered by the movie American Graffiti. “From then on it was American cars all the way,” he says. When he moved to the U.S., he brought along his ’55 Chevy Bel Air convertible and his Harley-Davidson, and in the 20 years since then he has owned a couple more Tri-Five Chevys, a 1966 Fairlane, and several more Harleys.
“I always wanted a pickup and always liked GMCs. After looking at many over a long period, I found this ’53 Deluxe five-window. The body was pretty stock, but the frontend had been set up all wrong. It drove like a river barge and was not a safe setup,” Simon explained. “I needed to find someone to correct all of those problems, and who could go down the road with me on the vision I had for the truck.”
That person turned out to be Troy Ladd, owner of Hollywood Hot Rods in Burbank, California. Simon pointed out the problems with the chassis that needed fixing and described the areas that he wanted to improve.
The body was pretty stock, but the frontend had been set up all wrong. It drove like a river barge and was not a safe setup.
The factory frame was kept in place, but the defective frontend was yanked. In its place, HHR installed a Fatman Fabrications setup. A power rack-and-pinion makes the ’53 steer a little less like a 60-year-old truck. Monroe shocks were added at each corner. Out back, a four-link suspension locates the GM 10-bolt rearend.
Simon refers to those necessary modifications as “Phase One,” enough to be able to put the truck on the road where he could have some fun. No major work was needed on the Chevy 350 small-block powering the pickup. In the tradition of early customs, there’s not a lot to dress things up under the hood—but that suits the style of a nothing-fancy daily driver. The Edelbrock intake and four-barrel are topped with an Edelbrock air cleaner, painted low-gloss black to match the exterior. The same goes for the valve covers and the stock exhaust manifold. The engine is backed up a column-shifted TH350 transmission.
After clocking a few miles on the truck, Simon was ready to treat it to Phase Two—finishing the factory sheetmetal and shooting some fresh paint. The satin black tone is medium gloss, but reflects the truck’s classic hot rod character perfectly—and the blacked-out grille and wheels, and high-profile blackwalls give the truck a look of serious stealth. Simon was careful not to go too far with the black, balancing it out by keeping the bumpers, bezels, ornaments, emblems, hardware, and trim bright. The tailgate emblem was moved from the grille frame; Simon flattened out the curve and mounted it in the new location. Blue dot lenses were added to the taillights.
The Deluxe Wheels with spider caps come from Early Wheels and don’t have to be painted; they are available in satin black powdercoating. The 15-inch wheels ride on BFGoodrich Radial T/As, measuring 225/70R15 and 255/70R15. Front disc with drums in the back deliver plenty of stopping power when Simon steps on the brake pedal.
Now the ’53 drove well and looked good, and Simon could start thinking about some of the changes in the next phase the truck. A significant change was in the truck’s stance. “It always sat too high for my liking,” he explained. Drop spindles and lowering blocks were a vast improvement, “but I always wanted this truck to be able to sit on the floor,” as Simon put it. He took the truck back to Hollywood Hot Rods for more work. The rear framerails were C-notched and beefed up and stiffened with an X-brace. Airbags were installed in all four corners. HHR put in the airbag system and also added a large X-brace to stiffen up the chassis. The bed floor was raised to clear the modified suspension underneath without any cutting. The front and rear bumpers were tucked in closer for the body for a more compact overall look. As you can see, it’s as low as it’ll go without scraping the pavement.
The final phase of the project (for the time being, anyway) was some attention to the interior. Simon kept the stock dash and the hard-to-improve-upon factory speedometer and quad gauges (temperature, fuel, oil pressure, amps). The aftermarket banjo wheel and tilt column came with the truck. A ’50-53 Chevy/GMC replacement headliner was ordered from Jim Carter Truck Parts. The gray cloth interior was ready to be replaced. Oxblood colored upholstery was installed on the bench seat and door panels by Mark Lopez and the team at Elegance Auto Interiors in Upland, California. Simon chose durable vinyl over leather as a better choice for a vehicle that sees daily use.
An air-conditioning system from Vintage Air has yet to be installed, but will be the next addition. Beyond that, we don’t expect that there will many more phases in the future. The ’53 looks and drives just the way Simon likes it, and you’ll see it on the streets of LA every day. You may see it over at Hollywood Hot Rods, too, but parked on the street, while Simon checks the progress of another ride in the works. “As the truck became my everyday driver I felt like I needed to have a new project,” he told us, which explains the ’38 Ford Standard coupe now under construction.