There's something about owning a classic truck that gets in the blood, for it's rare to meet an owner of a vintage pickup who hasn't owned one before. Jim Hubbard falls into this category, having owned a 1957 Chevy pickup back in the early 1970s, powered by a 327 Chevy small-block and backed by a four-speed manual. As it goes, Jim's family grew, finally to the point where it was necessary to replace the pickup with something more "family friendly."
Fast forward a dozen or more years, and as Jim's kids grew, so did the desire for something vintage to park in the Hubbard's garage. After searching without avail for something the whole family could fit in, Jim happened upon a 1957 Chevy pickup with no rust and only a handful of dings and dents. With a short block 350 Chevy engine backed by a four-speed under the hood, it was nearly identical to his old truck! His fate sealed, Jim and the owner struck a deal and once again a classic truck was in the Hubbard family.
It wasn't long after the pickup had arrived at the Hubbard residence that Jim started the tedious job of disassembly. Once down to the bare frame, Jim sent the cab and sheetmetal out to be chemically stripped, while his attention was turned to the chassis. First, a stub from an early 1970s Camaro was sourced from a local junkyard, which replaced the stock straight axle with an independent setup. Disc brakes and power steering were another added benefit of the Camaro setup, along with a pair of Firestone airbags, which allow the 1957 to sit as low as it does.
Out back, a Ford 9-inch rearend was equipped with a Positraction differential and located by a pair of traction bars. Firestone airbags support the backend as well and give the truck that "in the weeds" stance. The whole chassis from stem to stern was then disassembled, powdercoated, and reassembled before the one-off Esajian wheels, 18x8s up front and 20x18s out back, shod in Mickey Thompson rubber were mounted to round out the rolling orders.
To replace the tired short block Chevy, Jim decided on a Chevrolet Performance crate 454 backed by a B&M TH-400. Equipped with an Edelbrock performance package by Jeff Smith Auto, the big-block powerplant makes plenty of ponies to satisfy Jim's lead foot and those massive MT tires definitely help put the power to the pavement.
While the chassis and drivetrain work was being completed, Paco Lopez at A-Universal Auto Body in Gardena, California, was hard at work getting the mid-century sheetmetal in perfect shape. Paco worked every curve to perfection, nosed the hood, shaved the fender badges, and added a pair of sport mirrors up front, while out back the tailgate and bedrails were smoothed, and custom roll pan was installed.
Inside the bed, the entire floor was raised and custom wheelwells were fabricated, flanked by the oak wood floor that Jim built himself. The entire bed assembly is hinged and can raise and lower via a pair of airbags, which makes changing the massive rear tires possible. With the sheetmetal massaged to perfection, Paco applied the House of Kolor Cobalt Blue, a color Jim picked out from his wife's makeup.
Back at Jim's Cypress, California, garage, the detailed body components were mated to the equally detailed chassis before a Summit Racing wiring harness was used to bring the truck to life. From there, a final trip to Wahl's Custom Upholstery in Los Alamitos, California, was all it took to finish up the build. Rene Wahl applied Shammy Mercedes Benz Ultraleather to nearly every square inch of the cab, including the bench seat that Jim borrowed from a 1972 Chevy pickup. A Pioneer sound system complements the exhaust note from the 3-inch Flowmaster exhaust system, while a B&M shifter and Grant steering wheel give Jim full control of his truck as it barrels down the road. A column-mounted tach and a trio of gauges keep an eye on the 600-horsepower big-block alongside the stock 1957 cluster.
Having weathered the storm, taking his truck project from pile to prime, Jim, a retired meat cutter, says that next time he's going to start with a vehicle that's already finished, making slight variations to suit his taste after the fact.