Maintaining your truck's good looks is kind of like proper dental hygiene. You can brush your teeth every day of your life for 30 years and lose them one night in a bar fight. The same thing can happen to an old truck. After surviving for many years without missing a tooth, a classic truck's grille can be knocked out in one instance of bad luck.

Fortunately, thanks to the good folks at Classic Industries in Huntington Beach, California, repairing the damage on classic Chevrolet trucks is a lot less expensive than a trip to the dentist, and way more fun. In the case of the '74 Chevy Stepside pictured here, our goal was to mildly customize a stock vehicle's ordinary looks. To restore a stocker, all you have to do is follow the numbers. A '57 Chevy hood and grille have to be located in order to properly restore a '57 Chevrolet truck. Trust us, if you rolled up with a '56 grille and '58 hubcaps on a '57 Chevy in front of a bunch of restored truck freaks, it would only be moments before the truck was swarming with goofballs. They'd be quoting from the book of restored stock trucks as they pointed out the glaring inaccuracies.

That's the fun of customizing. It takes more imagination to modify an old truck than it does to restore one. What's key is selecting the right modifications, which can make or break the end results. A good example of what we are talking about is not all that hard to find. Contrary to what one might imagine, some of the grossest things we have ever seen done to an old truck were spotted right here on the streets of Southern California. One of our favorites was a fledgling George Barris impersonator who stuck a cowl-mount GTO tachometer alongside a Dodge Ramcharger hood scoop, smack in the middle of a '55 GMC's flattop hood. The custom wannabe Barris hood he created looked like he raided Home Depot's chain link fencing aisle with a big magnet.

In addition to styling decisions, one has to evaluate whether or not the desired look can be achieved utilizing available parts without a ton of custom fabricating. Of course, as evidenced by some of the more radical examples gracing Custom Classic Trucks' pages, there isn't too much that can't be done if a person has the skills along with the time and dough to pull it off.

That's definitely cool stuff, but this tech story is for guys who want a unique custom look without spending a lot of time or money. In photograph number 1, we have laid out a grille, headlight bezels, DOT markers, and turn-signal lenses. With the exception of the '77-79 grille, everything shown is intended as a direct replacement for the front end of our subject vehicle, John Barkley's '74 Chevy pickup. We initiated the '74's facelift when John said he would like to renew his trusty shortbed's looks with a subtle customizing twist to his truck's centerpiece, the grille.

This is where our story encountered a slight glitch. Wally Thor, our resident George Barris impersonator, was hanging around the office when JB made the comment. CCT readers might remember Wally from the tech feature "Stop In The Name Of Love" in the June '06 issue on upgrading his '56 Chevy with Master Power Brakes' four-wheel disc brake conversion kit. Wally wanted to express his gratitude by ordering all the Classic Industries parts necessary to do the job and complete the install. There was no problem when it came to ordering the parts, but Wally failed to check whether he could adapt the '77-79 grille without modifications. When the time came to assemble JB's Chevy, it was exactly like one of those gearhead TV shows. We were on deadline and under the gun to pull it all off with one shot.

Our first indication things were headed south was when Wally showed up at our old tech center with the Classic Industries parts still in their boxes and wrapped in factory-sealed protective bags. With a slightly concerned expression, JB removed the parts and laid them out for the photograph in caption number one. It was obvious JB was impressed with the quality of the Classic Industries products, but his distrust for Wally's preparation was growing by the minute. Moments later we discovered the new grille would not bolt in directly. Had we known this fact in advance, we could have fabricated new brackets and relocated them to mate with the existing holes in the new grille. This was the last tech feature shot in the old Primedia tech center. Unfortunately, all the tools and materials that could have knocked out a simple set of brackets in a pinch had already been shipped to the new building. On the bright side of things, we got to demonstrate just how much you can accomplish with a single Phillips screwdriver.

Classic Industries
  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
  • |
  • View Full Article