Art Morrison’s reputation with drag racers started to grow in the ’60s. He was known for being crazy enough to drive a wheelstander, talented enough to build a chassis for many NHRA record-setting Competition Eliminator cars, and savvy enough to create Art Morrison Enterprises to design, manufacture, and market chassis components and build turnkey race cars. He was also known to be a nice guy with a perpetual smile on his face.
By the time the ’90s rolled around, the Pro-Street contingent had discovered AME’s components and started using them on the street. By 2000, the business was still expanding and Art’s son, Craig, came onboard. Within a few years the dynamic duo introduced a replacement chassis for ’55 to ’57 Chevrolets and the rest, as they say, was history. With a perfect ground-hugging stance and retina-separating cornering ability, the Tri-Five chassis were a hit. It wasn’t long before the demand for chassis grew and their offerings included ’49-54 and Tri-Five Chevrolets, ’53-62 Corvettes, Camaros, GM A-bodies and now Chevy trucks (they also build one-off chassis for everything imaginable).
Morrison’s new truck chassis is available in two forms—the Deluxe is a direct replacement for ’47 to first-series ’55 Chevy pickups (’54 and ’55 must use the ’53 and earlier bed). It features computer-designed IFS with coilovers, rack-and-pinion steering, and four-bar rear suspension with coilovers. All the body and bed mounts are in place making this as close to a plug-and-play installation as a chassis swap can be.
The second version of the truck chassis is called the Sport—it has a lower stance and the front suspension has increased caster and camber gain for more aggressive driving styles. To get the lower ride height the rear of the frame has a taller kick-up, which means the bed floor will have to be modified. The sport chassis is available with coilovers or airbags for those that want to really get on the ground.
Not long ago we dropped in on the Morrisons and found one of the first pickup chassis going under their new shop truck, a ’50 Chevy that had undergone an amateur restoration at some point. The ½ ton was too nice to mess with and has just enough patina to be really old-school cool. With small-block Chevy power and a new Morrison chassis this will be one shop truck that will really haul.
1. Art Morrison Enterprises’ new shop truck is based on a solid and clean ’50 Chevy ½ ton. The exterior will stay as is, but underneath the Morrisons are up to their old tricks.
2. We caught Art Morrison installing Wilwood brakes while Craig Morrison drops the gas tank into AME’s latest offering, an all-new chassis for ’47 to first-series ’55 Chevy pickups. Engineer Matt Jones was busy prepping the truck’s new 350 Chevy.
3. It takes specialized equipment to smoothly bend rectangular tubing. This is the mandrel that slides through the inside of the tubing as it’s bent, preventing wrinkles.
4. Note how smooth the bend is. This bend is called the “easy way.” When the tubing is turned 90-degrees in the machine the bend is the “hard way.” Thanks to the mandrel bender, they’re smooth either way.
5. The new truck frames use stout 2x6x3⁄16-inch main rails while the ends are formed from 2x4-inch tubing. This is the splice where the side rails join the front frame section.
6. This is the where the rear section joins the main rail. All the assembly and welding is done in a dedicated fixture.
7. Morrison offers two versions of their ’47-55 Chevy truck frames. This is the Deluxe rear section that fits under a stock bed.
8. The sport frame has a higher arch in the rear for a lower ride height. However the bed floor will require modification.
9. Here the front crossmembers have been installed along with the motor mounts. The upper A-frame mounts have yet to be added.
10-11. Morrison’s quality design and craftsmanship is evident everywhere on these frames; we offer this bed and body mount as examples.
12. A completed frame is lifted out of the jig by one of the overhead cranes in the building. Note the construction of the fixture, stout is an understatement.
13. This is the Sport coilover front suspension. Note the hefty anti-roll bar includes three adjustments for roll stiffness.
14. Stopping power won’t be an issue with Wilwood discs at all four corners. Up front are six-piston calipers with four-pistons in the rear. The wheels and tires are all 18x9½ with 275/40R18 tires on all four corners.
15. Power rack-and-pinion will make steering easy, but precise. Notice the width of the inner ends of the lower A-frames and the diagonal supports on the tubes for the pivot bolts.
16. In the rear we find four-bars, coilovers, and a Panhard bar. Note the reinforcement that has been added to the back of the rearend housing.
17. Morrison now offers a Wilwood master cylinder with a proportioning valve mount. Two pedal assemblies are available, one with a hydraulic clutch pedal, one without.
18. The Chevy crate motor was equipped with a host of Comp Cams components, MSD’s Atomic fuel injection, and those cool valve covers.
19. To keep the cab’s confines cool and quiet, Craig cut and fit Dynamat followed by a layer of Dynaliner.
20. To accommodate the fat rear wheels and tires, mini tubs were installed in the bedsides.
21. New bed wood was whittled by the senior Morrison after which Craig applied his special concoction of “aged in the shop” stain.
During the development phase of their new chassis, the Morrisons realized that the new front crossmember and suspension components could be used not only between their aftermarket ’rails, but in between the stock GM counterpart as well. That gives an additional option for the early Chevy guys who’d like to retain the stock chassis.
1. For those who want to update a stock frame such as this, Morrison offers front and rear suspension kits.
2. This is Morrison’s ingenious front crossmember kit for ’47 to first-series ’55 trucks. The boxing plates are attached to the crossmember and a fixture to locate the upper A-frame mounts is included.
3. The stock front crossmember requires some minor surgery and the upper framerails are trimmed for the boxing plates.
4. Positioning the new front crossmember properly is simply a matter of putting the boxing plates up against the original front crossmember for the rack and pinion.
5. With the notch cut in the framerail, the included filler plate can be welded in place.
6. With the crossmember in place, Jacob Lust attaches the fixture that locates the upper A-frame mounts.
7. Next the upper mounts are bolted to the fixture.
8. Properly located, the upper mounts are ready to be welded to the framerails.
9. With the addition of the motor mounts, the installation is completed.
10. If the front suspension looks easy, check out what happens in the rear. Two notches are cut in the framerails and the crossmember with the four-bar mounts drops in place to be welded. Add some coilovers and you’re done.