If by now you haven’t noticed the increased popularity of pickup trucks, you must be reading the wrong material. For decades, the humble pickup has enjoyed its fair share of affection both in its native homeland and downunder.
If you’re handy on the tools and have a keen eye, you just might spotto a local project with loads of potential languishing in a nearby farmyard. Take this preloved ‘48 Chevy as a perfect example. Owner and builder, Todd Ducker purchased this cab and front sheet metal from a fig farm in the Orange region of New South Wales. Once home he set the complete package over a Holden One Tonner chassis and started to piece his puzzle together. “I don’t really like washing cars,” he says with a laugh, “so the whole rat rod thing really suits me!”
Todd utilised the original HQ Holden steering, brakes and suspension, but for modern day motivation without reliability issues, an LS1 V8 was positioned between the front rails with a matching four speed auto and Ford 9 inch. The entire package is mod plated and engineered for full rego.
As this was Todd’s first attempt at building a rat-inspired pickup he enlisted a few of his mates to help centre the cab over the frame while he knocked up new body mounts. After custom fitting the radiator, the front sheet metal was re-installed. Although appearing stock to the uneducated eye, Todd sliced and diced the front bumper for refined fitment. Model A tail lights were a neat choice for rearward illumination while sealed beams highlight decades of unprotected paintwork at the Chevy’s bare nose.
As the ‘farm find’ pickup was without a bed, Todd constructed the new tray from recycled Aussie hardwood and fresh steel. “I had a mate bend up the top ends and the rest was fabricated in the shed,” he explains. Flanking the old timber slats, a pair of hand fabbed wheel tubs are doing their best to catch up with the character of the original cab. Rather than just make straight steel uprights for the bed sides, Todd created some curves using a four inch grinder and a box full of discs. The huge rear guards are the only fibreglass items added into the mix and attach to hand formed running boards. Once the pickup bed was a complete unit, it was painted to complement the beautiful patina of the distressed factory finish.
Taking up permanent residence in the fabricated bed is a beer keg that’s been converted into a fuel tank, while the accompanying vintage esky conceals the fuel pumps and surge tank. An old Army amo box sandwiched between the keg and bedside is a nice choice for battery containment.
Cabin comfort for commercials back in the day were sparse to say the least, so Todd has let simplicity reign free inside. The honest interior was dressed up with fresh red vinyl over a HQ seat with matching upper door trims. The rest is pretty much as found. Modern appointments were restrained to a pair of Auto Meter instruments to keep accurate monitoring of under bonnet behaviour.
One would think that the interior door handles and window cranks are from the factory in ‘48, but you’d be wrong. After Todd purchased brand new reproduction replacements, he subjected them to torture, sandblasting them back in time. Continuity continues with the American Shifter Company cog selector suffering the same treatment. “People thought I was a bit nuts doing that to new shiny parts, but I think they fit right in,” he reasons. The emergency brake handle and steering wheel are original items.
Juxtaposed to almost everything else on the entire pickup are the wheels. Why? “They were a good deal at the time,” Todd confesses. In retrospect, it also incites to the observer that there is something going on behind the scenes of this rusty old relic. Todd’s friend, Mark Sullivan at Pro Coat, had the Showwheels Streeters for reasonable money and measuring 20 inches in diameter on all corners gave him a lot of rim for his money. “They certainly turn heads,” he confirms.
While the store bought hoops equate for a large portion of the pickup’s street cred, it’s the door art that drives it home. Todd’s mate Shacko was given the green light to add the moniker in any way that he saw fit. Lucky for Todd, he’s a talented son-of-a-gun with a pinstripe dagger, providing the Chevy with its personalised fictitious signature. Todd’s only grievance with the bitchin brushwork is that Shacko didn’t add his phone number. He’s sick of answering the same question… “Who painted the door?”
With two years of Sundays invested in the build, Todd topped up the keg and hit the road for some well deserved drive time. When you see it today, it’s kinda hard to believe that this old farmyard friend was left to rot, engulfed in a lantana bush for the past ten years. But on the other side of that coin, it never would have looked the way is does or become affordable if it was housed indoors during its retirement. Thankfully there are guys out there just like Todd who can see the potential and aren’t afraid to give it a go. With the help of friends and support from the better half, Todd is living proof that it can be done at home without breaking the bank.
“When I first brought the truck home, my wife said get rid of that piece of s#it! It is my first truck build and there were some angry times but now it’s done, we cruise whenever we can with friends and family. My two-year-old grandkids, Kye and Kayde, love Poppy’s truck and I thank my wife and kids for putting up with my crap during the build. It ain’t no show truck but it’s built, not bought!”
Todd would like to thank his mate Tommy for inspiration, Boydys Mechanical, Mark Sullivan Pro Coat, Jason Hall, Shacko, J P Engineering, Peca, Borris and a special thanks to his wife and kids.
BY DALE HABERFIELD, PHOTOS MILLBROOK STUDIO, FULL FEATURE CRUZIN #173