Back in the day when guys wanted more performance out of their cars, they had little to choose from as far as aftermarket performance parts went, and most of the time they had very little money. Most of the low-budget builds were focused on how much power they could get out of their six-banger. Custom paint and interior came second and last on their mind. Slowly, you could see one- and two-barrel carbs getting tweaked for more air and increased gas flow, then came the new cam, pistons, and exhaust upgrades as companies like Edelbrock, Cragar, and Isky popped up. Many early custom cars and trucks were modified for performance first and appearance last. Throughout the '40s and '50s as hot-rodder's across the country, particularly in California, had more disposable income, the cars and trucks started gaining more modifications, but this time they were cosmetic changes.
Still the question was, "Do I get a custom paintjob, or do I spend my hard-earned dollars on a new cam and lifters?" The compromise came in the form of choosing the performance parts over the custom paintjob and then hand painting some ultra-cool pinstriping on the cheaper black primer jobs that replaced custom lacquer paint. As time went on and the custom community grew, the creativity got wilder. Scallops appeared on the scene, as well as more pinstriping techniques, and flames in all colors started showing up on hoods and fenders. Pinup art became a favorite as well, being reminiscent of World War II airplane nose art.
Then, primer started to change color. Reddish brown became a second choice to the gray and black hues, as a means to differentiate one ride from another. When green and even yellow primer started appearing on the scene, it was instantly cool to roll suede. With the lack of funds to complete their cars and trucks, unknowingly these pioneers of the hot rod scene created a style of customizing now referred to as Rat rods, sleds, low-rods, bombs, and ranflas (Spanish for jalopy). We dig the style and thought it would be a perfect backdrop for this issue, which is dedicated to classic sport trucks and their own unique style. So, here are a few examples of how that budget-minded style has stood the test of time.
Danny Collazo of Las Vegas owns this cool, chopped '49 Chevy truck sporting the traditional gray primer that was freshly applied the night before the photoshoot in his garage. The truck was already primered before, but Danny wanted a fresh coat, so some quick sanding and filling in the low spots with some Bondo quickly made his '49 primer-ready. He primed it right in his home garage, after blowing all the dust and dirt out, using a garden hose to clean the floor. He then masked off the truck and sprayed it just like they did in the '40s and '50s. For guys like Danny, not much has changed since that era.
During this same evening, our project truck, an '02 Silverado called KingSpade was sitting in the driveway already painted flat black and 'bagged. Danny said something's missing-"Pinstriping," he shouted. So, as his other partner in crime, painter extraordinaire, Miguel Puente, was laying down the primer, Danny was bustin' out his pinstripe kit.
Within minutes, Danny was laying down the steady lines of the old-school pinstripe on the tailgate. Check out the Sport Truck website to see a bitchen video of it all happening.
The other two trucks are classic examples of two distinct styles. The first is a '65 GMC short wide bed. Primered out with a silver flake-painted roof and matching dash, Kent Kelly owns this bad ride, and this is his daily driver to and from his tattoo shop, Stay True Tattoo in Las Vegas. Still in the building stage, Kent works on his truck as time allows. Power comes from a 350 small-block and matching 350 tranny. He and fellow body dude Danny Blackwell smoothed the body and primered the bottom half of the truck. Staying true to the style, they sprayed a little silver flake to the cab for that perfect touch.
Now here comes the new in old-school. Back in the '40s and even the '60s, you didn't see many step-notched frame kits, but this bad boy has it. Cut coils up front gives it the lowered stance we all love. White walls and beauty rings round out this '60s era rod.
Next comes Alfred Mendez, also of Las Vegas, in his '48 Chevy. This truck is sporting a lot more upgrades than the other two. Alfred loves the old styles, but he also loves the comfort of new upgrades. Those upgrades come in the form of airbags, which lets this old-school ride go from front to back, side to side, and pancake. Wow, that made us dizzy! Scott Chambers of Chambers Chassis was responsible for that upgrade. Alfred didn't stop there; he mated a Mustang II front clip for better steering and handling. The rear got the upgrade, too, with a ten-bolt rearend borrowed from a '69 Chevelle. Then, he painted everything PPG Black and bolted up some 14-inch steelie wheels and white-wall 560 Silverton tires. Voila! You have a bodacious Bow Tie that's ready to cruise the strip.
Last, we have a really new old-school truck. This '02 Chevy Silverado is 'bagged with a six-link kit from KP Components, step-notched and tubbed by MIC in Mission Viejo, California, and rolling Nitto tires shod with Oasis 22s, and it lays frame. Even though this is a new truck and can hardly be considered a Rat rod or old classic, we did keep with the unfinished theme by painting it PPG Black and spraying some flat clear over it to create the illusion that it is primer. As we mentioned before, Danny Collazo painted the pinstripes to complete the old-school feel. Being the hardcore gearheads that we are, we couldn't help but bolt on a Vortech supercharger as well, to give it the ability to go fast.
As you can see from the photos, this type of vehicle attracts the ladies, and if you attend one of these old-school events, you may see them there. So, just when you thought we were making leaps and bounds in the custom truck world with modern build techniques, we find that sometimes simple and cool is the way to go.