Sam Head * Redondo Beach, CA
'50 Chevrolet Advanced Design
Sam Head recently retired from owning and operating a custom upholstery business. After putting in 40 plus years of cutting and sewing, it was time to close the doors and relax. Well, Sam isn't the kind of guy who can take it easy. As his son, I can attest to that point. He's what most would consider a workaholic. I would call him a friggin' animal. I once watched him pull in a running truck, swap the cam and fire it back up in a half hour. Most of the time, it was best to just get out of the way and watch the wrenches fly.
Some of my fondest memories as a young kid would be the Sunday trips in his big-block-powered '67 truck. We would go visit his gearhead buddies, check out their projects, and do a little bench racing. When it was time to leave, the fun began. Dad, like clock work, would mash the go pedal and roast the tires down the street, while the smile on my face got bigger and bigger. As I grew up and the years rolled on, so did the custom vehicles. As a matter of fact, not only did my dad build seven '67-'72 C10s, a '60 Ford Starliner, a '62 Ford Unibody truck, a '56 Chevy 210 sedan, a '66 and '69 El Camino, a '53 Ford Sedan Delivery, a '57 Chevy truck, two '73-'87 duallies (one crew cab and one two door), a'56 Ford panel truck, and a couple of vans. He also built a few Corvettes for Mom, a '67 Camaro for my older brother Chris, and my first car--a '64 Mustang.
I'm getting off track a little. Let me reel it back in. Retirement is not something my pops is taking lightly. In fact, he decided instead of sitting on the couch and becoming a potato, he was going to build a truck he has never done but always wanted to. The truck in question is the bubble-fendered beauty on these pages. While the truck looks awesome now, that was not the case when he bought it. This poor truck had seen better days. The body, while complete, was so dented up that it looked more like a golf ball than a truck. There were even dents between the cab and bed. It's still a mystery how they got there. Anyway, Dad rolled the truck into the shop in the morning, and by sundown all the sheetmetal was off and the frame rolled out. Like I said, he's an animal. The next day, the bodywork commenced and the first thing addressed was welding the two-piece hood together and adding a center peak. One thing he did that I thought was pretty ingenious was make wood sanding blocks to perfectly smooth out the peak.
Some of the body parts were unusable once all the layers of paint were stripped off. The bed was in pretty bad shape; the only things worth saving were the tailgate, crossmembers, and headboard. He bought new bedsides from the Truck Shop in Orange, California, and got a really clean set of rear fenders from his buddy Dave Bechtel. To keep things old-school, he picked up a set of '50 Merc taillights off eBay, and after a little grinding of the housing, they fit the shape of the fender perfectly. My dad found out the hard way that the lenses of the Merc lights are made of glass and shatter when dropped, but luckily replacements are available. The other subtle, but cool body mod was the doors. The original doors were trashed, so Pops picked up a set of '53 doors, but those have vent windows, and push button handles. Liking the handles and not wanting vent windows he carefully extracted all of the one-piece stuff from the '47 doors and grafted them into the '53 doors. Now he had the uncluttered glass and the better looking door handles.