Bad Little Pickup: James and Carol Drayton’s 1949 Chevy Hauler

We’ve come across some outstanding builds over the years here at Rod Authority, whether they be at SEMA, a Goodguys or NSRA show or a local cruise. But there are certain vehicles that continue to catch our eye, and for good reason. Take for example this 1949 Chevy pickup truck owned by James and Carol Drayton of St. Germain, Wisconsin.

Found at the 2017 Goodguys Heartland Nationals in Des Moines, Iowa, we couldn’t get enough of this truck, so we decided to share it with all of you. And we’ll just say, it is certainly up there with some of the best!


When it comes to impressive truck builds, the Goodguys Heartland Nationals in Des Moines, is undoubtedly a great place to find them. throughout the years of covering the show, we’ve come across our fair share of them. But, when it comes to this particular Chevy, “impressive” doesn’t begin to do it justice.

Built and painted by James himself, this Pro-Touring masterpiece may seem to be veiled as a full-fledged show truck. But, one look under the hood or the running boards will have you clued in on the truck’s little secret – it’s actually a Clark Kent turns to Superman-type badass. You know, the type that looks good no matter what angle, and has that little something extra that makes you want to take another look?! That’s exactly what this exceptional Chevy has to offer.

Giving the truck it’s gorgeous aesthetics is a decent-sized list of modifications congruent with a classic show truck. Underneath the PPG Emerald City Green paint scheme, which consists of two base coats, two color coats, and three clear coats, you’ll find that the roof of the truck has been chopped 3 inches, and the cab lengthened by 4-inches. Out back, the truck’s original bed floor has been replaced by premium Elm wood slats, flanked by polished metal inserts, which match the other few, but expertly executed, brightwork pieces on the truck, including the front bumper, headlight bezels and grille.


With every body gap perfected and the PPG Emerald City Green paint flawlessly laid, it’s no surprise that the Draytons’ truck garnered plenty of attention at the show. But, the Heartland Nationals wasn’t the first place it caught the eye of discerning admirers. At a 2016 National Street Rod Association event, it won top honors for its paint scheme. Certainly impressive, we know that won’t be the last time this custom truck wins a top award!

Every inch of the truck’s body is as straight as straight can be, alluding to the massive amount of time and care James put into his prized ride. From flawless body panel gaps and impeccably shaved emblems and door handles, to Frenched headlights and perfectly tucked wheels and tires, this truck is loaded with finite details you’ll love from front bumper to rear tailgate.


Electronic doors give way to a fully custom interior, adding even more class to an already choice ride. Fawn-colored upholstery was done by Chacho’s Garage, and covers modified C6 Corvette power seats, as well as the custom-made center console and door panels.

An electronic push-button starting gives the driver more modern starting power, while present-day amenities such as power windows, GPS, satellite radio, cruise control and air conditioning make for a cushy ride by any standard. Of course, there’s something to be said about the interior looking classically sharp while providing and disguising (some of) these creature comforts.

The interior of this custom truck is clean enough to eat off of, right down to the matching Fawn-colored carpet. But, that doesn't mean the truck doesn't get driven. With all the modern amenities of a 2017 Chevy model, the Drayton's truck was built to be driven and enjoyed, from car shows to cruises, with all the creature comforts you could ask for for in between.

While the truck definitely has the air of a show piece, don’t let that fool you – this bad little pickup is built to perform. Under the hood of the ’49 is a massaged LS3 engine with modern niceties like fuel injection and a FAST LSX intake manifold. It’s backed by a six-speed manual transmission and an Inland Empire drive shaft as part of a fully enclosed C5 drivetrain. Dyno-tested and tuned, this robust combination is good for 423hp to the rear wheels.

You can’t go wrong with a modern LS V8! This one boasts a handful of upgrades, and pumps out a respectable 500-plus ponies, directing 423 of them to the rear wheels. The only thing missing is a burnout pic to prove it.

Giving the truck superior handling capabilities and ride comfort is a full C5 Corvette suspension system grafted to the underside of the 1949 body. Keeping the truck planted to the pavement are sticky Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Zero Pressure Plus tires wrapped around modified five-spoke wheels. Fittingly, braking power for the truck comes from massive C5 Corvette disc brakes on all four corners.

We knew this truck was something special even before finding out that it won the NSRA’s “Outstanding Use of Color” Award at the 2016 Street Rod Nationals North event in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but this fact just goes to show just how exquisite this truck really is.

We can’t tell you how many people we saw eyeing this impressive build, but it definitely numbered in the dozens over the few minutes we spent photographing the truck. Whether it was parked in the shade of the countless trees on the Iowa State Fairgrounds property, or shining bright in the sun, no one could stay away from the Drayton’s Chevy for long.

Photos of this truck certainly don’t do it justice, so if you ever get the chance to check this truck out in person, we highly recommend it. But in the meantime, be sure to check out more detailed shots of the truck in our mini gallery below.

Thanks goes out to James and his wife Carol for sharing their amazing truck with us!

Photo gallery


About the author

Lindsey Fisher

Lindsey is a freelance writer and lover of anything with a rumble. Hot rods, muscle cars, motorcycles - she's owned and driven it all. When she's not busy writing about them, she's out in her garage wrenching away. Who doesn't love a tech-savy gal that knows her way around a garage?
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