Bringing an old classic back to life is no small task. To do it the way that Keith Price and the builder, Billy Little of Bulldog Restorations, did it, well – the task is tough, but rewarding.
We caught wind of this build from an email blast and had to know more. We reached out to both Keith and Billy to get the full download on how this truck came to be, and what makes it special (here’s a hint: sushi grease).
Background Of The Build
Keith is the owner of multiple businesses on the East Coast. He lives in Landenberg, Pennsylvania, in the southeastern corner of the state. For most of his life, he’s been in and around off-road vehicles, but the passion for classics has been strong throughout. “I’ve always had an affection for the ’50s-era Chevy vehicles, both cars and trucks,” he said.
On his 10-acre homestead, a “beater” truck has been a constant companion, whether as a plow vehicle during winter, or as a workstation in better weather. “I had an early ’90s Chevy pickup with the 6.2-liter Detroit Diesel in it,” said Keith. “It got to rusting, and I got to thinking, ‘wouldn’t it be great to have an old ’50s stepside pickup, and use that as my beater truck?'”
According to Bulldog Restorations’ Billy Little, the ’57 pickup was completed in two stages. “The first time was more of a budget build,” said Billy. “The second time, we pretty much tuned everything up. We cleaned up all of the body lines, the door gaps, did different door latches, power windows, a stereo with Bluetooth, and so on.
Keith started “poking around” and located a perfect specimen all the way out in Spokane, Washington, over 2,500 miles away. “It was part of a collection, and the seller had about 10 of these old Chevy pickups,” said Keith. “The one I purchased was a gas-powered automatic, and it had been converted to four-wheel-drive. I bought it sight-unseen and had it trucked back here to Pennsylvania.”
In the weeks following the arrival of the Chevy, Keith used the truck normally. “It was 2007, and I had aspirations of getting it fixed up,” said Keith. “I took it to a local guy, and he took it apart. It turned out that he took it apart too quickly, and subsequently never put it back together!”
From start to finish, the restoration of the ’57 Chevy took about eight years.
The bed was brought to life by Bulldog Restorations, and was given a stain and clearcoat to keep it fresh. The dog, meanwhile, is Keith’s, and his name is Pierre.
After quite some time had passed, Keith decided enough was enough; the truck had to be restored, and it had to be restored correctly. “I took it to Bulldog Restorations in Exton, Pennsylvania,” he said. “I originally had the vision of having the drivetrain from my other 6.2-liter diesel installed, but with how much money I was investing in the project, I felt it would be too beat-up and worn-out.”
Instead, Keith went with the 6.5-liter Detroit Diesel, commonly found on Humvees and other military vehicles. “It fit like a glove in the engine bay, to my surprise,” Keith commented. “The old 350ci V8 that was in the Chevy had the same dimensions and mounts in the right places to suit the 6.5, almost to a ‘T.'”
Inside the Chevy, leather and wool go hand in hand. This work was done by a company called Futureline, also in Pennsylvania, and included heaters for the seats. Other aspects done by Bulldog are an Alpine sound system with Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay, electric windows, and Vintage Air air conditioning.
During the build, Keith states that some interesting problems cropped up, but Bulldog Restorations found a solution every time. “At every turn, there was some aspect that we had to figure out,” said Keith. “There was a lot of custom, one-off machining, and these folks at Bulldog built virtually anything. If it was needed, and it couldn’t be found, they fabricated it. A lot of the front suspension and steering mechanisms was done in-house. I wanted power steering, and since these trucks never had that option back in the day, Bulldog had to approach it from the ground up, re-engineering and redesigning so the geometry all worked out.”
Somewhere along the way, Keith decided to make the 6.5 run on biodiesel. This would bring the truck more in line with the “green” image of one of his companies (a computer company), and give the vehicle an interesting edge as well.
For biodiesel fuel, Keith uses what he calls "sushi grease" sourced from a local Japanese restaurant. "They strain the oil better than fast-food places," he said. "It makes for a very nice fuel to use in the Chevy."
A biodiesel conversion kit was purchased and fitted to the truck. The conversion required the original fuel tank be replaced with a 15-gallon heated tank (for the biodiesel), while the spare tire was removed to make room for a 12-gallon fuel tank (for the regular diesel).
With a combined 27 gallons of fuel at his disposal, Keith can drive the pickup around for quite a while before needing a refuel. “She’s good on fuel,” he said. “The 6.5 is naturally aspirated, too, and that helps with fuel mileage. If I had to guess, I’d say I can go about 500 miles, or halfway to Florida.”
But no matter where he goes, Keith gets attention, and that’s what he finds to be his most favorite aspect of the Chevy. “People swarm me wherever I go,” he said. “Old gearheads, young kids, it just really seems to spark an interest in everybody. I’ve been in situations where people have waited half an hour for me to finish eating at a restaurant or something, just to talk to me. And it’s always a pleasure to blow them away when I start the truck up, and they can instantly tell that it’s a diesel.”
Another neat trick the Chevy can do is become a snow plow during winter. "She's got crazy torque, so it makes for a great plow vehicle," commented Keith. "Two feet of snow is no problem!"
All in all, the Chevy satisfies on several accounts – it looks great, and it runs on a substance that most people pay to get rid of, and is now a renewable source of energy. Keith is very happy with how everything turned out, and doesn’t plan to make much in the way of future mods, other than an automatic running board like those made by AMP Research or Bestop.
Regarding the idea of taking the Chevy to car shows, Keith said, “I probably will start taking it to car shows, but I don’t know of any off-hand.” We certainly hope he does, since hot rod and truck enthusiasts everywhere need to see this machine up-close.
The pickup has been lifted to give it more room for the larger wheels and tires, and all-around, it gives off an off-road aura that makes it stand out. The lift is from a two-inch Skyjacker kit, with ION Alloy 174 wheels and 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs.