Some guys are in Seventh Heaven building ’32 Fords, others won’t build anything but muscle cars – Chevelles, Camaros, the occasional Mustang – and other guys do nothing but full-on Pro-Touring street freaks. Not Dennis Summers, though. He’s building a very unusual project – this one is not even close to any kind of the afore-mentioned vehicles.
Dennis, of Parker, Colorado, owns his own rod shop named “Attitude Hot Rods.” He’s been building cars with an attitude for other folks for well over 25 years now. For this build, he decided he needed a shop truck – or maybe it’s a surfer van. He hasn’t quite decided which one it’ll be just yet. A van certainly allows for plenty of room for hauling parts while not exactly being an open-bed type of truck, but perhaps passengers for those long-distance surfing trips.
Dennis got the van bug after seeing all the cool VW buses being built out there lately but wanted something with a little more power. Like V8 power!
He started looking for a 1964 to 1970 Chevy or Dodge van but figured he needed more windows for his passengers, just like those 21 window VW buses. Problem was, most older vans don’t have lots of windows. It took about 2 years before he finally found a 1967 Chevy Model 108 windowed van about 50 miles east of Pueblo, Colorado.
When he got it home, he decided it sat too high and started modifying the front suspension as that would be the hardest to do. After perusing most of the internet van forums for information and chatting with lots of van guys there, no one could help him. Apparently no one had lowered a straight axle equipped van. They’d never done or seen anyone lower a van like Dennis had planned without changing everything under it.
So, as a builder of hot rods, kustoms, and other cars, he figured it could be done and tackled it himself. The first thing he did was remove the leaf springs and figure out how to do a four-bar front.
He used the original shock mount and made an upper plate to hold the Aldan coil-overs, then made the rear mounts to hold the four-bar to the front axle and position it. A handmade panhard bar kept it in place and no modification to the steering sector was needed. Bam! Five and one half inches lower in the front. Looking fine!
Back up on the rack, he pulled the wheels off and decided it needed disc brakes. After removing the hub, he went to the nearest NAPA Auto Parts store. Looking through their rotor book he found what he thought would work – an ‘88 Camaro with just a little clean up.
Dennis had some spare Wilwood calipers lying around, so he made a bracket out of plywood and attached it. It worked well and all he had to do was change out the studs to longer ones. He took the plywood template to the water jet company and had a pair of them cut out of aluminum.
With the front finished, it was on to the rear end. The body had been “C” notched and a 1970 Ford F150 rear end was found. Fortunately, the width of the rear end was three inches narrower than the stock Chevy so eight-inch wide wheels could be used.
Dennis used a triangulated four-bar kit made for a ’55-’57 Chevy truck and modified it to fit the van. Aldan coil-overs were used on the rear as well, along with Wilwood disc brakes and a 3.35 Posi center section. Hurst wheels and red line tires will be mounted.
The engine came out of a failed sports car project – a new 400-inch Chevy small-block with aluminum heads and Sanderson Headers. It’ll be backed by a 700R4 automatic transmission. The body recently came back from the blasters in bare form – all the paint had been removed inside and out and Dennis got right after it, marking the roof for the cut and removing it.
Dennis said he’s going to lower it by two to three inches. Of course, there’s minor rust in the lower portions of the van body that will need to be taken care of along the way. The paint will be red and black as can be seen in the not-done-by-Foose illustration above.
Plans for the interior call for a Hawaiian or surfing theme since he’ll be making a surfboard rack on the left side of the van (exterior) to hold either a surf board or his 6’8” skate deck. As for the ‘shop truck’, well, let’s just say that it would work for that, too. Either way Dennis decides to go you can bet this is one windowed van that won’t have a hard time climbing Colorado’s 11,000 foot Vail Pass – just in case he heads for the Pacific ocean to go surfing.
What do you think of Dennis’s project – did he improve a classic? Let us know in the comments below, and if you have a project of your own that you’ve been slaving away at, share it with us! Send us an email and yours could be the next project featured in “What Are You Working On?”.