Recently, while covering the 10th Annual Goodguys Nashville Nationals, I ran across this gem of a hauler—a 1953 Chevrolet 3100 truck. The 3100-Series, owned by Frank Stewart of Yakima, Washington, was built by RideTech of Jasper, Indiana, and Scott Smith of Lebanon, Tennessee.
Originally, this 1953 Chevrolet project was started by RideTech. After sinking a hefty sum of money into the truck, RideTech put the brakes on the project and started on another project. This is where Scott Smith, hot rod builder extraordinaire, comes into the mix. Scott caught wind the truck was for sale, and after giving it a good detailed look, realized it was a nearly complete truck that only needed a few finishing touches.
A vintage car guy, Scott has been around cars and motorcycles for 33 years. He also owns Hot Rods, Harleys & Classics, where he buys, builds, and sells restored classic cars and trucks. Scott dabbles in everything from simple restomods to full-blown customs with a sharp eye for detail, that serves him well in his chosen vocation.
Resting on the edge of a large field, Scott’s shop is a secluded museum and playground for gear heads to visit. Nostalgic automotive history is represented through the display of several years of cars, trucks, and motorcycles on the walls. Various genres of the automotive world were also present, including: restorations, restomods, and full-custom autos. In the center of the shop rested the one object of my photographic desires, at least for that day, this 1953 Chevy 3100. I realized in the early morning sunshine, that essentially, Scott became the “third act,” which finalized this classy hot rod truck.
The truck was a frame-off rebuild and extensive thought and work was put into the suspension, which was no surprise considering RideTech built the chassis. A custom RideTech front suspension was installed, with modern tubular A-arms and two-inch drop spindles. A stainless steel RideTech four-link was installed in the rear and the truck’s slammed stance is courtesy of an Air Ride Technologies system that knocked approximately 12-inches off of the original height. Twin RideTech air compressors fill the single air-reserve tank and activate the air bags. The RideTech crew also decided to remove the stock gas tank from behind the seat and mount a custom stainless steel 20-gallon tank between the rear frame rails. For modern stopping power, RideTech added cross-drilled and slotted disc brakes from Baer.
Once the suspension was in place, RideTech began work on the body. The front sheet metal uses the stock Chevrolet grille, now show-chromed, and the stock bumper was tucked tight against the body with custom metal work filling in the gaps. The body was shaved and smoothed of all identifying emblems and moldings, with the exception of the stock door handles. The hood was replaced with a steel GM one-piece and the side vent-windows were removed where a single pane of glass now fills the window openings.
The rear bumper was ditched for a custom roll pan fitted with a modern LED-strip brake light mounted under the tailgate. The bed pockets were filled in and smoothed and custom steel running boards were mounted in place to button up the exterior body mods.
Under the hood, the RideTech crew beautified the engine compartment. The firewall was cleaned up, and the inner fender panels were smoothed, tubbed, and molded. The truck was then disassembled and prepped for the paint booth, where it received a healthy dose of PPG Charcoal Gray metallic paint along with plenty of clear.
After checking out this truck I realized it was nearly complete, but needed a few finishing touches. -Scott Smith
Under the hood, Scott used a GM ZZ3 350ci crate engine fitted with finned Corvette valve covers. The engine was primarily kept as-is from Chevrolet Performance, but there were some minor changes that added to its overall operation. Engine additions included March pulleys, a custom-built Rochester Quadrajet 625 carburetor and a 1962 Corvette air cleaner assembly.
Hedman Hedders and Flowmaster mufflers route the exhaust fumes through 2½-inch black powder-coated pipes. The engine’s temperature is maintained by an aluminum radiator and electric fan. Electronic ignition is provided by MSD and the Optima battery was frame-mounted under the bed. A GM 700R4 AOD transmission is connected to a column shifter. Supporting the 3100 is a set of stylish 18×8-inch and 20×10-inch Roulette wheels from Billet Specialties, wrapped in 235/50R18 and 295/45R20 BFGoodrich tires, respectively.
Interior mods began with a bench-seat frame from TEA’s Design covered with imported, distressed cedar-colored leather. Chris Tisdale of Big Body Interiors Custom Upholstery in Lebanon, Tennessee, handled the stitch work, adding the leather to the bench seat, door panels, custom console, one-piece headliner, and rear of the cab.
The floor was covered in Mercedes-Benz copper carpet, which blends nicely with the leather. The dash uses a set of updated gauges from Classic Instruments and the chrome tilt steering column from Flaming River is topped off with a Billet Specialties steering wheel. Audio entertainment is provided by a JVC-CD head unit that spins tunes through JL Audio speakers mounted in the cab’s kick panels. Power windows, electric door locks and A/C unit transform this 1953 Chevrolet pickup into a comfortable, modern-day cruiser.
Finalizing the build, the bed needed to blend the interior with the exterior. Scott opted to hire his son, Jake Smith of Bed Wood, Inc., to make a custom, exotic-wood bed floor with chrome strips.
Sometimes, it takes a minor setback for a custom automotive masterpiece to be completed. RideTech passed the torch onto Scott who was able to complete the “third act” for his customer, Frank Stewart. After taking delivery of the truck, Frank decided to keep it in his collection and enjoy it for years to come.