The automotive world is full of opportunities to be different, whether it’s about who built your car, what components were used, or even what the end goal was for the build. The point is, the automotive world is yours to enjoy how you wish, and it’s that much greater because of it.
I thought it would be unique. – Willie Elder
The truck’s name is Grace, and it took Elder about four years and just under twenty grand to build. Willie has a true love for the automotive scene that dates back some 30 years, thanks to friends introducing him to all the goodness.
He’s completed a handful of other custom builds as well, such as a ’49 Studebaker, ’56 T-Bird, and a ’63 Ford pickup. Elder’s building of this 1940 Chevrolet COE was an exercise in passion as much as exclusivity. “I thought it would be unique,” Elder told us when asked about the reason behind the build.
Frequenting automotive events for the better part of the last two decades, we’ve seen a growing number of custom COEs being built. From tow trucks to haulers, to even a couple that were autocross-worthy. There’s no doubt that COEs are becoming more and more popular, but never have we found one quite as unique as Elder’s.
Elder is no stranger to one-of-a-kind builds. In fact, a custom barbecue grill Elder crafted out of the front clip of a 1939 Dodge was so unique, it made it on an episode of Mobil 1’s Extreme Grillers! But that’s a story for another day. You can see the episode HERE.
The base of the truck is a 1940 COE, but that’s about as “factory” as this Chevy gets. Underneath, you’ll find virtually an entire S10 pickup suspension system attached to the shortened frame, giving the truck much more modern handling characteristics than its classic body would otherwise be paired with. In addition to the 1997 S10 suspension, the truck makes use of 15-inch “secondhand” five-spoke wheels and upgraded ceramic brakes. Both power steering and power brakes are modern amenities that “Grace” now features.
Powering the truck is a 1990s 350ci Chevy small block with tuned-port injection, which is kept cool using a Griffin radiator. With overheating and electrical issues realized during the build process, it was important to Elder to make sure the fuel-injected power plant stayed as cool as possible, so that he could enjoy cruising his unusual truck without trouble.
Where Elder’s truck really shines is in the aesthetics. A traditional snub-nose cab mixed with a custom bed, the truck features a Rootbeer, Harley Orange and Cream base coat/clear coat paint scheme with Chestnut and Gold metal flake mixed in. Adding even more intrigue are subtle pinstriping details done by Dave Ripley.
Out back, the bed of the truck is one-of-a-kind, featuring diamond plated stepped bed walls, a blonde wood bed floor spaced with brightwork slats, and a custom Coca-Cola cooler/bed box, complete with matching pinstriping and Chevy-branded bottle opener. When asked what his favorite part of the build was, Elder told us while he loves the entire finished truck, he likes the custom bed the best.
Inside, all three primary body colors are incorporated into the interior, from the Pearl White seats borrowed from a 1970 Bronco that are flanked with orange seat belts, to the Rootbeer and Cream dash and metal door panels. Topping everything off is just enough brightwork to make things such as the steering column, door handles, and the gauge cluster pop. Though Elder says he still needs a stereo for the truck, it does feature power windows as a little added bonus.
“I enjoy it – it’s fun,” Elder told us in regards to his truck. “I find it therapeutic. It is very unique and people turn their heads.”
“I love to create,” he continued. “All of my vehicles have personalities.”
“My family is very supportive of all my projects,” Elder explained. “When my kids were little, I would put a piece of the truck together at night, and then take it apart so they could put it together the next day, they thought they had a part in the build!”
Elder certainly has a knack for creating some truly individual pieces of rolling art, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for the home builder. So keep your eyes peeled, as we’ll definitely update you on any future projects we come across from Willie Elder and his unexpected sense of style and design.