Father and son projects are often the dream of many parents and their children. Some dads build a tree house with the help of their son, some dads build pinewood derby cars or soap box racers. Then there’s Johnny Valdez and his son Johnny Jr. These two used their talents at auto body and restoration work to build a father/son project that many can only dream about in the form of this gorgeous 1954 Chevy pickup.
Six years ago Johnny Jr. wanted to set out and build a custom pickup. The search was on and after looking at several trucks they settled on the ’54 you see here. “We chose this truck because my son liked the body style and it was the first year with the one piece windshield” says Valdez Sr. The truck was brought to the family business Unique Auto Body in Patterson, NJ where it sat for nearly two years.
Once the time came to build the truck it would take four years off and on to see it through to completion. No panel has been left untouched on this entire build and nothing was simply left “stock.” The frame, while original, has been reinforced and modified. The front suspension is now an independent setup from Heidt’s. The rear utilizes an ’86 Camaro torque arm setup and Ford-nine inch differential.
Horsepower comes via a built 383 ci small-block Chevy engine featuring Accel intake manifold and fuel injection. The combination is good for 430 horsepower at the crank. Backing that up is a Gearstar 700R4 transmission. Big Wilwood brakes do the stopping at all four corners, with fourteen-inch rotors and six-piston calipers on the front, while the rear is twelve inches with four-piston calipers.
All of these details alone make for an excellent starting point, but it’s how this father and son team finished off the rest of the truck that truly makes it shine. Johnny Jr., who is also the head painter at the family shop, painted the exterior in a beautiful custom shade of Sherwin Williams Black Saphire. The elder Valdez custom made the stainless trim for the outside to mimic the lines of a ’57 Chevy, “I built that trim but it was my son’s design and idea,” he says.
The front bumper is all steel and was also custom built at the family’s body shop. The rear bumper is fiberglass and again custom built by Valdez Sr. The tail lights are LEDs and have been frenched into the rear fenders, which also incorporate the turn signals. You’ll notice an absence of signal lights on the front. Valdez incorporated LED signal lights into the front headlights to further clean up the front end of the truck. The exhaust rumbles through Flowmaster mufflers and exits via Porsche Cayenne tips, which look like they came factory due to the extensive body work done to the truck.
The bed features the typical classic truck wood strips and stainless dividers, however what you may not notice at first is the absence of any bolts. The fender bolts have been hidden by the use of additional metal built into the bed. There’s also a total lack of tail gate chains or straps. A local company was contracted to machine a set of CNC hinges, which hide inside the bed, this also gives a unique look when the tailgate is lowered.
We chose this truck because my son liked the body style and it was the first year with the one piece windshield
The truck rides on 2008 Corvette Z06 wheels. There’s also some Z06 DNA carried into the door opening system on the truck. In place of door handles are C6 Corvette door openers which operate off a push-button built into the front doors. Just as the Vette also uses a safety release inside the vehicle, the Valdez’s incorporated that same system into this truck as well, preventing someone from accidentally being trapped inside due to a loss of battery power.
Inside the interior is done in a beautiful tan leather. The dash panel was custom built by Valdez Jr., as was the center console. A late model Honda Civic automatic shifter and parking brake assembly was incorporated into the console, adding yet another modern touch to this classic truck. Look closely and you’ll also notice the dash was modified to accept the double DIN stereo. The console also incorporates the controls for the AC system as well as the power windows.
This well thought out truck caught our attention at the NSRA Street Rod Nationals this past August in Louisville, KY. While talking with Valdez we learned that this was their first trip to the show. They’re currently working on a ’48 Chevy they hope to have ready for next year, telling us they build about one car for themselves every two years. We look forward to seeing what they show up with next year.