Going Resto: ’54 Chevy Farm Truck Gets New Life

Owning a pristine car with a killer paint job can take its toll after a while. If you’ve ever had such a vehicle, we’re sure you can relate. You will do things you would never do with your daily driver, like checking the weather before deciding to drive it. Even parking in the lot of the store is a problem. Sure, you can park it away from all of the soccer moms with their rugrats to avoid the door dings, but what if you’re too far out and it gets stolen? Call us paranoid, but we’ve had all of these thoughts before. The problem with a nice hot rod is they are hard to enjoy on a daily basis. 

Like some of you, Tim Casey, an auto mechanic out of Oaks, Pennsylvania, grew up around cool cars and trucks. “Growing up, my father was always into cars but wasn’t a mechanic by trade, although he did everything to them,” Tim explains. “I was always out in the driveway, watching and helping him. He had a ’70 Chevelle convertible and a ‘70 Chevelle SS, both of which he still owns.” 

A few other project cars that made appearances in Casey’s childhood were some Corvettes, a Trans Am, and a Nova. 

At the age of 14, Tim bought his first vehicle, a 1988 GMC S15 Jimmy. With his father’s help, they installed a fuel-injected V8 engine and a five-speed transmission. Casey says, “One thing I must say is growing up, everything had a manual transmission. To this day, I’ve never owned an automatic. Every car that I have, including my wife’s vehicle, is a manual transmission.”

I wanted a vehicle that I wouldn’t be obsessed with the paint and worry about scratches and dings.

When it came time to start a new project, Tim wanted to go a different route than with his previous builds. He says, “My past cars were always spotless, and I would worry about scratches, paint chips, and dents. I’m the guy who parks in the furthest parking spot available. I wanted a vehicle that I wouldn’t be obsessed with the paint and worry about scratches and dings.” 

Tim always wanted a 47-54 Chevy or GMC pickup. After falling in love with the patina-style look, he knew exactly what he was going to build. So he hit eBay when looking for a truck and found a 1954 Chevrolet 3100 ½-ton just one state over, in Maryland. But there were a few problems. 

“I contacted the seller and he said the auction was going off in two days. It had already hit the reserve, and I didn’t want to bid on it until I saw it in person,” Tim continues, “After the auction ended, I reached out to the seller and told him if the winner doesn’t come through, to let me know.” 

Since he missed out on the auction, Tim started looking for another truck. He found a few, but they just weren’t what he wanted. He was getting ready to call about another one, and then it happened. Tim says, “Before I could enter the phone number, I received a text from the owner of the eBay truck who said the winning bidder never contacted him. He gave me the first shot at it before being relisted, and I told him I’d be there the next day.” 

On May 27, 2018, Tim went to check out the truck and brought it home — along with some history. The original owner bought it brand new and used it every day on his Maryland farm until he died in 1998, at the age of 98. The Chevy then sat in his barn for the next 20 years, untouched, until his wife passed away in 2018. Fortunately for Tim, the owner’s family didn’t want the truck, which allowed him to buy it. There was only one problem: the relatives couldn’t find the title. 

Tim relays, “The family contacted the state, who sent a new title. Then they found the original title. I was able to use the new one to put into my name and keep the original document from 1954 in the envelope that it came in.”

As you can imagine, this was a working farm truck for all of its life and was in rough condition. Tim affirms, “The Chevy was rusted in the usual spots, and there were many challenges, like welding in the new TCI independent crossmember. Some days felt like climbing a mountain, only to get over that obstacle to find another.”

Tim ordered the sheetmetal from Classic Industries, which he used to replace the lower cowl panels, inner and outer cab corners, and the floor pans. With the leftover scraps, he patched the bedsides, and the front and rear fenders.   

For the paint and body, Tim had already decided on a patina-type of paint. He says, “I wanted to be able to drive it anywhere and not have to worry about dents or paint chips.” The original owner brushed silver paint onto the entire truck to stop it from rusting.  Tim sanded the silver down to make it appear as a faded repaint coming through to the original color. He then stenciled his last name on the door to make it look like an old shop truck and cleared the entire Chevy with satin clear. 

Suspension components and design have changed over the years, and the now 60-plus-year-old truck needed some serious upgrades. The first thing that had to go was the archaic solid front axle. For that, Casey reached out to Total Cost Involved (TCI) for help. For the front of the truck, a TCI Mustang II independent suspension was used with 2-inch drop spindles, big-bore disc brakes, and steel braided hoses. But Casey didn’t stop there. He also installed TCI’s tubular control arms, RideTech coilovers, and a TCI adjustable sway bar. The rear was updated as well with TCI parabolic leaf springs and shocks connected to an S10 rearend and swaybar. The rear axle houses a set of 3.42 gears and a posi unit, which keeps both rear tires going at the same rate and direction.

The next order of business was the wheels. Casey selected Riddler 695’s with 18×8-inches on the front and 18×9.5-inches on the rear. The tires on the front measure out at 225/45/ZR18’s with 255/45zr18’s on the rear of the Chevy. To fit the 18×9.5’s on the back, Casey had to modify the wheel tubs with a set from Bow Tie Bits.

With the chassis and paint buttoned up on the old Chevy, it was time to move on to the powertrain. For the engine, Casey opted for a 5.3-liter LS out of a 2003 GMC Yukon. He used Summit Racing exhaust manifolds, custom motor mounts, a Chevrolet Performance GM muscle car oil pan, PCM tune, reworked factory wiring harness, polyurethane mounts, and a set of Taylor 8mm spark plug wires.

Tim built a custom 2.5-inch exhaust system kit and chopped and welded the pipes into place. The dual exhaust exits at the back of the cab on both sides 

As mentioned before, Tim loves manual transmission, and he wasn’t going to run an automatic in his Chevy. An NV3500 five-speed manual transmission is mated to the LS with a Centerforce clutch and an AC Delco slave cylinder. A Hurst short-throw was used to make sure the gear selection is handled promptly. A TCI transmission crossmember secures the gearbox to the frame.

Like everything else on the Chevy, the interior needed some work, too. Casey installed a black TMI reclining bench seat with sued inserts, Auto Custom Carpet, new headliner, kick panels, door panels, and all new glass from auto city classics. Dakota Digital VHX gauges were used along with a Volante leather steering wheel, Retro Sound radio, and Dyna Mat was used throughout. Another cool mod is the custom-made cup holders made out of old AC Delco oil filters and a timing chain.

Tim spent a total of six months from start to finish on this build. He worked on the truck during the weekends and holidays only. Tim says, “On April 9, 2018, I came home from work on a Friday night and started on it. I worked until dark, skipping dinner on Friday nights so I could get as much time in as possible. My schedule for Saturdays was from 8;00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., only stopping for lunch. I worked from 8-6 only stopping for lunch on Sundays.”

One thing I must say is growing up, everything had a manual transmission. To this day, I’ve never owned an automatic. Every car that I have, including my wife’s vehicle, is a manual transmission.

Even though Tim did the vast majority of the work, he did have some help when he needed it. His wife, Rachel Casey, was “110-percent” on board with this project from the start. Tim said, “When I first told her that I wanted to buy another car and build it, I thought she was going to say, ‘don’t you have enough?’  Instead, she was excited.” Tim tells us that she went to look at all of the trucks with him, and she even helped lift the heavy bed off. “She was there when we fired the engine, for the first ride, and she went to every swap meet with me to buy parts for it.”

Six months later, on November 4, 2018, Tim drove the Chevy for the first time. It had been 20 years since it moved under its own power. All of the hard work had paid off, and his dream truck was now a reality.

About the author

Brian Havins

A gearhead for life, Brian is obsessed with all things fast. Banging gears, turning wrenches, and praying while spraying are just a few of his favorite things.
Read My Articles

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