Whether or not car guys are born with an affinity to the classic car hobby as part of their DNA, or they acquired the taste during their early years when a family member submersed them in all things hot rod, there always seems to be a driving need to buy, rebuild, and ultimately enjoy all things automotive.
Roger Barr of Lakeland, Florida, never explicitly told us whether he was born with a compunction for enjoying the hobby of classic cars, but he did tell us that he worked part-time – after school and on weekends – so he could actually save up for his first car. Roger was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the time and remembers his boss had a ’52 or ’53 Chevy Pickup that he allowed Roger to drive when the pair went to work on the bosses cabin. That old 3100-series pickup truck was woefully underpowered with a small, six-cylinder engine. In fact, that lack of power sometimes required the truck to be driven in First gear when steep inclines were encountered. It is this and other memories, that cause Roger to fondly remember that truck, and always want one of his own.
A Change In Direction
Like many enthusiasts, life continued and other aspects of survival kept him from reviving those memories, but the unrealized dream was never forgotten. For Roger, that dream finally got the best of him in 2004. That’s when he found this particular little hauler. It wasn’t in the condition you see now, but back then, it was a cool driver. “When I found this truck, I was actually looking for a ’50 through ’59 Chevy Apache. I was living and working in Florida when I did find it, and it looked decent from 15-feet away. There was no rust, and it already had a small-block V8 under the hood,” Roger said.
The plan was to build a really nice daily driver. – Roger Barr
Roger was able to drive the truck home, but the top speed of roughly 45 mph was not something he could pleasantly live with. The reason for the engine-screaming low mph was because the rearend gearing was so steep. If he went any faster, it was possible the engine would unceremoniously stop screaming (kaboom). That is why the rearend gears were one of the first things Roger changed. He then removed the straight axle from under the frontend and installed an A-arm suspension. The interior also got a mild overhaul, by way of a pair of bucket seats and a console, that he glommed from a later model ride. After Roger made those minor upgrades, he enjoyed the truck in that configuration for the next four years.
A Simple Makeover Goes Extreme
In 2008, he decided the pickup deserved some much-needed attention. “I had saved up some money, and wanted to buy a new Porsche. Instead, I decided to spend it on the ’49,” he quipped. Ready to see a huge transformation, he took the truck to Davis Customs in Clearwater, Florida. With a list of requests, the project got underway.
“The plan was to build a really nice daily driver,” Roger said. But, once the project got underway, you can see that it became so much more. Each time Roger would check in on the progress, he noticed the shop changed something or did small things that he hadn’t planned. They might not have been part of the plan, but Roger ultimately realized the changes definitely added to the truck’s appearance. One of those changes was not so slight, and involved the color.
Originally, the plan was to paint the truck red. Roger even had a factory GM color selected, but someone mentioned he should do something different. “My wife convinced me to paint it a different color,” Roger stated. Like most happily married men, he conceded. He and the shop owner discussed the newly proposed color. “I gave him a GM color chip, but he said, ‘you can’t paint this truck a standard GM color. It has to be something special’,” Roger stated. Roger got his way, and the next time he visited the shop, he found various parts of the truck painted Elkhart Green. If the color looks familiar to you, that’s because it was used to paint several models of GM cars in 1973.
The stock, slightly modified chassis was removed to make room for a Roadster Shop perimeter frame with a Heidt’s Superide front suspension and four-bar rear suspension to support the 9-inch rear with a street-friendly 3.50 gear. Wheel rotation-disablers are from Wilwood.
I gave him a GM color chip, but he said, ‘you can’t paint this truck a standard GM color. It has to be something special’. – Roger Barr
When it came time to choose what would motivate the lil’ hauler, retaining the 305ci small-block that was in the truck when Roger acquired it was not an option. Instead, he chose to reach out to Chevrolet Performance, and got a new 350ci Ramjet engine. With 345 horsepower and 396 lb-ft of torque, it makes the perfect engine for a vehicle that will be thoroughly enjoyed on the street. Behind the small-block is a Monster Transmissions-built 4L60E given directions from an HGM transmission controller.
If you think the exterior looks great, the interior is another work of art. Dale’s Hot Rod Interiors of Dade City, Florida, covered the modified 2003 GM bucket seats – and the rest of the interior – with a Saddle Tan leather. Finally, cruising without tunes is akin to committing heresy, so a Kenwood sound system makes sure to please the ears.
Roger’s truck might not see as much on-road time as it did before the latest transformation, but we can verify that if the sun’s shining, this little pickup has the wheels spinning and miles accumulating on the roads of central Florida.