Longtime Family Work Truck Becomes Family Jewel

Steve Robinson is a highly accomplished man of many facets. Family man, corporate executive, and a through and through automotive enthusiast. He is particularly fond of early Chevy trucks, especially his 1954 Chevrolet 3100 Pick-up which has been in Steve’s family since the truck rolled off the assembly line.

Steve’s dad bought this Chevy truck brand new primarily for use in the family business. However as it often happens, dad’s work truck began to get used in more and more domestic situations. Eventually the pick-up became like a true part of the family. It was always there to serve their needs and over the years it became a fixture in their daily lives. 

Special thanks go out to Ron Snell for his help on this great family history piece!

For Steve, the old Chevy was part of many of his life’s most memorable events. Riding in the back (a joy lost forever to kids of this era), learning to drive with it and having the truck being available in a pinch on date nights made Steve decide that when his dad was ready to part with the keys, the ‘54 would be restored and never leave the family!

Steve’s plans for taking over the truck were put on hold though because his dad was not about to part with it just yet. So Steve went on with completing his education, beginning his career and starting his own family while dad and the truck continued their day-to-day routine.

Steve became very successful in his field but he never forgot his dream of making the old ’54 Chevy Pick-up something very special. As fate would have it, Steve eventually became Executive Vice President of Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer for fast food giant, Chick-fil-A. The company’s founder and owner had a huge and impressive auto collection; part of which is on display at their headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Since that is where Steve’s office is, being surrounded daily by fantastic examples of automotive history, he couldn’t help but be constantly reminded of his own dream project.

At the age of 90, Steve’s dad reluctantly decided to scoot out of the old truck’s well-worn driver’s seat. Steve’s dream of refurbishing the old pick-up was finally going to become a reality. He drove the old truck back to his home in Atlanta and began laying plans for the project.

Although Steve has mechanical skills, he also understood that the time and levels of expertise required to complete a build of this magnitude were greater than those he possessed. As we all know, lots of thought, planning, talent, knowledge and experience are required to complete a first-class build. So after much deliberation and research the project was placed in the hands of Atlanta Rod Shop.

With the build team in place, the next step was figuring out what was wanted when the project was finished? The 1954 design year saw the beginning of a new look and direction for the venerable Chevy pick-up line. Why not highlight that? Chevy made changes to the truck’s grille, windshield, taillights and for the first time ever, offered a Hydramatic automatic transmission. However, there was little else available for comfort or convenience.

Remember, in those days having a heater in a pick-up was often considered a “luxury” item and if you wanted music in a truck, well – you could always sing to yourself! So staying close to the original styling inside and out while updating the drivetrain, and installing modern comfort and convenience items was considered to be just the ticket. After much consultation between the owner and builder, the decision was made to undertake a mild resto-mod project rather than go with a stock restoration or do the full-on custom route.

But of course there were changes in plans along the way, since the old girl was in descent shape considering her age and and having over 300,000 miles on her odometer, the intent was to use her original frame. After inspection and deliberation, use of the original was abandoned in favor of a stronger frame with coil spring suspension mounted on it from a late ’60s Chevy pick-up. 

A Pontiac G8 was purchased as a donor car. From it was culled a 6.0L LS3 and accompanying automatic transmission which was transplanted into the truck. Corvette hydraulic engine mounts were used to anchor the powerplant in place so it can effectively put the power to a GM 12-bolt rearend that contains a 3.70:1 cog.

The striking blue color and the incredible chrome brightwork really makes this 1954 Chevy look like a million bucks!

As for the interior of the ’54, new floor pans, transmission tunnel, console and other various sundry items were fabricated to allow for driveline, control, and comfort upgrades.  The G8 seats also made their way into the cab but not before they were redone in Charcoal Grey leather that matches the overall interior upholstery scheme. However, the dash remained essentially untouched save for bringing it back to its original beauty. All gauges are stock rebuilds and fit in their original configuration. The radio also resides in the factory location.

The blue color which gives the appearance of liquid was achieved by using a Blue Effect clearcoat over a Dupont Nason base. Applied in-house by the wizards at Atlanta Rod Shop the amount of work required to get a finish such as this is truly amazing. This is the point where craft truly becomes art!

The outcome of this project is as obvious as the smiles on the faces of the father and son. But a question arises – Steve’s dad gave up the truck because it was getting difficult for him to drive it without some power assisted options. Now that the truck is completed, and has more options then ever before, does he want it back?

About the author

Paul Lambert

Paul Lambert is an independent writer who grew up during a time in Southern California car culture when big horsepower and high speed were celebrated above all. He now understands that turning, stopping, appearance and comfort are equal in importance...almost! Paul tries to find something likeable and interesting about anything with wheels and thinks that the people, history, and culture of hot rodding are often as important to the story as the cars and events being featured.
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