This story originally ran in the Summit Racing catalog and on SummitRacing.com on 8/29/2008.
If by chance you ever meet Ron and Lynda Carpenter, odds are it will be while they’re at, going to, or coming from a car show or cruise-in somewhere in the Midwest.
They will be hard to miss—behind the wheel of their award-winning 1948 Chevy five-window pickup.
For Ron, having a truck is as natural as breathing.
“I’ve always been a truck man. It’s that simple. I love trucks,” he said. “When I was a little guy, the Sunoco station down the street had a blue ’48 pickup with big ‘Jeff’s Sunoco’ decals on the doors. I wanted one ever since.”
So it was no big surprise to anyone when Ron dragged home a basket-case 1948 Chevy he found near his Battle Creek, MI home.
What Ron found that day nearly 12 years ago was a far cry from the gas station hauler of his youth. The Chevy was an abandoned street rod project—more specifically, it was a painted frame and five truckloads of drivetrain components, body panels, and assorted nuts and bolts.
“When I got it all back to my garage, I wasn’t even sure I had all of the parts,” Ron said.
Armed with the wrench-turning know-how from years of Mini Champ and Midget roundy-round racing, Ron started turning those few thousand loose parts into a truck. It was going to be a basic restoration project, but it wasn’t long before he recruited the professional welding and fabrication skills of his stepson, Lynn Jenkins, to reverse the damage that 50 Michigan winters can do to a truck cab.
“The worst part was probably the back of the cab—it was beat to death,” Ron said. “It looked like a porcupine, there were so many holes and dents in it. We ended up having to smooth the whole thing out with a torch and a hammer.”
Surprisingly, the only items Ron and Lynn had to completely replace were the firewall, cowl, floorboards, and one bed side—the rest of the sheetmetal is factory-issue. The duo did graft on a new set of cab corners and patch up the floorboards.
Once the body was knocked back into shape, a GM Performance Parts small block 350 crate engine was dropped in—and that changed everything.
“It all started with these,” Ron said as he pointed out a set of polished Billet Specialties accessory brackets. “They just looked so good. It was at that point I decided to build something really nice.”
The change of plans brought Lynn back into the garage for another round of bodywork. This time around, he and Ron shaved and smoothed the hood, frenched the headlights and antenna, and shaved the door handles. Out back, they extended the tailgate and bulkhead to sit flush with the bedsides and molded in a roll pan complete with cutouts for the LED taillights.
With the body mods finished, Ron took the ’48 down the road to Steve Blanchard at Blanchard Body & Kolor for a mile-deep coat of Plymouth Prowler Orange paint. “The more it’s out in the sunlight, the better the paint gets,” Ron said. “I love seeing it in the sun.”
Upholstery is the one job that hot rodders are all too glad to farm out. Not Ron—he turned the seats, headliner, and door panels out of a junkyard 1985 Pontiac Grand Am into an interior that looks right at home in the old Chevy. He even redid the dash to accommodate a Vintage Air air conditioning system and a set of Dakota Digital gauges. “I’d say that cutting up the dash was probably the scariest part of the project,” Ron said, “but it’s one of my favorite parts of the truck.”
Since the ’48 was completed, Ron and his wife Lynda have been making stops at shows around Michigan and points south—and gradually converting their garage into what might be the world’s largest trophy case.
Good thing they have a pickup truck to haul those trophies home, eh?
Frame: Stock/fully boxed and reinforced, Heidt’s Mustang II weld-in front crossmember
Rear Axle: Chevy Nova 10-bolt with 3.09 gears
Rear Suspension: Camaro leaf springs, custom 2 1/2-inch lowering blocks
Front Suspension: Heidt’s tubular A-arms, Mustang II coil springs, and 2-inch drop spindles, Monroe shocks, Chassis Engineering stabilizer bar
Brakes: Heidt’s 11-inch front disc, 9 1/2-inch Camaro rear drums
Wheels and Tires: Billet Specialties Vintec wheels (15 x 7 front/15 x 8 rear), BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires (P215/60R15 front, P255/60R15 rear)
Engine and Transmission
Type: GM Goodwrench 350 long block
Camshaft: Edelbrock Performer-Plus hydraulic flat tappet (204°/214° duration @.050, .420-inch/.442-inch lift)
Induction: Edelbrock Performer intake manifold, 600 cfm Edelbrock Performer carburetor
Ignition: ACCEL HEI distributor and in-cap Super Coil, Taylor Pro Wire ignition wires
Exhaust: 1 5/8-inch primary Patriot Exhaust headers, custom-bent 2 1/4-inch aluminized dual exhaust with Flowmaster 40 Series mufflers, Camaro Z28-style rectangular exhaust tips
Transmission: GM Turbo 350
Other Items: GM Performance Parts valve covers, Billet Specialties air cleaner and breather, Powermaster 100-amp alternator, Cool Flex polished upper and lower radiator hoses, Lokar stainless steel throttle cable and linkage, hidden A/C and heater hoses, Billet Specialties V-belt pulley system, Rock Valley stainless steel fuel tank
Body and Paint
Modifications: Shaved, welded, and smoothed hood; frenched headlights and antenna; shaved door handles; raised tailgate and bulkhead with stainless steel inner skin; molded rear roll pan with cutouts for LED taillights; relocated fuel filler neck; Pro’s Pick oak bed with stainless steel skid strips
Paint: PPG Plymouth Prowler Orange Pearl
Paint Work: Steve Blanchard/Blanchard Body & Kolor
Upholstery: 1985 Pontiac Grand Am seats, headliner, and door panels redone in ecru cloth
Upholstery Work: Ron Carpenter
Dash: Stock, modified for custom Dakota Digital digital gauges
Console: Custom fabricated
Shifter: Hurst Pro-Matic
Other: ididit chrome steering column, LeCarra Elegante steering wheel, Lokar billet pedals, Lokar emergency brake handle, Vintage Air air conditioning
• “1st Place Custom Rod Pickup 1935-48 Mild,” 2002, 2006, and 2007 Detroit Autorama
• “Truck of the Year,” 2005 and 2006 Auburn (IN) Fun Run
• “Meguiar’s Appearance Award,” 2006 Super Chevy Show, Martin, MI
• “Best Paint,” 2005 NHRA Nationals North, Kalamazoo, MI
Special Thanks To: Lynda Carpenter, Lynn Jenkins, Ron Carpenter Jr., Steve Blanchard, Dave Woodman
Photography by Ken Stidwell