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?

 

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Chevy’s Advance Design pickups were a big hit when first introduced in 1948. Today’s street rodders love ’em too—enough, in fact, to support a healthy reproduction parts aftermarket that makes tons of stuff, right up to brand new steel cabs. Not that any of that matters to Ron Carpenter. He built his ’48 the old fashioned way, from a basket-case truck and boxes of loose, rusty parts. But the man had a vision, and with years of experience wrenching on race cars and help from his stepson Lynn Jenkins, Ron turned that vision into this Prowler Orange-hued street truck. It’s no trailer queen, either; Ron and his wife Lynda have put more than 25,000 miles on the odometer since the Chevy was finished in 2001.

It was those Billet Specialties accessory brackets that altered the course of history—well, Ron’s history, at any rate. He was content doing a basic restoration on the ’48 until he dropped a GM Goodwrench 350 in the engine bay and bolted on the brackets. In his words, “They just looked so good…I decided to build something really nice.” Ron hotted up the small block with a .420”/.442” lift Edelbrock Performer hydraulic cam, Performer intake manifold, and 600 cfm Performer carburetor. An ACCEL HEI distributor and Flowmaster 40 Series mufflers. The Billet Specialties accessory drive spins a Powermaster alternator, a Vintage Air A/C compressor, power steering, and a high-flow water pump. The small block is backed by a warmed-upTurbo 350 automatic.

The ’48 gets its classic hot rod stance from a combination of factory and aftermarket suspension bits. Out back, a 10-bolt from a Chevy Nova is hung from a pair of Camaro leaf springs and 2 1/2” lowering blocks. Up front, a Heidt's Mustang II crossmember is home to the company’s tubular A-arms, coil springs, and 2” drop spindles. A pair of Monroe shocks and a Chassis Engineering stabilizer bar round things out. Heidt's 11" front disc and 9 1/2” Camaro rear drum brakes sit behind Billet Specialties Vintec wheels and BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires.

“The guy who owned (the truck) before me painted it gunmetal gray. It was one ugly truck,” Ron said with a chuckle. Well, it sure isn’t ugly now. PPG Plymouth Prowler Orange Pearl paint covers a host of modifications including a shaved and smoothed hood, frenched headlights and antenna, shaved door handles, and a molded rear roll pan with cutouts for LED taillights. Ron and Lynn did the majority of the bodywork; Steve Blanchard of Blanchard Body & Kolor gets credit for the finish work and paint.

A Pontiac Grand Am gave up its seats, headliner, and door panels to outfit the Chevy’s interior—and they certainly look better in here than they did in their former home. Ron did the upholstery work himself, covering everything in ecru-colored cloth. He also modified the stock dash to fit a set of custom Dakota Digital digital gauges and controls for the Vintage Air A/C system. The custom-made console housed a Hurst Pro-Matic shifter and a Lokar emergency brake handle. A LeCarra wheel sits on an ididit chrome steering column.

Chevy’s designers did a great job with the front end of the 1948-53 trucks. Ron wisely eft the grille and bumper intact, treating them to a cleanup and replate job.

Chevrolet loved Ron’s truck so much, the company featured it at the formal introduction of the Chevy SSR sport truck in 2003. The family resemblance is uncanny, don’t you think?

Fast Specs

Chassis
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 CoilTaylor 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 coversBillet Specialties air cleaner and breatherPowermaster 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

Interior
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 columnLeCarra Elegante steering wheelLokar billet pedalsLokar emergency brake handle, Vintage Air air conditioning

Awards
• “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

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Author: Jen Hanna