Summit Racing Equipment and several top parts manufacturers have teamed up with American Resto Mods of Buford, GA to build a 1949 Chevy step van for Top Gear on History co-host Rutledge Wood. Wood will drive the van on the 2013 Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be working with Summit Racing on this project,” Wood said. “Summit Racing is the ultimate candy store for guys like me—they have virtually every part you will ever need, and if you need help, you can talk to actual people who know their stuff and get things like a hot rod step van. That’s a big deal in my book.”
Rutledge Wood is a gearhead’s gearhead. Not only does he engage in automotive antics with Top Gear on History co-hosts Tanner Foust and Adam Ferarra, he hosts NASCAR Trackside Live on SPEED Channel and collects vehicles like our T-shirts collect grease. Wood has owned over 55 cars and trucks, ranging from a 1966 VW Double Cab and the 1968 Dodge Charger that was Kyle Petty’s high school ride to a Buick Roadmaster Wagon and a 1975 Bricklin SV-1.
So it makes perfect sense that Rutledge’s latest project is an aluminum breadbox on wheels. The Chevy step van is something that Rutledge has been dreaming about owning since his college days.
“I used to pass a van just like this one all the time when I was at the University of Georgia,” Wood said. “The day I went to inquire about it, it was gone. So when I found this one, I knew I had to have it.”
Wood found the Chevy in late 2012 and decided it would be the perfect vehicle to take on the 2013 Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour. Since it had to be the coolest breadbox on the Tour, Rutledge entrusted the build to American Resto Mods.
“Tons and tons of custom work needed to be done to make this thing cruise down the road,” he said. “I knew I needed to do it right and find a shop that I could trust, and I hit a home run with American Resto Mods.”
Mike Karbowski and the team at American Resto Mods began working on the Chevy in late 2012. The goal was to build something cool with big horsepower, but also make it reliable and comfortable for long distance drives like the Power Tour.
“We tossed the stock frame and replaced it with frame from a 1999 Chevy 2500 HD pickup,” Karbowski said. “We modified the frame to fit the van’s wheelbase and C-notched it in back to accommodate a rear axle flip kit. We did a lot of nipping and tucking to get the van body to fit over the frame, but everything sits nice and low, and we have modern suspension and brakes as a bonus.”
American Resto Mods wanted to deal with the best when it came to parts, so they enlisted the help of Summit Racing Equipment. With the help of its family of manufacturers, Summit Racing supplied:
• Chevrolet Performance 525 HP LS3 crate engine and engine controller kit
• Performance Automatic Street Smart 4L80E transmission kit
• Summit Racing headers
• Be Cool Power Cooling Module
• ididit steering column and Touch-n-Go keyless ignition system
• Energy Suspension Hyperflex bushing kit, sway bar bushings, and motor/transmission mounts
• Vintage Air climate control system
• American Autowire wiring harness
• Classic Instruments Bomber Series gauges and bezels
• Yokohama Parada Spec-X tires
• EBC brake rotors and Power Stop brake pads
Other components include a full MagnaFlow exhaust system and one-off 20- and 22-inch wheels from Asanti Wheels.
What’s Happening Next
Well, a lot, actually—the goal is to have the van ready to go for the Hot Rod Power Tour, which is the first week of June. There’s a drivetrain to install, brakes and suspension to rehab, an interior to stitch, and a thousand and one other jobs. One item American Resto Mods doesn’t have to worry about is paint. Rutledge wants to keep the aluminum body au naturel with just a good scrubbing to remove decades of grunge and oxidation.
We have some initial build photos to share with you, plus a short video by Rutledge his own self talking about all the horsepower he’ll be getting from the Chevrolet Performance LS3 motor. We’ll be bringing you project updates and videos as we get them; you can also track the build on American Resto Mod’s website.