Dave Plickert’s garage hides a rare and exquisite treasure.
Squeeze past the beautifully resto-modded 1969 Camaro and the factory-fresh 1978 Corvette, slip by the classic Model A street rod, then tiptoe ever-so-carefully around his 1955 Chevy Pro Touring project, and you’ll find it: his tools.
With the considerable time and expense that goes into assembling the car of your dreams, taking the shop-built route has become an increasingly attractive option for enthusiasts. But that just makes Plickert’s collection of awesome, home-built rides even more impressive.
He’s clearly the real deal, and his latest creation—this 1949 Chevy pickup (which he humbly describes as “pretty nice”)—shows that there’s nothing you can’t do with some determination, resourcefulness, and a well-stocked garage.
“Growing up, I had to work on my car just to keep it running. It’s a bit of a lost art,” Plickert said. “I’ve been working on cars for a long time now, and I’ve always just learned by doing. Stick with it, and eventually you start to get pretty good.”
Plickert wasn’t strictly looking for a new project when the truck came up for sale, he said. He was already busy putting those well-honed skills to work on his ’55 Pro Touring build. However, the idea of adding a pickup to his growing collection of classic Chevys did have a certain appeal.
“The truck showed up for sale basically in my backyard, so I had to go take a look,” Plickert said. “The owner said it had been in storage for the last 30 years, and there were only 50,000 miles on the odometer. The bed was a little beat up, and it was missing the motor and transmission, but there wasn’t a spot of rust on it.”
And as anyone from the Midwest will tell you, that’s no small feat for a 63-year-old farm truck.
While the truck looked solid, Plickert decided against taking it home that day, since he was already so heavily invested in the ’55. Instead, he and his wife, Julie, set out for a long weekend at Wheeling Island Casino for some much-needed rest, relaxation, and time away from that oh-so-tempting five-window pickup. But nobody could have predicted what happened next:
“She hit the jackpot!” Plickert said, laughing.
Suddenly Julie, a deft hand at the slots, had raked in more than enough cash to cover the cost of the pickup.
“And that’s when she turned to me and said ‘I think you should go get that truck,’” Plickert said.
A keeper, that one.
Winnings in hand, Plickert returned for the pickup and didn’t waste any time getting down to business. “I had a pretty clear vision from the beginning,” Plickert said. “I wanted a sharp-looking truck that was really nice to drive.”
But before he could build it up, he started by tearing the Chevy down to the bare chassis, boxing the frame from front to rear, and then welding in custom crossmembers for increased rigidity. With the body removed, he took the opportunity to upgrade the truck’s ancient suspension system to a Mustang II-style setup in front (complete with tubular control arms), and a custom-designed 4-link rear fitted with coil-overs that were once a part of his ’55 project.
“I upgraded to air suspension in the ’55, so the coil-overs were just sitting around. Actually, a lot of this truck is built out of stuff I had in the attic,” Plickert said. “The motor actually came out of my Model A, and before that it was under the hood of my brother-in-law’s 1970 Impala.”
The small block (which had been in storage for years) was dusted off, bored over .030″, and now packs a host of performance upgrades, including ported and polished heads, a Summit Racing camshaft and hypereutectic pistons, Comp Cams valve springs, an Edelbrock Performer carburetor and intake manifold, March Revolver serpentine system, and much more.
Plickert estimates the combination is good for 375 horsepower, which is pushed through a stock 700-R4 transmission and out to the posi-traction rear end salvaged from a 1988 Trans Am.
Plickert’s resourcefulness shows through inside, as well, where the truck sports a re-covered seat from a 1990 Chevy Cheyenne, plus a Vintage Air system “borrowed” from his ’55 project. And in a particularly inspired bit of budget-friendly engineering, he sourced his carpeting from the home furnishing aisle of his local big box department store.
“I needed to push back the truck’s firewall and modify the transmission tunnel to get everything to fit under the hood,” he said. “And that meant stock carpet wasn’t going to work anymore. So I found a black area rug that was nice and plush, took it home, cut it to fit, and glued it down!”
This no-frills approach to truck design continues outside with a silky-smooth coat of Summit Hot Rod Black paint, expertly applied by Dave in his own garage. Gleaming chrome from front to back, and a set of 16″ Smoothies from Wheel Vintiques complete the exterior transformation. While Dave is no stranger to automotive restoration, he elected to replace the grille and front bumper with reproduction pieces, as well as the bed and rear fenders.
“The original bumper and grille would have been perfect if you were going for the ‘patinaed’ look, but I wanted that chrome to really shine,” he said. “And I was originally going to repair the dents and dings in the bed, but I needed the truck ready for the Goodguys show in Nashville that year, and I was running out of time!”
But after a year-and-a-half of diligent work, the truck Plickert had originally passed on was ready to roll, and he’s been happily racking up the miles ever since.
“I just built the truck so I’d have something fun to drive around,” he said. “It’s probably the least amount of work I put into any car I’ve built, but it gets the most attention.”
With the pickup completed, Plickert assures us that he’ll be focusing his talents back onto his Pro Touring project, now in its fifteenth year. And that’s great news, but we’re equally excited to see what other side projects might creep up along the way—perhaps a rat rod Business Coupe, or maybe a drag-prepped Nova?
You never know what might turn up for sale right down the street.
Suspension: Mustang II IFS with QA1 coil-overs/custom 4-link rear with TCI All American coil-overs
Wheels and Tires: Wheel Vintiques Series 12 Smoothies(16” x 7″ front, 16″ x 8″ rear), Mastercraft MC-440 tires(205/55R16 front, 255/55R16 rear)
Brakes: GM front/rear disc brake conversion
Other Modifications: Boxed frame, custom crossmembers
Engine & Transmission
Engine Block: GM 350 small block
Cylinder Heads: Stock, ported and polished
Rotating Assembly: Summit Classic cam and lifters, COMP Cams valve springs, Summit hypereutectic pistons
Induction: Edelbrock Performer 650 cfm carburetor and intake manifold
Ignition: Summit Ready-to-Run billet distributor and Musclecar Retro ignition wires, Pertronix Flame-Thrower II coil
Exhaust: Sanderson headers, custom-bent 2 1/2″ stainless steel tubing, Flowmaster 40 Series mufflers
Transmission: GM 700-R4 transmission, TCI StreetFighter torque converter
Rear End: GM 10-bolt, Summit ring and pinion set(3.89:1)
Other Modifications: March Revolver serpentine system, Mickey Thompson valve covers, Cadillac-style air cleaner
Body & Interior
Paint Color: Summit Hot Rod Black
Steering: Summit steering column and billet aluminum steering wheel
Gauges: Dolphin quad gauge set with custom trim rings
Other Modifications: Vintage Air SureFit air conditioning system with custom dashboard extension, red oak bed inserts
My terrific wife, Julie, for her support and understanding throughout all of the builds!
Photography By: Todd Biss Productions
Art Direction By: Aaron Gray