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A Personal Masterpiece

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by Joe Greeves  More from Author

The Goal Was Simple – to Build a Truck That Everyone Would Talk About!

Way back in the “olden days,” when a young man wanted to learn a trade, the rules were clearly defined. He would contact the local furniture maker, potter, or silversmith and request the privilege of becoming an apprentice. In return for room and board and precious little else, the apprentice was taught the techniques and tricks of the trade. When the master craftsman in charge felt the time was right, he would assign the apprentice a project that would test his knowledge, talent, and creativity. If the “master piece” was judged and found acceptable, the young apprentice would be welcomed into the guild, taking his place among the ranks of other master craftsmen.

With just a few concessions to those ancient traditions, Jason Riner chose a similar approach. As a member of Maxed Out Customs, he is an active auto enthusiast. As the owner of Jason’s Paint and Body in Warm Springs, Virginia, he tries to build a new vehicle every year, using them as rolling calling cards for the business. It has always been the best way to showcase the talents of the shop to customers. While he enjoys working on other people's vehicles, over the years he has compiled a collection of ideas and techniques that “someday” would be incorporated into his own personal work of art. The opportunity finally came, thanks to a rusted-out 1953 Chevy.

Even though he’s created several magazine quality vehicles in the past, this 1953 Chevrolet pickup is the one he always wanted. “Those others were just buying me time until I got to this one,” he told us. “Sometimes you have to wait for the right one to come along.” When Jason found the 1953/54 Chevy 3100 truck, he felt the seller didn’t know what he had, especially since the price was only $250. Of course, there was a lot of hard work and more than 8 ½ months before the basket case reached these pages. The plan for the frame-off restoration was simple: salvage as much of the original sheet metal as possible and then rely on the aftermarket for the rest. Taking stock of the shell, it was obvious that the floorboards and firewall were rusted beyond repair, but Jason planned on replacing them anyway. The bed was too far gone to rebuild, so a new one was ordered from LMC Trucks. Reproduction front and rear fenders also simplified the rebuild process.

Once the long list of parts was on order, Jason started work from the bottom up. He retained the central section of the frame supporting the cab, molding it for looks and boxing it for strength. Modern handling and a lowered stance was a must, so Z-notched rails were created up front to accept the Fat Man Mustang II suspension with tubular A-arms. Six-inch, C-notched rails were fab’d for the rear to accommodate the No Limit polished 4-link and 9-inch Ford rear with Mosier axles and 3.73 Positraction internals. A No Limit 12-gallon fuel cell fit nicely between the new rear rails. Since the goal for the truck was to have the rocker panels on the ground, the bed floor was raised 8 inches for clearance and the rear fenders repositioned higher on the bed. While the suspension and body mods trimmed almost a foot off the vintage Chevy’s too-tall profile, bringing it back up to ride height was a whole new set of additions. Changes in altitude now occur at the touch of a button, thanks to an Air Ride Technologies system that added Stage V adjustable struts to all four corners. Twin Viair 480 compressors fill the single 5-gallon reserve tank and activate the struts through quarter-inch lines and Parker valves. For modern stopping power, disk brakes from No Limit Engineering were installed with 13s up front and 12s in the rear.

Once the suspension was in place, Jason began beautifying the engine room prior to dropping in the 350 Ram Jet V-8 crate motor. Check out the smooth Bitchin’ Big Block Firewall and the eye-catching inner fender panels that were tubbed, molded, and painted to match the exterior. Upgrades on the fuel-injected motor include March pulleys, K&N air filter, Hedman Hedders and Flowmaster mufflers with an AFCO radiator keeping temps of the 375hp motor in the green. A Turbo 350 trans with a B&M shift kit pumps power to the stylish 22-inch Retro rims from Intro, wrapped in 30-series Nexten rubber. Once the chassis and power train were complete, the body was the next step in the unfolding masterpiece.

Thanks to the long list of aftermarket products available for the truck, the final stages of the restoration were comparatively easy. The front end uses an LMC reproduction Chevrolet grille, now show-chromed. Repro fenders, running boards, and bed sped along the reassembly process. Both side doors were converted to single pane glass, and new glass was added front and back. Virtually everything on the body had already been shaved, keeping it smooth and allowing the vintage lines to show through. Interior mods began with seats from a 1991 Escort, cut, re-contoured, and upholstered in glove soft tan leather. Rickamin’s Upholstery in Hot Springs, Virginia handled the stitch work, adding suede accents to the seats, door panels, head liner, and rear of the cab. The reconfigured dash is now a combination of old and new, with Jason leaving the stock Chevrolet imprint in the dash and welding up almost everything else. The gauges are from Dakota Digital, the steering column is from ididit, and the Intro wheel matches the rims. A modern addition, the molded-in monitor, is a 7-inch screen from Pyle that augments the flip face stereo head unit from JVC. The truck will soon have a pair of rear-mounted amps and multiple speakers throughout the cab. Power windows, electric door locks, and all the latest modern conveniences transform the 1953 into a comfortable, modern day road machine, capable of comfortably cruising the Interstates. Paint is always the perfect finishing touch, and Jason was genuinely impressed by the new Dupont Hot Hues palette. He sprayed the truck with their Aztec Yellow Pearl Metallic, making the vintage 1953 a standout in any crowd.

Sometimes it takes a while before you finally create your personal masterpiece, but now that it’s complete, Jason says this truck was worth the wait! As any enthusiast knows, the list of modifications never stops until the day you sell the vehicle. Future plans are to continue improving the truck over the winter, expanding the stereo and creating a new leather-wrapped center console that will connect the dash to the new rear sub enclosure. Amazing trucks are rarely created in a vacuum, so special thanks goes to Mom and Dad, Timmy Hepler, Gary Utz, Glen Hiner, and Greg Pritt for their help in creating Jason’s dream truck.

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