If you’ve been to Beach Hop, you’ll know just how difficult it is for a car to stand out, no matter how cool it is. We all have those five or 10 cars that we remember, but, considering that the cars present at Beach Hop number well into the thousands, it’s a pretty slim percentage that steal the limelight.
This incredible ’48 Chev pickup, owned by Mike and Kim Gooding, was one such car. Though it never made the top 10, it is of that rare breed of car that is almost universally admired, and, as a result, it may come as a surprise to learn that the owners haven’t actually been into hot rodding for all that long.
One of Mike and Kim’s friends, Tom, owns a few hot rods, and at a Beach Hop around eight years ago, he loaned them a right-hand drive ’55 Chev truck. They enjoyed that car so much — and having always had an interest in cars — that it was all the incentive they needed to get into the scene with a car of their own.
“We just thought, Why not?” Mike tells us. “As our hair turned grey and the kids left home, we decided to build something.”
But what to build? When Mike was growing up, his dad was a builder, necessitating a pickup truck. His truck of choice was a ’48 Chev, which made that shape of car a pretty safe choice for Mike when it came time to choose a project car. That said, the choice may also have had something to do with the memories he has associated with the car — Mike distinctly remembers their ’48 Chev getting washed down the Tongariro river in a flood!
When searching for a suitable base for their project, Mike and Kim came across a project ’48 Chev pickup. The owner had spent some cash on the chassis, before abandoning the truck in favour of other project cars. Though the truck was already rough as guts when they bought it — it came as a cab, a chassis, and a pile of bits — the true extent of its condition became known when it came time to strip it down.
“The pickup had been used as a farm truck for most of its working life in New Zealand, and it had been rolled at some point. If we’d known that, we would never have bought it,” Mike says.
On top of that, the tray had been heavily bogged, so she wasn’t looking too flash. There was really nothing else for it but a bare-metal restoration. With Mike and Kim living in the Wanganui area, two names kept popping up when it came to this type of work — Grant Rivers, of Rivers Speed and Spares, and Rod Sklenars, of Rod’s Repairs. Mike sourced all of the parts required — of which there were many, including a new bonnet and front guards.
“Anyone who has done this will know they are not bolt-on parts,” Mike says. “Everything seemed to be 10–15mm out!”
Fortunately, that was where Rod’s skills as a panel beater really began to pay dividends. He customized the running boards and the panel between them and the wellside, as well as tightening the gap between the tray and the cab and modifying the front valance between bumper and grille, for a tight and clean fit.
Now, the only original body part is the cab — every other part has been either bought new or reconditioned, with the exception of the Chev 10-bolt diff and internal door levers.
Sitting just rear of the cab is a tray that, as tidy as it looks, gives no hint of just how trick it is. Mike and Kim’s son is a boatbuilder, and had the skills to fabricate the pickup’s tidy 80-litre fuel cell and battery box. What fuel cell and battery box? Well, they’re hidden beneath their own electronically actuated wooden panels integrated into the tray floor, opening for access at the push of a button. Of course, with that much effort expended on the unseen parts of the tray, you can bet that electronic actuators were obligatory for the tray’s custom hard lid.
With all the bodywork smoothing the truck’s classic lines to perfection, Mike’s next dilemma was a pretty big one. It was a problem that even the best car builders struggle with, and sometimes never solve — what colour to paint the vehicle. Mike originally wanted to go with a light metallic silver, but his decision wavered after attending numerous Beach Hop festivals, and realizing the truck really needed a colour that would ‘pop’. The final choice was a hue appropriately named ‘Sublime Green’ and, boy, does it work wonders for the truck! On a body with such curvature as the ’48 truck, the stunning paint gains a whole new level of depth, whilst also jumping right out at you in the sunlight.
Underneath, the truck is a little less loud, but just as well done. It still rolls on a General Motors chassis, but it’s been pretty well improved since it left the production line. The front clip from a Holden HZ — featuring Holden’s radial tuned suspension — has been welded to the rear end of a Chev station wagon, with the 10-bolt diff from a Nova rounding out the package. Monroe shocks and King springs at each corner sit the truck nice and low over the wheels, and offer a significant improvement in both handling and ride comfort. The way the truck now rides and drives has given Mike and Kim no qualms about driving it halfway across the North Island — or any distance at all, for that matter.
Likewise, the brakes are also a touch improved over 1948’s cutting-edge stuff, thanks to Holden discs and calipers and Chev Nova rear drums. A chrome CPP brake booster hidden under the dash keeps the engine bay tidy, which speaks volumes about the immaculate presentation under the bonnet. The brake boosters are good-looking, but when you see how clean the engine bay is, you realize how good it looks without an in-your-face vacuum servo.
This engine is another item that ties in perfectly with the overall intention of the truck. Huge power and a crazy quarter-mile time-slip were never on the agenda. The truck had to have an abundance of both usable power and reliability. With that in mind, Grant Rivers was the go-to guy. He’s built up a bulletproof 350ci small block Chev that will go the distance.
The mild motor has a fairly sedate bottom end, comprising stock crank and rods, with cast flat-top pistons bumping the compression ratio up a fraction. The stock cast-iron heads have been ported and polished, with stainless 2.01-inch intake and 1.60-inch exhaust valves. Up top, a Quick Fuel 600cfm vacuum-secondary carb again strikes a good balance of relaxing drivability and a dash of performance. The engine is backed by a fully reconditioned TH400 transmission, feeding into the aforementioned Nova 10-bolt rear.
The pickup handles like a dream, as Mike and Kim have demonstrated by driving it all the way across the North Island, from Wanganui to Whangamata. Hard work sure pays off, and Mike and Kim are the first to acknowledge the hard work that other people also put into the truck — “Guys with passion and know-how,” as Mike puts it. “Their knowledge and advice have probably saved me thousands. I have all the receipts for the vehicle build, and the budget definitely went out the window.”
Mike now jokes to Kim that, when life is going great and they haven’t a care in the world, they’ll sit down and add it up. With the truck the way it is now, they must be as close to being carefree as they will ever be.
“We’re just enjoying driving it and meeting really cool, like-minded people at hot rod events and swap meets,” Mike says. “Our granddaughters love ‘Gramps’ green truck’ — we think two future hot rodders are in the making!”
1948 Chev 3100
- Engine: 350ci small block Chev, cast flat-top pistons, stock crank, stock rods, ARP fasteners, fully balanced, stock cast-iron heads, ported and polished, stainless valves, 2.02-inch intake, 1.60-inch exhaust, Quick Fuel 600cfm vac-sec carb, MSD HEI, MSD leads, Hurricane headers, Flowmaster mufflers, 2½-inch exhaust, custom alloy radiator
- Driveline: GM TH350 transmission, 10-bolt diff
- Suspension: Holden HZ front clip, Chev four-link rear, Monroe shocks, King springs
- Brakes: CPP chrome brake booster, Holden HZ disc front, Chev rear drums
- Wheels/Tyres: 18×8-inch and 20×10-inch Ridler wheels, 235/40R18 and 275/30R20 Achilles ATR Sport tyres
- Exterior: Narrowed running boards, custom wellside panels, narrowed cab-tray gap, tubbed deck, custom alloy fuel cell below deck, Sublime Green paint
- Chassis: Holden HZ front subframe, Chev station wagon rear chassis, custom cross members
- Interior: Full custom retrim, Flaming River steering column, Flaming River shifter, Banjo steering wheel, Auto Meter gauges, hidden stereo
- Performance: Untested
This article was originally published in NZV8 Issue No. . You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: