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Daily Grind: a beloved 1946 Chev Pickup

14 September 2015

NZV8 magazine isn’t just about fully modified vehicles — we also look at cool daily drivers too! If you’re passionate about it, and you drive it to work every day, we can showcase it. We recently had a chat with Vicki Smith and Nathan Hughes about their beloved 1946 Chev Pickup.

NZV8: Cool looking truck guys — what is it?

Nathan Hughes: It’s a 1946 Chev Pickup, first registered here in 1947. It’s a Canadian import, so it’s right-hand drive. Still has all the original tags.

Did you guys rod it?

No, it was first hot rodded around 20 years ago by a guy who, we believe, had owned it for about 30 years. He lived over on the West Coast. 

How did you guys come by it?

The guy needed some money for a property, so his son-in-law had it over here at Muscle Car Madness about three years ago. We went and had a look at it, and ended up driving it home.

Have you done much to it?

Yeah, we got all the mechanical side sorted out. It’s fitted with a Holden HQ front end but the springs had collapsed, and it just wasn’t sitting right. The electrics were a dog — there were bits cut everywhere. We pretty much started at the front by pulling the front end out and fitting new shocks and springs. Did the dampeners in the rear, which we had to get from the States, as it’s still fitted with its original springs and dampeners, but now it has a Chev Nova diff. The engine is a 350 Chev backed by a TH400 trans, and we have power steering. 

Have you done much to the inside?

We got a Dakota Digital dash in from the States and fitted it. That was the first thing we got for it because the original gauges didn’t work. The cab was just steel and wood, so we fitted some carpet, and chucked in some seats from a 2000 Chev Cruze as they had the Bowtie logo on them. We just cut the bases off them to fit as we still have the fuel tank under the seats. We installed a whole new wiring loom a few months ago. 

A mate, Gary Wilkinson, pulled everything out, threw it into a pile, and started afresh by fitting a Dakota Digital loom that goes with the dash. It’s all plug in and play. It’s like a little computer under the dash, so we can adjust the radiator fan to come on at any temperature we choose, for winter or summer; it has an overrun on it, all programmable. You just tell Dakota what spec you are running and they send all the gear for the trans and rev counter and stuff. You just plug it in, no mucking around. 

Sounds like a great system. Were those wheels on the truck when you got it?

No, we got these recently. The pickup had some old-school 14-inch mags on it when we bought it, and it was real low to the ground so we couldn’t really get underneath to work on it — not to mention, they just looked too small, so we fitted these 18-inch Ridlers and wide tyres.

What about the logo on the doors?

Yeah, that was already on them. We did some research and found it was off one of those red ’76 trucks, the ones with the chrome stacks up behind the cab. Because it was already there, we just left it. 

So you drive it plenty? 

Yeah, we do. Vicki was using it for about six months to drive to work every day when we were short of a car. It’s really reliable now that the mechanical side is sorted, and it drives really nice. It gets plenty of looks, especially when people see a girl driving it. I used it for about a year when I was gardening. I used to load it up with trees and shrubs. Used to go into the recycling place to drop off green waste and the guys in there would cringe. I would just say, “It’s there to be used.” 

We’d cringe, too, if we saw it being used like that! Any more plans for it?

In a couple of weeks we are having a new deck made, as the one on there now is a bit of a hash job. The whole tray will come off for that. We’ve got a new drop tank sitting at home to put on once the deck comes off. Then we’ll be able to remove the tank from under the seats. That will give us more room in the cab. We may also look at a repaint at some point down the track — maybe a new colour like white with pearl or something, but it’s hard picking a colour. We are on a Facebook page for owners of ’46 trucks; we all share suggestions and stuff, so we are getting ideas from there. We’ll probably fit some bear-claw latches in there soon, as it still has the old latches and they have become clunky. Might go with electrics on the windows at some stage, too. That will all just plug into the new loom. But mainly we just want to drive it and enjoy it.

Sounds like a good plan to us. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.  

This article was originally featured in a previous issue of NZV8. Pick up a copy of the edition here: