Jack Leslie's Custom '55 Chev Pickup
Jack Leslie is the type of old school hot rodder that I’d call a “finisher.” Currently, he has three vehicles, and a Harley in his barn. The oldest build is a traditional ’38 Chev coupe hot rod that is black with flames and Cragar rims. The next build is the 1950 Chev Delivery rat rod that was feature in the Jan 2020 Issue of Maritime Rod & Custom. This most recent build is something completely different, and Jack wanted it to be different. It’s a ’55 Chev pickup with a late 50’s fleet side box. For starters, Chevrolet made very few 1955 trucks that didn’t have step side beds. Coined the “Cameo Carrier” the “new” design came with fibreglass inner fenders and tailgate, were 30% more expensive than the step side trucks, and relatively few were produced (~3000). Despite the low numbers this style continued and believed to be the predecessor of the El Camino.
Jack’s Custom fleet side was started in Ontario about 20 years ago. The owner at the time had taken a stock ’55 pickup and made some changes up front. They replaced the stock frame with a mid 70’s truck frame and bolted on a 1980 Camaro front clip that included disk brakes and a Z28 sway bar. Next, they replaced the original motor with a 1980 Camaro 305 (275HP) and automatic transmission. The original rear end was also replaced with a 1980 Camaro 10-bolt with drum brakes. The next owner came up with the idea of emulating a Chev Cameo by replacing the step side bed with a late 50’s fleet side. Unfortunately, the truck never made it much further, and this is when Jack stepped in.
Jack liked the way the truck was headed, with a raked stance from the Camaro suspension pieces, as well as the overall style of the “Cameo” build. However, he wanted it to stand out, and stand out it does. He started by removing the slotted Corvette rims and replacing them with steelies that sport modified ’55 Chev car hubcaps and ’52 Chev chrome beauty rings. After some fairly extensive body work to the cab, including shaving the front fenders and hood, he painted the entire truck with GM silver. Then came the “difference” that Jack was looking for - he had Rob Vanblaricon (Kustom Rides) in Brighton Ontario paint the steelies, bed moldings and bed indents, inner rim of the grill, back half of the cab, and anything else that needed detail House of Kolor Candy Raspberry. He didn’t stop there, because he also had the boards installed in the bed painted the same colour. Jack also had his good friend and pin-striper extraordinaire, Kim Taylor (Taylor Signs) run pink pinstripes along the boards, around anything that was painted Candy Raspberry, as well as throughout the interior.
Although the dash is original, it is far from factory. It is painted the same GM silver with the top painted Candy Raspberry, except for the custom chrome glove box and ashtray doors. Kim’s pin-striping is found throughout the interior, highlighted by bullet-shaped metal flake knobs that Jack ordered from MoonEyes Customs in California. The seats include a custom console and are covered in burgundy leather with burgundy diamond tufted velvet inserts with grey piping; the same design is used on the headliner. The pop of colour is completed with a custom, octagon red metal flake steering wheel. Interior chrome trim on doors and roof are modified from a 90’s Impala.
Although the motor is from an era of Camaros not renowned for their power output, it’s more than enough to pull the truck along when you add an Edelbrock Performance intake and GM TBI carb. Jack always maintains that the motor should be as attractive as the outside. To this end he added chrome water and steering pumps, a set of March Performance aluminum pulleys, and a full set of finned covers for the air cleaner and heads. The finned covers also received the same Candy Raspberry paint highlights. The headers are ceramic coated and flow waste gases through Magnaflow mufflers before they exit through a custom set of polished aluminum exhaust tips.
I started this article stating that Jack is a “finisher.” I think the two features I’ve included from his collection in the past two issues should more than solidify this claim. One of the characteristics of Jack’s “finishing” is that he always keeps the previous owners in the loop of what he is doing, and makes sure that they get a chance to see the finished product. This is by no means Jack boasting about completing the project, but sharing how he adopted the vision of someone else and used it as a basis for his own vision of what a particular hot rod, rat rod, street rod, or custom can become.
Unfortunately Jack Leslie passed away in April 2022. May he rest in peace.