Before building the ’40 Chev pickup for his brother-in-law Greg Vallis, Bob Borden cut his teeth on a few builds of his own. The first was a full restoration of a 1938 Chevrolet Sedan. Next, he built himself a mildly customized 1939 Buick street rod. I say “mildly customized” because although there are a number of custom touches, they’re so subtle it makes you scratch your head and ask “what’s different about this car?”
Greg is also a bit of a classic vehicle collector himself. Greg has amassed 30+ vehicles of various vintages, including a collection of untouched, original, old dually trucks, Dodge Power wagons, and a variety of older hot rods that need some TLC.
Rather than try and pick something from the collection to work on, Greg and Bob decided that they would build a hot rod truck from scratch. As a starting point, Greg was able to purchase a ’40 Chev cab from a fellow truck collector in New Glasgow, NS. The cab originally came from western Canada, and although a VERY basic start for a full on hot rod build, was in fairly good condition.
Next, they bought a set of American Stamping ’32 Ford frame rails. From there, Bob used his fabrication expertise to build a custom cross member system to join the rails together. In the rear they added a Ford 9” rear end attaching it to the frame with an adjustable, triangulated 4-link system. Up front they added a Super Bell straight axle with a transverse leaf spring, attached to the frame with old school hot rod hair pin axle brackets; all of which were chromed. Stopping power comes from 11” Ford drums out back and GM disks up front.
Before placing the body on the frame they took 4” out of the roof. Because the back window was already relatively small, they made sure that the chop went around, and not through, the window. Once on the frame, the body was channeled 4”. Since the cab required significant firewall modification, Bob decided to construct his own out of sheet metal. For design as well as structural integrity, Bob added bead-rolled grooves to the firewall. If you look closely the bead rolls continue on the interior side of the firewall, kick panels, door panels, and sheet metal that covers the back of the cab behind the seats. Although they used the original dash, Bob “frenched” a set of New Vintage gauges into the dash and added a pair of custom “eyebrows” over top the gauges. Although it appears that they deleted the radio, it is cleverly hidden inside the very small glove compartment on the passenger side of the dash. Once all the metal work was done they had Dave Roach make seat pads for the custom seats, and use the same leather to produce a pair of custom floor mats; the floor mats are sewn to flexible magnet material that allows them to stick to the metal floor of the cab.
Other than all the custom touches to the inside of the cab, the most striking details are the walnut wood pieces found throughout. These include all the knobs and crank handles, the handle on the 1938 Chev parking brake, the knob on top of the Lokar shifter, as well as the ’39 Buick steering wheel. The steering wheel is completely custom as it is a mash up of a 60’s sport wheel, that originally sported a wood covering, that was cut from its spokes and welded to the central core of a ’39 Buick steering wheel. From there Bob cut out two walnut rings that were routed and smoothed before being attached to the custom steering wheel assembly with pins and screws. Once installed the holes were then filled with walnut plugs and sanded smooth.
To make it a truck, they needed to add a bed. They searched high and low, but couldn’t find either a ’40 Chev bed, or something suitable that matched the style of the build. Although they discussed the possibility of buying a pre-fab aftermarket bed, they wanted something that looked authentic. As luck would have it, about two miles from Greg’s house, was a horse farm/track that was looking to get rid of a selection of antique sheet metal pieces. Amongst the items for sale Bob eyed an old trailer made from a Chevrolet truck box that he thought would be perfect for the truck bed. Using the trailer as a template, they made box sides and a headboard, and shortened it 2.5-3’ to fit on the frame. Bob cut the “Chevrolet” out of the original tail gate, straightened it, and then made a custom tailgate that fit the dimensions of the newly formed box. They finished the box floor with walnut boards that coordinate nicely with the wood accents used in the interior.
All of this custom work is motivated down the road by a ’63 Buick 401 CID “nailhead” with an Offenhauser high rise sporting dual quad intakes. Fuel from the polished aluminum fuel cell, tucked
between the frame rails, is fed into a pair of 500 CFM Edelbrock carbs topped with K&N stack air cleaners. Wanting to keep a period correct hot rod look, the engine is adorned with polished 63-65 Buick ribbed valve covers, and exhaust is sent out through a set of ceramic coated Gear Drive lake style headers. Everything is cooled by a Griffin radiator tucked inside a ’32 Ford grill steel and stainless insert.
As the build approached completion, discussion turned to paint colour. Given the aggressive hot rod look and stance of the truck, Greg insisted that the truck be painted black. This combined with the silver of the motor and trans, chrome front end, and endless polished aluminum on the motor would have made for a very striking hot rod. Unfortunately, during the final stages, Bob’s family was devastated by the sudden and untimely passing of his oldest daughter, and Greg’s niece, Jessica. In honour of Jessica, the two decided that the truck body, box, frame and rear end be painted House of Kolor Pavo Purple, Jessica’s favourite colour.
Since its completion, and although the truck is in Greg’s name, Bob and his daughter Taylor put the majority of miles on the odometer. Greg loves the truck, but knows that Bob and Taylor love to show it, and they show it often. Unfortunately, during one of the family’s annual trips to this year’s Atlantic Nationals in Moncton the unthinkable happened. While unloading the truck there was a miscommunication resulting in the truck hitting the back of the trailer quite hard. Once the smoke and tears cleared, and seeing that the frame wasn’t bent, Bob realized the truck had to be rebuilt. So rather than work on his next project (a custom ‘60 Buick), Bob spent the remainder of the summer rebuilding and repainting the truck’s front end. Thankfully, the truck was done in time for our shoot, and although Taylor wanted to be there, it was Greg that helped Bob at 5:00AM on a chilly Sunday morning. So you may never see Greg driving the truck around town, but I’ll guarantee you that Bob and Taylor, when not taking the ‘39 Buick to local cruise nights (Bedford’s Chicken Burger or Dartmouth’s Woodside A&W),they’ll be found hanging around the House of Kolor Pavo Purple hot rod pickup. A hot rod that is not only a family (re-)build, but also serves as a reminder of numerous family connections.