Goodguys Truck of the Year Early Retrospective
You’d be hard pressed to find a hot rodder or classic vehicle enthusiast who doesn’t have a story or two about an old truck. Whether it’s a shop truck, parts hauler, work vehicle, or a finely crafted show truck, most of us have tales to tell that involve a classic truck of one sort or another.
Nobody knows this better than our friends at LMC Truck, a company that specializes in reproduction and repair parts for pickups from the 1940s through nearly new models. LMC has been a Goodguys supporter and sponsor for years – you’re probably familiar with them as the sponsor of the LMC Truck of the Year Late award, part of the annual Goodguys Top 12. And if you own a truck, you likely have one of the company’s catalogs sitting on your workbench.
We were excited to team up with LMC Truck for a special Truck Showcase at the Spring Lone Star Nationals this year. The goal was to highlight the popularity of trucks in our hobby with a special parking area, truck-first track cruise, a separate truck AutoCross competition, and other cool truck-focused features. Unfortunately, mother nature and the onset of the Coronavirus crisis conspired to cancel that event before it could truly get rolling.
While the fun we had planned for that weekend had to be put on hold, our desire to celebrate vintage trucks did not diminish. Quite the opposite, in fact. And one of the most appropriate ways we could think of to share our enthusiasm for custom haulers was to look back at the best ones we’ve seen over the past two decades. Fortunately, the team at LMC Truck was gracious enough to work with us on presenting this special showcase of past Truck of the Year winners, both Late and Early.
Goodguys was already presenting several “Of the Year” awards by the late-1990s, but the tremendous growth of the classic truck market at that time made it apparent we needed a special award for vintage pickups. It turns out we needed two, as the different eras had their own distinct build styles, trends, and followers. The dividing line has moved a little through the years, with Truck of the Year Late now recognizing 1960-87 pickups, and Truck of the Year Early showcasing ’59-and-earlier models.
Looking back through the 20 years of winners, you can definitely see a dividing line between decades. The first 10 years of the 2000s saw many two-tone paint jobs, flames, graphics, and other trends consistent with what was happening with rodding at the time. The last decade has seen more solid colors, bigger wheels, and often more elaborate modifications. Like the rest of the hobby, top-tier truck builds seem to be getting more sophisticated and refined each year. In last month’s Gazette we presented features on the 2019 Truck of the Year winners, so we’ll be focusing on 2000-2018 in this retrospective.
As part of its mission statement to customers, LMC Truck talks about the American pickup being “an invaluable tool to help us do our jobs, and equally important when it’s time to play.” Now more than ever, this country needs the work value of our trucks, as well as the dream of what we can do when it’s time to play. We hope you’ll enjoy this look back Truck of the Year Early winners and we look forward to seeing all your cool trucks when it’s time to come out and play at a Goodguys event later this year.
Check back tomorrow afternoon to check out the Truck of the Year Late Retrospective!
Remember True Fire, the realistic style of airbrushed flames that captured the attention of the rodding world in the early-2000s? Chris Reister’s Truck of the Year Early ’47 Chevy was one of the first vehicles anywhere to incorporate the look, with paint designed and applied by Chip Foose and Mike Lavalle over a shaved, smoothed, and refined body. The flames were a striking touch that helped set this Chevy apart from the crowd. The rest of this truck was equally cool, from the killer stance achieved with an updated chassis, independent front suspension, 9-inch rearend, and five-spoke Foose wheels, to the rumbling 454c.i. Chevy big block under the hood backed up with a TH400 transmission. More than just a good looker, this truck was a comfortable drive thanks to custom cloth and leather upholstery over bucket seats, Airtique climate controls, custom gauges, and power windows among the many modern amenities. It certainly started the new century off on a high note!
Steve Sandlin’s ’48 Chevy is a great example of the styles that defined the early-2000s classic truck scene: two-tone paint divided by flame graphics, billet Budnik wheels, and plenty of smooth body mods aimed at updating the classic appearance. Built by Tommy White at Aloha Automotive, the truck was mechanically upgraded with a boxed frame, Mustang II-style independent front suspension, and a polished Kugel independent rear. The small-block Chevy was backed with a 700R4 overdrive automatic transmission, and then decked out in plenty of polished aluminum and topped with an air cleaner painted to match the body. The body featured a tasteful top chop, shaved trim, and a smoothed and reshaped bed with a ’90s tailgate and custom tonneau cover, all coated in PPG Vanilla Shake and Rosewood hues. Add in a modern interior with Grand Am bucket seat, Dolphin gauges in a smooth dash, and upgrades like A/C and power windows, and you had a smooth new Millennium cruiser!
Greg & Elaine Rice
When it comes to prewar pickups, the 1940 and ’41 Fords have been longtime favorites with hot rodders, in part because they share so many of the appealing design cues of the same-year Ford passenger cars. Greg and Elaine Rice took that a step further with their flamed ’40 pickup, incorporating a Deluxe passenger car nose with its distinctive hood and grille. Beyond the nose job, the truck was treated to a chopped top, V-butted windshield, smooth running boards, and many more metal tricks before being bathed in a bright red finish with hot overlapping licks applied to the front. A custom chassis with air springs helped provide an extra-low stance, allowing the polished five-spoke American wheels – a hallmark of the early-2000s – to tuck way up in the fenders. Finished off with yards of tan leather upholstery inside, this Texas hauler helped put some heat in the classic truck scene!
Frank Graves found the cab and other pieces to start his ’35 Ford pickup project at a chrome shop in his Indiana hometown. Then he enlisted his friend Gordon Riley at Gordon’s Rod Shop to help him build it into this slick beauty. The frame and cab were both stretched 8-inches for a roomier cabin, while a Fatman IFS and a triangulated four-bar rear suspension updated the ride and handling. Power came from a fuel-injected LT4 small-block Chevy from Street & Performance. Beyond the stretched cab, the pickup’s body was also treated to a smooth firewall, custom sunvisor and tonneau cover, a fabricated rear pan with frenched headlights, and many more smooth mods before Bill Miller applied the DuPont Ivory Pearl and Bright Amber Pearl paint. The interior featured tan and off-white leather over bucket seats and a custom console, a trio of Classic Instruments gauges in the painted dash, and a Billet Specialties banjo-style wheel atop the polished tilt steering column.
Chad and Marcia Gorczyca
There’s little doubt that the Advanced Design Chevys built from 1947-55 are some of the most popular vintage pickups with rodders and enthusiasts. Chad and Marcia Gorczyca’s beautiful blue five-window ’50 Chevy shows why, as it retains most of its factory design elements, albeit thoroughly refined by Roger Lynskey and his team at Stoked Out Specialties. The biggest changes came underneath, where an updated chassis brought the body much closer to the ground, an independent front suspension improved the handling, and a well-dressed small block Chevy offered plenty of power. Polished Billet Specialties wheels coordinated well with the brilliant chrome on the grille and bumpers. Though the body wasn’t significantly altered, the fit and finish were well beyond anything Chevy imagined in the ’50s, topped with deep House of Kolor blue paint. Couple that with tasty butterscotch-colored leather inside and you had a subtle and clean Advanced Design Chevy that could steal just about any show.
1929 Ford Model A
The line between street rod and classic truck has often been blurry in the Truck of the Year Early category, but it was difficult to argue with Gary Brigham’s ’29 Model A roadster pickup taking home the honor back in 2005. A longtime drag racer and pilot, Gary’s Model A satisfied a need for speed with a dual-quad-fed 502c.i. big-block Chevy engine stuffed between the frame rails, supported by a polished Kugel independent front suspension. A chrome-plated 9-inch rearend rode on a four bar with coil-overs out back, with Wilwood disc brakes behind the 15×6- and 17×10-inch polished American wheels. The smoothed, finessed, full-fendered body stood out with bright Lamborghini Ice Blue plaint complemented by a brown top. Inside, M&M Hot Rod Interiors (still a force in custom upholstery) stitched sculpted tan leather over the bench seat and door panels, while Classic Instruments were used to fill a machined Model A-style cluster in the stock dash.
We all know we can make an emotional attachment to our trucks, and that’s exactly what happened with Jeff Wingo and the ’50 Studebaker he bought for peanuts when he was in high school. The truck sat on blocks for decades after Jeff left for college but was resurrected with the help of Greg Stallmeyer at GS Customs. The rebirth included a modified frame by Custom Fab that wore C4 suspension components, RideTech Shockwaves, and 17- and 18-inch Boyd Coddington wheels. Power came from a RamJet small-block with a trick fabricated engine cover and a TCI 700R4 transmission. The shaved and smoothed body incorporated a leaned windshield, a recontoured front bumper from a ’90 Chevy truck, and a much-modified Ford F150 tailgate under brilliant copper paint. Inside, light tan leather was stitched over Chrysler 300 seats, with Classic Instruments gauges integrated into the custom dash. The end result was a custom so cool, you couldn’t help but get attached to it.
Like most vintage trucks, Gary Caton’s ’48 Chevy began life as a workhorse – an egg delivery truck, to be more specific. Gary discovered it after it had been tucked away in a barn for more than 25 years and commissioned Carey’s Classics into transforming it into this silver stunner. The low-slung altitude came courtesy of a new chassis from Fatman Fabrications with an IFS up front, four-link in the rear, and RideTech air springs all around, capped off with Baer brakes and 20-inch Billet Specialties wheels. Modern power came from an LS1 topped with a Magnuson supercharger and backed by a 4L60E overdrive. The five-window body was cleaned up with shaved drip rails, a new Mar-K bed, widened rear fenders, modified running boards, and LED taillights, and then coated in a glimmering PPG silver finish. Finished off with leather and snakeskin upholstery over bucket seats, this clean silver machine would still fit right in at a Goodguys event today.
Smooth, slick, and stealthy, Steve Edlund’s bitchin’ black ’41 Ford showcased plenty of tricks under its deep, dark finish. Beyond the tastefully chopped top, flush-fit V-butted windshield, filled cowl, shaved trim, and smooth hood, there was also recessed headlights with custom bezels and integral signals, smooth running boards with flush-fitting exhaust outlets, a custom grille, and custom taillights flanking a recessed license in the fabricated rear pan. The custom chassis featured IFS to help lower the truck nicely over the Budnik billet wheels in front, while parallel leaf springs kept the 9-inch rearend located and properly placed the rear wheels in the shapely fenders. Power came from a tried-and-true 350c.i. Chevy small block. Finished off with yards of bright red custom-stitched leather inside, plus white-face gauges and a tilt column, the Texas-based truck was exactly what you would expect from the Lone Star State: clean, cool, and proud.
Betsy Rose’s ’35 Ford pickup has been in her family since the 1960s and was turned into a clean and classy street rod truck that showcased mid-’30s Ford style with the refinement and quality of modern hot rod craftsmanship. Built by Ted Munsell and his team at Trick Works in Telford, Pennsylvania, the blue beauty featured a reshaped grille shell, ’35 Ford passenger car front bumper, reworked drip rails, shaved handles and emblems, suicide-style doors, a hand-built tailgate, and many other subtle mods under the PPG Luxury Blue paint. Under the hood, the Trick Works team installed a 306c.i. small-block Ford with GTP heads, Sanderson headers, and a C4 transmission. The nice stance was achieved using a TCI chassis with a Mustang II-style IFS, 9-inch rearend, and Budnik Famoso wheels. The slick exterior was complemented by rich leather upholstery inside, ably stitched by Extreme Auto Interiors.
George Poteet took street rod pickup style in a completely new direction with the “Miller Hauler Special,” a ’32 Ford inspired by early Indy circle-track racers. The truck was designed by Brian Stinger with machine work and final assembly by Troy Trepanier and his team at Rad Rides. The truck had what seemed to be a million thoughtfully placed louvers and mind-boggling amounts of milled aluminum, chrome and custom-fabricated parts and pieces. The focal point was a polished custom grille built by Steve Moal, leading a body that featured a wedge chop, stretched cowl, custom hood by Stinger, and a custom bed. A 201c.i. Donavan four-cylinder engine was linked to a Tremec T5. The truck rolled on a Deuce frame with custom front horns, a Magnum 5-inch dropped axle, 12-inch Bendix style brakes with custom machined fins, and 19-inch gold Dayton wires. Custom Stinger-built seats offered a birds-eye view of a distinctive Diamond T dash featuring Classic Instruments gauges and an MG steering wheel.
George Poteet had back-to-back Truck of the Year Early wins when this traditional ’34 Ford earned the honor in 2011. Built by the East Coast Hot Rod Garage in Denton, Maryland, the project began with simple instructions from George: “Do whatever you want,” he said. “Build it like it’s yours…BUT I want a driver!” The Hot Rod Garage team began by stretching the stock cowl and running boards and adding a three-window coupe dash for hot rod appeal. They then modified a Cornhusker Rod & Custom chassis and outfitted it with a Pete & Jake’s 4-inch axle, Super Bell goodies, So-Cal Speed Shop brakes and Pete & Jake’s ladder bars. Drilled Nerf bars were added as well. Power came from a 327c.i. small black with Edelbrock induction mated to a T5 transmission. DuPont ’40 Ford Garnet Maroon paint was complemented with black fenders and running boards, which coordinated perfectly with the basic black leather upholstery inside.
Frank and Mary Lawrence
Frank and Mary Lawrence’s ’48 Chevy truck began as a pile of parts – three cabs, eight doors, and three hoods – that Ironworks Speed & Kustom transformed into a showpiece. The Ironworks team chopped the top 1.5-inches, sectioned the cab and hood, lengthened the cab, narrowed the grille, and modified a Karmann Ghia front bumper to fit. Modified fenders and shortened, tapered, and tucked running boards account for some of the 80 total body alterations, which were capped off with a modified ’70 Chevy pickup rear bumper and beautiful paint dubbed “Naughty Spice.” The truck’s low ride height was established with a custom Ironworks frame with independent front suspension and a rear four-link setup suspending a GM 12-bolt rearend, all rolling on Schott wheels. A Magnuson-supercharged LSX backed by a 4L60E transmission was chosen for power. Ron Mangus stitched beautiful tan leather upholstery inside, where Classic Instruments gauges and a one-off wheel completed the long list of custom touches.
1949 Studebaker Pickup
Before he was named a Goodguys Trendsetter, Talbert Goldman was a talented young builder who built this ’49 Studebaker twice – the first time in his teens as a simple traditional custom, and the second time in this “Champagne High” configuration. The shaved and smoothed body sported many subtle mods, including a lot of custom work on the bed and a slick wrap-around front bumper, all bathed in beautiful custom champagne-colored paint. The modified stock frame was fitted with a Fatman Fabrications IFS and a triangulated four-bar rear suspension locating the 9-inch rearend, with RideTech air springs allowing a ground-scraping stance over 18- and 20-inch Billet Specialties wheels. A well-dressed small-block Chevy rumbled in the smoothed engine bay, wearing color-matched valve covers and custom-fabbed air cleaner. Inside the cab, a ’59 Impala dash was grafted in and painted to match the brown leather and suede upholstery, with a custom console finishing things off in style.
1929 Ford Model A
Art Varrath inherited his Model A roadster pickup from his father in 2007. Nicknamed “Pure Art,” it was built by Lucky 7 Speed Shop using many scratch-built pieces, including the stretched cab, bed, aprons, running boards, louvered front valance, rolled pan, and gas tank. They even modified the fender openings to match the arc of the Dayton wire wheels and Excelsior tires. The custom chassis was built using a nickel-plated independent front suspension and a quick-change rearend riding on a four-bar setup, with Wilwood brakes at all four corners. The 400c.i. small-block Chevy was topped with three Stromberg 97s and custom valve covers. Sid Chavers sewed the baseball-stitched leather upholstery, which was complemented by a one-off banjo steering wheel, zebra wood floor, and custom gauges by Redline in the dash. With its leather hood straps, wire wheels and racy stance, Pure Art was a truck that brilliantly blended classic elements with modern craftsmanship.
Some vehicles just seem to capture the attention of the rodding world, and Robert Anderson’s ’40 Ford pickup was one of those in 2015. The bold color, great stance, and clean mods worked together to make a big impact. Built by Legens Hot Rods, the pickup employed a TCI front suspension and Posies leaf springs out back, with RideTech shocks and Wilwood discs all around. The 18- and 20-inch Schott wheel got moving with power from a modern 5.0-liter Coyote V8 topped with Borla stack injection and backed by a 4R70W transmission. The truck’s top chop was subtle, but the later Ford-style wrap-around rear window was much more distinctive. The smoothed body was topped with a custom-mixed PPG green metallic paint and accented with a custom grille and split front bumpers. Two-tone brown leather covered the bench seat, door panels, and custom dash, which also received Classic Instruments dials. Clean, lean, and green, this ’40 still looks great today!
Fred and Jane Struckman
Fred and Jane Struckman didn’t set out to build a showstopper when they brought their ’36 Ford to Jeff Kinsey at Hot Rods by JSK, they simply wanted to bring the truck back to life after a barn beam fell on it. Like so many builds, this one snowballed, starting with a TCI frame with a coil-over IFS, 9-inch rearend, CPP front disc brakes, and 17- and 18-inch WheelSmith artillery-style wheels. A 350c.i. LT4 engine with EFI induction and a 4L60E transmission provides power. After repairing the cab, the JSK team built a new hood with more than 100 louvers, reshaped the wheel openings, and made new running boards and bed sides with ’40-style stake pockets. Axalta Desert Tan paint covers the sheet metal. Red leather offers brilliant contrast inside, covering a custom bench seat, while Classic Instruments gauges and Vintage Air fill the dash. This winner got driven, too, completing the 1,700-mile 2016 Goodguys Hall of Fame Road Tour.
Soaking in the details on Ed Sears’ ’41 Ford pickup is like mining for gold – the more you dig, the more you find. Built by One Off Rod & Custom, the Ford has been massaged with a pie-cut hood, reshaped wheel openings, stretched cab, shortened bed, and a chopped top with a ’34 Chevy sedan rear window. The custom-mixed two-tone gold PPG paint has pearl and metalflake to make it glisten. The chassis is equally artful, with a boxed frame, Kugel independent front and rear suspensions, Winters quick-change center section, and plenty of chrome and polish. Painted Wheelsmith wheels are wrapped in Coker wide whites. The detailed Flathead has Navarro heads and triple Stromberg carbs, with a T5 five-speed behind. Inside, a ’46 Ford passenger car dash graces the front of the cab, wearing a woodgrain finish and Classic Instruments. The leather-wrapped seat, side panels, and floor make the inside as rich looking as the gold exterior.
When Danielle Locklin inherited an ’80s-style street rod ’34 Ford pickup, she knew it needed a makeover. She trusted builder Jason Graham with that task. “She only gave me two requirements: make it blue and have pockets on the doors inside,” Jason said. The one-of-a-kind build began with a custom frame using a dropped front axle and a Winters quick-change rearend located with quarter-elliptic springs and a one-off upper wishbone visible in the bed. Jason designed the one-off 18×6- and 20×7-inch wheels machined by Neely Precision, which get moving with power from a Blueprint Engines 347c.i. Ford small-block backed by a Tremec five-speed. Body mods include a 4-inch top chop, stretched cab, angled A-pillars, flush-fit doors, one-off grille insert, custom bed, and ’37 Ford tailgate and taillamps. It’s all bathed in custom blue PPG paint and complemented inside by custom brown leather upholstery by Gil Vigil of Speed and Design – complete with map pockets on the doors!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at some dream trucks from the past 20 years. Just like the trucks themselves, we realize that pickup-related dreams come in all different sizes, shapes, and styles. Whether your aspirations are to craft an all-out show machine, a weekend cruiser, or simply to keep an older workhorse alive and kicking, remember that LMC Truck has the parts you need to fulfill your vision.
From bumpers and sheet metal for Advanced Design Chevys, to grilles for F1 and F100 Fords, to gas tanks and carpet kits for ’70s-era Dodges, LMC Truck has the replacement parts, upgrade components, performance and customization pieces you need for domestic pickups and SUVs from the late-1940s through the 1990s and beyond. We invite you check out their vast selection at www.LMCTruck.com, where you can research and order parts or request one of the company’s many model-specific truck catalogs.