Since this is my first project car I've been mindful of tips gathered along the way. One of the most useful ones has been to choose a theme for the project & stick to it as much as possible.
Makes sense. If you don't have a clear vision & discipline to stick to it the project inevitably turns out like some Frankenstein version of what you set out to accomplish.
In conceptualizing this '35 truck I have a few goals. First I want it to be radical. Radical looking first & foremost, but I also want it to be raw. I want to smell the fuel, sport open headers that drown out any possibility of conversation & be an extreme hot rod without apology. The car has to have manners (not a deathtrap) but it needs to be aggressive. Most importantly, it has to be FUN (isn't this what rodding is all about). Fun to look at, fun to talk about & fun to drive. This won't be a trailer queen. It’s gotta be stupid fast & strong enough to lay down a track of molten rubber for a full city block.
All said & done this effectively rules out a traditional restoration project. So what then?
In keeping the above goals in mind I've decided to build a semi-period correct dry lakes racer circa 1955. Being a So-Cal native myself this captures the goal of a raw hot rod while taking me back to a time period I've been enamored with for a good while. I've always been drawn to linear speed & wanted to do a run at El Mirage or Bonneville. For a number of reasons the dry lakes theme fits my personal interests nicely.
When making even the smallest decisions about the build I often ask myself the following question:
"If I lived in 1955 & wanted to build a dry lakes racer, what would I build?"
The question frames up the multitude of future decisions nicely.
- Should I drop a modern Corvette engine in the truck? No, pre-1955 parts only.
- Should I restore original Henry Ford steel or buy a fiberglass replica body? Go steel, there weren't reproductions in '55.
- Fenders or not? No fenders, a dry lakes racer needed to be as light as possible.
- Should I put a Ford Flathead V8 in the truck? Maybe. Would be period correct but I could also drop a more powerful engine in as many other options were available between 1949 & 1955.
You get the point.
All this said, cynical rodders might point out that the choice of a pickup for a dry lakes racer isn't strictly period correct. California rodders in the '50s would have likely favored a 1932 hi-boy or a belly tank racer rather than a pickup. That's true, but you know what? I've been more heavily influenced by Rudy Rodriguez's truck than any other hot rod. In my mind it's at least feasible that I might have built this '35 truck in 1955 if it's all I had on-hand to work with.
For me, the theme provides guidelines. I'm not going to be a slave to the theme. I expect to make
trade-offs where it makes sense. Still. you still won't see me putting 1970's rocket wheels on this truck, as much as I may like them.
In summary, I'm keeping the following guidelines in mind. Let's see if I can stick with them.
- So-Cal dry lakes racing truck, circa 1955
- Robust driver vs. trailer queen
- Street legal & runs reliably
- 0-60 more important than 160
- Function over form (prioritizing $ spent on speed vs. billet components)
- Correct proportions & '50's period detail