Subscribe to a magazine

1949 Chevy Pickup - Rock Mater

1949 Chevy Pickup Rock Crawling
Harry Wagner | Writer
Posted August 17, 2013

Are You Tough Enough To Drive This Truck?

When we met Chris Bowen he was setting up his tent on Means Dry Lakebed in Johnson Valley. In February. Yeah, this is Southern California, but it gets downright frigid at night in the desert, as evidence by the sea of motorhomes surrounding Chris’ campsite, generators humming. Also absent from the scene were a trailer and tow rig, but he wasn’t driving a plush new truck.

If Tow Mater from Disney’s animated Cars movie had a big brother, it would be Chris’ ’49 Chevy. The guts of the truck came from his well-seasoned K5 Blazer, which he used to compete in Four Wheeler magazine’s Top Truck Challenge back in 2003. Even back then the body was beat, but it got to the point that Chris couldn’t touch his rig without drawing blood.

He found this ’49 Chevy cab in El Centro and brought it home strapped to the roof of his Suburban. “I didn’t even get pulled over!” he proclaims. With the foundation already in place it didn’t take much work to graft the cab and chassis together and get back on the trail.

Tech Specs
1949 Chevrolet Pickup

Engine: 350ci V-8
Transmission: SM465 4-speed manual
Transfer case: Klune V and NP205
Front Axle: Dana 60 with welded spider gears, 4.56 gears, 35-spline axleshafts, and Warn hubs
Rear Axle: Dana 60 with Detroit Locker, 4.56 gears, and disc brakes

Springs & Such: Mix-and-match leaf springs and F-350 shocks and shock towers
Tires & Wheels: 18.5/44-15LT Super Swamper TSLs on 15x10 Champion beadlocks
Steering: Crossover with ported Saginaw box and PSC hydraulic ram
Other Stuff: Ramsey winch, cab conversion, rear mounted radiator, custom rollcage, CO2 air tank, 32-gallon fuel cell, Twisted Stitch suspension seats

Step By Step

View Photo Gallery
  • California’s historical plates require that the vehicle be at least 25 years old and only driven in historical exhibitions or parades. King of the Hammers counts, right?

  • “You broke a main leaf?” we asked. “Yeah, about two years ago,” Chris replied. The suspension uses simple junkyard leaf springs and F-350 shocks up front on Super Duty shock towers. Out back there are no shocks to be found.

  • Twisted Stitch seats and swap meet lap belts keep occupants safe in the fully caged interior. Prior to hydraulic assist (or even power steering) the secret to adding leverage was making the steering wheel bigger.

  • The bed is a virtual recycling yard under the tube work, with an ammo can for storage, an old welding tank for onboard air, and seatbelts used to strap down the cooler, batteries, and ammo can.

  • Rusty and oily at the same time? That is a feat in the California desert! The Dana 60 front axle is filled with welded spider gears, 4.56 gears, 35-spline Spicer axleshafts, and Warn hubs.

  • The rear Dana 60 has a Detroit Locker, 4.56 gears, and disc brakes. The axles are capped by bald 44-inch Super Swampers on Champion beadlock rims.

  • The sloping hood on the ’49 Chevy required the radiator to be relocated to the bed. Power comes from a tired Chevy 350 fed by a Quadrajet. The rocker studs don’t want to stay put anymore, so Chris is in the process of building a replacement engine.