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Trail’s End: Built By Hand—Douglas Lee’s 1957 Chevy Pickup Is A Red Head-turner

Posted in Features on November 14, 2018
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Photographers: Jeff Johnston

Douglas Lee is always glad to tell the story of his ’57 Chevy pickup, but just make sure you have some time to spare—there is far more to this red truck than meets the eye. As he hints at its origins, “It wasn’t really a truck. I put it together with a cab from one rig, frame parts from two others, doors from another, and so on.” Back in the February 1995 issue, we sat down to hear the details.

The Industrial Arts instructor from Miami, Oklahoma, had the technical training to build the truck of his dreams, and the “hands-on” philosophy to do it all himself. Douglas started with a pair of vintage frames from 1977—one from a Blazer and another from a Chevy pickup. The front end of the Blazer frame was stitched to the tail end of the pickup frame to make a ladder whose wheelbase matched that of a traditional ’57 Chevy truck. The stock pickup springs were bolted back in place in the rear, but the front leaf springs were shortened before they were fit back beneath the truck. Both the Chevy 12-bolt rearend and the Dana 44 front axle were geared to 3.73:1, and a single Monroe Gas-Matic shock was bolted at each corner. Nothing too fancy suspension-wise. Rear drums and front discs were carried over from their respective axles, and the Blazer’s honored NP205 was retained right behind the stock four-speed tranny. Radial-belted LT235/16 all-season tires handled relations with the pavement and were mounted to 15x8-inch cast-aluminum wheels from a ’91 Chevy pickup.

Power for the classic truck came from a 454ci V-8 donated by a ’74 Chevy. Douglas bored the cylinders 0.030 over to a final displacement of 468 cubic inches before he began building the remainder of the engine. Performance upgrades included TRW forged 9.5:1 pistons, a hydraulic Competition Cam, a Pete Jackson gear drive, Crane 1.7:1 rocker arms, and Chevy oval-port heads fitted with a Manley 2.19-inch intake and 1.88-inch exhaust valves. Air comes in through the Holley Strip Dominator intake manifold and is mixed with gas in the Holley 750-cfm carburetor. Using 308-alloy stainless steel, Douglas fabricated his own exhaust, bringing the output of his powerplant to 470 hp at 5,200 rpm and 450 lb-ft of torque at 3,800 rpm. Admiring the engine bay, it was evident that custom work went beneath the hood. Douglas loved combing the aircraft wrecking yard to find exotic metals for his fabrications, which included the wheelwell tubs and tilt hood brackets.

Douglas’ attention to detail shined through in the bodywork of the truck. He began with a ’57 pickup Custom Cab and added suicide doors. Other hinge-related work went into the single-piece combination of the hood and front fenders, where Douglas built his own hydraulic forward-tilt unit. The bed houses another hydraulic lift, which not only draws attention at truck shows but gains him access to the stock Blazer fuel tank and its filler stashed beneath the bed. Douglas crafted a custom stainless steel tube grille, fashioned a rear bumper that is 12 inches shorter than the original, fabricated his own aluminum running boards, and painted the truck a vibrant Carrera Red. The front bumper remained stock, which cannot be said about the interior.

The alternating red and white vinyl in the seats and other panels may not be how the truck came from the factory, but the colors complement the brilliant red interior paint. Douglas added wooden accents in the steering wheel, shift knobs, and even a wooden Chevy Bow Tie around the Sanyo stereo unit in the dash.

Douglas built his truck with the mindset that a 4x4 doesn’t need enormous tires or a mile-high lift to make an impression. His engine upgrades and custom bodywork certainly didn’t go to waste—Douglas refused the trailer and drove his truck to local recreation areas and 4x4 shows where he and everyone else could enjoy his creation.

Tell us about your rig! Perhaps it isn’t lifted (yet), but it still gets you there and back, and the job done in between. Shiny or not, email the details to editor@fourwheeler.com and make sure to send a high-res photo!

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