East Meets Wild West

Words: Dave Smith, photography: Dom Fisher, model: Shannon Dunford

“It’s just an ol’ farm truck…” Yeah, right. While the Americans and Japanese weren’t getting on too well when this truck was made, they’re getting on a treat under the bonnet today in this pick-up.

Pick-up trucks, like great fashion, look better when worn. There are some stunning restored trucks out there, but when a hard-working vehicle shows its battle scars, it tells a story that gleaming, perfect paint just can’t. It also speaks a volume that, nearly 80 years down the line, these trucks can still be daily drivable. This careworn carrier is a 1941 Chevrolet AK, belonging to Martin Ingram from Barnsley, and it hides a 21st century secret… rather well.

This is the third Chevy pick-up I’ve built,” says Martin, “but the other two were ’52s, and both diesel. I put a Transit diesel in the first, and the second was rotted out so I grafted the body onto a taxi chassis. They were both daily drivers, reliable and quite frugal!

“I got this one from a guy down in Wiltshire who had bought it then never got around to it. I collected it from him in May 2017, which was an all-day round trip. It was bone stock, and a non-runner, so I decided to go the whole hog with it. I dragged it home, put it in the garage, and had it stripped to the bare chassis rails by the end of September. I started by boxing the original chassis, then fitted the front and rear axles from a Jaguar XJS, including a left-hand drive steering rack.

“Then I bought a 1995 Lexus LS400 for its running gear – it was a lovely car, so it was a shame to cut it up, but needs must. I chose this because I fancied a challenge – I don’t like doing things simply, like a small-block Chevy where you can buy a bolt-on conversion kit; I prefer doing a bespoke job. This engine was a bit of a mission in itself, though, as I’m a joiner, not an electrician, and a pal of mine who’s an electrician by trade took one look at it and said, ‘You’re a braver man than me!’ I took the engine and auto ‘box, the brake servo and master cylinder, and the stock factory pre-immobiliser ECU. Even though the truck’s engine bay is pretty big, the engine had to be shoehorned into the chassis rails.

“Then I fitted the cab, with new floors, transmission tunnel and bulkhead, which I had to fabricate out of new steel and then make it look like it had never been touched. There were two rust spots in the bottom of the door skins, and that was the only rust in the body. I made the steering column, linkages and steering wheel, then fitted all new glass – all the glass is flat, so I had it made from laminate by Barnsley Glass Company. Dunning and Fairbank in Leeds custom-made the propshaft, they were brilliant to work with.

“I tried to make the bed look as old and gnarled as possible, so I used scaffold boards, and I made a fuel tank to go beneath the bed rather than the in-cab one, which is like riding on a bomb. Then I began the wiring. It was really complicated and took two weeks – I was ready to throw in the towel a couple of times, but I had some excellent help from Chris Taylor at Phoenix Engine Management who talked me through it each time I got stuck. The original loom from the ECU to the engine is 114 wires; I got it down to six!

“After that it fired up and ran beautifully, but I found a problem with the radiator. I was using the original 1941 radiator, so I took it to Wakefield Radiator Services and had it recored with 30% extra capacity and a 16” pusher fan in front, and now it’s all sorted. I made up all new brake lines and rebuilt and uprated the Jaguar brakes. I finished it in April 2018, took it for an MoT, and it went straight through – all the underside looks like brand new. I always MoT my trucks, even though they’re exempt.

“Out on the road, it’s as happy as Larry, although it can scare the s*it out of me! It’s awesome to drive, smooth, powerful and responsive, I’m so pleased with it. The Jaguar suspension means it has Jaguar handling, but the cab is all 1941 technology, so it has rattles and draughts. I built it to be daily-drivable and a sleeper, and I love to see the faces of the kids with the Saxos and Golfs when they come up next to me – I put my foot down and it’s off, they can’t keep up! The factory rating for this engine is 290bhp, but it’s been de-catted and has straight pipes with one silencer each side, so it breathes a lot easier, and the truck is 1,640kg to the LS400’s 1,900kg, so it’s a quarter of a tonne lighter, too. I don’t know what the top speed is, but 120mph is scary enough…

 

“It’s certainly no trailer queen, and gets used regularly – it goes all over, and works for a living. It’ll do the tip run. I’ve had no real issues with it, just a few little niggles. I managed to pull one of the power steering pipes out going over a bump at Tatton Park and had to be recovered by the RAC, but that’s it. It needs a heater, but there’s not much room behind that dashboard. My next build is a 1946 pick-up known as Welder’s Truck, which I found in Texas. I’ve had it for 12 months, but I needed to finish the ’41 first, so now I can go at it full steam ahead. I always plan to finish each build in six months; I was gutted that the ’41 was five or six days over…”

1941 Chevrolet AK half-ton pick-up

  • Stock chassis, boxed

  • Stock cab and bed

  • XJS V12 front and rear axles

  • XJS LHD power steering rack, Lexus pump

  • Stock Jaguar brakes, upgraded

  • Lexus master cylinder and servo, bias valve

  • 3.31:1 final drive, LSD

  • Custom-made propshaft

  • 1995 Lexus 1UZ-FE 4.0 V8

  • Custom air filter, relocated oil filter

  • Stock ECU

  • Stock manifolds, home-made exhausts

  • Stock Lexus four-speed automatic

  • Fuel cell under bed

  • High-volume fuel pump

  • OE Chevrolet radiator, recored and uprated

  • Jaguar MkII 15” steel wheels

  • Michelin commercial tyres

  • OE Chevrolet bench seat, Mexican blanket

  • Custom dash binnacle, Smiths gauges

Thanks to: “Thanks to all the Barnsley Boyz who helped when I needed a lift, the Northern Hot Rod Club, Chris Taylor at Phoenix, Dunning and Fairbank, and Brailsford Bros in Barnsley who supplied all the thicker-gauge steel for the cab.”