There's just something about old pickup trucks. Maybe it's the sense of being completely built in the good ol' U.S.A., with their solid steel construction, created to be utilitarian but having a sort of style that never completely disappears. Growth in this part of the street rod category has been very strong, and in the last decade, hundreds, if not thousands, of worn-out vintage trucks have been brought back to life by members of the automotive hobby. This '49 half-ton Dodge is a prime example of making the best of the old and the new.
Junior Anton of Vail, North Carolina, who makes his living as a shipping supervisor, has always had a soft spot for Dodges. Before beginning this project, Junior owned a 340-powered '73 Challenger, but he wanted to go even farther back in time. When the chance to buy the '49 came up, he made the plunge, deciding along the way that it would be redone in classic rodding style
Obviously, a lot of things have been improved in the various automotive systems since 1949. For example, that old steering/suspension setup would need to go if the truck would be called on to do anything serious. After friend Wayne Fleming built a new subframe for the truck, a Chrysler New Yorker donated the steering outfit (now with a Grant GT wheel), while a Nova sacrificed its front suspension, allowing an upgrade to disc brakes. Out back went an 831/44-inch rearend from a '70 Barracuda-springs and all-and a set of air shocks. Since the truck would be "styling" on the local cruise scene, Optima wheels shod in BFGoodrich rubber now take care of the actual pavement-pounding.
Inside, the upholstery tasks were handed to Junior Carswell in Hickory, North Carolina. Using pieces out of an '80 LeBaron, Carswell stitched up a clean layout that turns heads-as does the exterior-right down to the "Dodge" lettering on the door panels. The stock dash now houses a brace of VDO gauges, and the as-built, five-window cab still allows good visibility.
Now for the driveline. First, Junior decided the old hood layout needed to go. Taking a page from the gasser drag wars, the all-metal fenders and hood were welded together, and the entire outfit swings forward using front-end hardware from a Jeep. Under the metal bonnet is a '67 vintage 383 wedge, which has been rebuilt to stock specs with help from CARQUEST Auto Parts in Hickory. The only deviations from stock are a high-rise intake supporting a Carter AFB and a Mopar electronic ignition outfit. The manifolds to plumb the engine into the exhaust system came from a Coronet 440 donor. Behind the engine is a 727 TorqueFlite-also a stock rebuild-which gets rowed through the gears via a floor-mounted Hurst Pro Matic shifter.
After 40-plus years, the bed of the truck needed a little sprucing up. Actually cedar, not spruce, and seven 6-inch-wide slats trimmed with chrome and covered with a deep layer of polyurethane reside there now. The colors in the '49 Dodge dealership book were fairly limited, so for something completely different, Earl Fulbright of Vail covered the sheetmetal with Red Rose Metallic Imron paint. Sonny's Rod Shop and Junior's brother, Dale, helped out as well. The result is very appealing, and the truck takes home trophies on the local show circuit.
Starting with little more than a junkyard hulk, the completed project took three years, not to mention a fat handful of greenbacks. However, Junior can rest assured there aren't too many '49 Dodge trucks that can hold a candle to this bad boy-in western North Carolina or anywhere else.