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Pure Brilliance – Michael Petramalo’s 1954 Chevy Pickup

The pickup was born as a farm hand. Destined to spend its entire life in the fields, it was the bare basics… built for durability with a mundane powertrain, a sparse interior, and very little flash in the styling department. This segment of the automotive market evolved and the pickup eventually became an urban social climber. The utilitarian aura of earlier pickups make them great hot rods, and the fat-fendered Chevy’s of the ‘50s are among the most desirable of these platforms.

Need proof? Meet Michael Petramalo’s 1954 Chevrolet 3100. This truck is living it up, enjoying its retirement years away from the corn fields in grand form. To become the masterpiece you see here, the old Chevy endured a familiar series of events, bouncing around as an unfinished project before landing at J-Rod & Custom in Black Diamond, Washington.Keeping the build local, J-Rod ordered an Art Morrison chassis to serve as the foundation of the project. Art Morrison Enterprises is based in nearby Fife, Washington and the company offers two chassis for ’47 to ’54 Chevy pickups. Both feature 2” x 6” main rails, strategically placed cross members, independent front suspension and a 4-bar rear setup. The upscale GT Sport Performance chassis used on Michael’s ride features a more handling-oriented IFS with larger 1 5/16″ diameter upper control arms, up-sized poly-bushed rod ends, coilover shocks, and adjustable anti-sway bars.

The Art Morrison creation is configured to accept all manner of Bow Tie V8 from small-block to big-block. Michael chose a LS3 small-block backed by 4L65-E four-speed automatic transmission.

J-Rod’s Jared Hancock says, “We took the 480-horsepower LS3 and detailed and simplified it for use in the truck. We painted the engine and trans, mounted the coils under the oil pan using Taylor Vertex wires, and groomed the GM wiring harness to help conceal the electronics. The engine exhales via a set of Ultimate headers and we built a custom dual three-inch stainless exhaust with Black Widow mufflers. The Baer brakes have the orange accent color you will find throughout the truck.” The amount of metal work in the engine bay is off the scale.

The truck’s custom firewall, perfectly formed inner fender panels, and its trick radiator panel treatment really make the orange-hued engine pop. Not only is the motor bright, standing out like a brilliantly glistening diamond ring in a satin-lined jewelry box, its lack of wires and hoses keep the look clean, boosting contrast and maximizing visual impact.

Michael was angling for an edgy look. But he also wanted a truck that offered surprising performance so J-Rod took the Art Morrison chassis to the next level and went full pro touring on the build. To this end, J-Rod installed RideTech coilovers and Baer brakes at the corners, then filled the wheel wells with Forgeline RB3C wheels and low-profile, high-grip tires. The J-Rod crew also fabbed an aluminum chin spoiler and a front tow hook for more visual aggression.

The interior of the truck is a point of transition where the build moves from high-tech performance to a more low-key retro vibe. Jamie McFarland and his staff at McFarland Upholstery pulled off an amazing job using a distressed leather from Relicate dubbed Saddle Bag to dress the inside of the cab. At first glance the seat looks like a nice bench seat from a typical ‘50s Chevy pickup. Look deeper and you’ll see the seat has bucket cutouts for added stability at speed. The door cards are nicely executed but, true to the pickup’s heritage, they’re not over the top in their design. A wood-ringed steering wheel and modern gauge set in the stock binnacle array set-off the cabin while remaining true to its humble origins.

The bottom line… there’s very little humble left in this slice of American pie… the truck makes 268 more horsepower than it did in 1954… its underpinnings measure success in lateral g-forces not rut-conquering suspension travel, and its body is straighter and more pristine now than it was coming off Chevy’s assembly line… Yep, the farm is a distant memory for this rad ride.


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