November 23, 2013

A rhapsody in blue

Mike Young was looking for something with a few more creature comforts than his beautiful ’29 Ford roadster. Something he and his wife could take on long road trips to street rodding events.

Mike Young was looking for something with a few more creature comforts than his beautiful ’29 Ford roadster. Something he and his wife could take on long road trips to street rodding events.

“Glenna’s not really a ‘roadster chick,’” he explained. He described riding in their roadster as similar to riding a Harley Davidson with four wheels.

“I wanted to build a nice driver,” he said.

“I was looking for a ’49 to a ’52 Chevy Fleetline or business coupe, but Chris said, ‘Everybody’s got one of those.’”

Chris is Chris Carlson of Chaotic Customs in Mulvane, who said Young needed to take a look at a 1940 Ford pickup that he had parked beside a barn, waiting for a rebuild.

“I have never been a fan of the ’40 trucks. The top is too tall and the hood looks like it’s always going uphill,” was Young’s initial reaction. He took one look at the proposed project and told Carlson, “You can’t drink this truck pretty.”

Carlson is a persuasive man, though, and eventually, Young signed on. They were sitting at a restaurant in Las Vegas during the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association show a couple of years ago, trying to come up with a plan for the project.

“We originally talked about getting an old trailer and using the truck to tow the ’29,” Young recalled. But one thing led to another and eventually it came down to a question of just how far Young wanted to go with the build.

“When Chris asked Mike if he wanted the underside of the truck shiny, Mike said, `yes,’ and I thought, `Here we go.’ Because I knew Mike would want to go all the way,” said Glenna.

“I had a couple of ideas,” Carlson said. “I worked with Mike on it I curved the top a little bit and drew it out. Then I broke out the Sawzall.”

Over the next two years, the truck would be totally disassembled and virtually every body panel sliced, diced and ground smooth in an effort to produce a sleeker, more flowing design. Well over 200 modifications were performed (see the complete list online at To see photos of the build, go to

The top was chopped 4 1/2 inches, the doors and rear of the cab each extended 2 1/2 inches, with another 2 1/2 inches removed horizontally from the doors, before the corners were rounded off and they were mounted “suicide-style,” opening from front to rear. The hood was pie-cut and pancaked, with the running boards smoothed and molded into the body.

Mike Ratley of Chaotic Customs performed many of the sheet metal modifications, often forming intricately curved panels with the aid of an old-fashioned English wheel.

A one-of-a-kind Alumicraft grille was fabricated and fitted, with 1939 Ford Standard headlights used in the modified front fenders.

A rolled bed lip was formed to flow into the modified belt line of the truck. The original Ford V-8 script from the tailgate was saved and incorporated into the newly formed tailgate. The bed floor features burled maple, with two of the panels beveled and fitted with actuators to open and reveal hidden mechanical components.

The entire body was channeled 2 inches over the TCI custom chassis, which features a 4-link coil-over-spring suspension in the rear and a Mustang II-style rack-and-pinion coil-over setup up front, giving the truck a low, assertive stance. Noted Tulsa pinstriper Ron Meyers was brought it to liven up the underside of the chassis with his brush.

“Front to back, it still looks like a ’40 Ford. We wanted to improve on what was there,” said Carlson.

That’s not to say there weren’t disagreements along the way. The long, sculptured rear fenders became a point of contention. Mike thought they were just too long — they had been extended by over a foot, with a pair of ’59 Cadillac bullet tail lights frenched into each fender.

“We argued about the fenders for a year. Karma (Chris’ wife and co-owner of Chaotic Customs) and I were arguing to keep them,” said Glenna Young.

“Chris kept saying, ‘Wait till we get paint on them and you will see,’” Mike said. “It wouldn’t be the same truck without those fenders. I was wrong.”

Mechanically, the truck received the full treatment, getting a matte gold-colored LS1 Chevy crate engine bolted to a similarly painted 4L65E automatic overdrive transmission. The power is routed back to a Curry 9-inch rear end with a polished aluminum center section and chromed axle tubes.

A set of vintage-looking Rocket mag wheels mounting Diamond Back radial wide whitewalls completes the rolling stock.

A custom engine cover was fabricated to blend in with the smoother lines of the truck. The Carlsons’ 15-year-old son, Troy, pinstriped the top of that cover and every member of the build team signed the underside.

“There isn’t a more talented crew in this area,” observed Mike Young.

“A build like this definitely takes the whole crew,” said Karma Carlson. “We haven’t had a day off since July.”

Inside, the truck received a heavily modified 1959 Chevy pickup dash, cut to fit and then molded to flow into the door sills. A prototype set of Dakota Digital gauges fills the center V-shaped instrument cluster. A tilt ididit steering column is topped by a Billet Specialties steering wheel. Bair’s Glass in Winfield cut all the glass for the truck, including the V-butted windshield.

A pair of Glide bucket seats were upholstered in-house, covered in rich chocolate brown leather supplied by Townsend Leather of Johnstown, N.Y. The truck has a full complement of driver/passenger features ranging from power steering, brakes, windows to air conditioning and cruise control.

“It drives as nice as our Infiniti,” Mike Young reported.

Finally the entire exterior was saturated in 3 1/2 gallons of a specially created Martin-Senour hue called “Bankrupt Blues” just in time to be featured in the paint company’s booth at this year’s SEMA show in Las Vegas. The truck also was highlighted as part of the NAPA Auto Parts display.

The response was gratifying.

“We were very humbled and pleased by several of the big guys who said we were the top one or two cars there,” said Chris Carlson.

Plans now call for the Youngs to spend a busy 2014 on the road, showing their beautiful blue truck on the International Show Car Association circuit. Only after that will they be able to finally put it on the highway and go cruising in it, which was sort of the original idea all along.

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