Wayne Donald always wanted a rat rod; something he could just blast around in. But as you can see, his ’57 Chevy pick-up turned out rather less ratty than originally planned. “Now it’s finished, it’s a fair bit flashier than I anticipated,” Wayne admits. “But I’m just blasting around in it anyway!”
This article on Wayne's '57 Chev was originally publsihed in issue no.4 of Street Machine LSX Tuner magazine
Wayne’s story with the Chev began many moons ago, while he was living the hectic life of a sales rep. While visiting a client’s premises, he spotted a tough but unfinished truck at a neighbouring fabricator’s workshop. Sitting in primer, nestled low over an HQ Holden chassis and sporting a three-inch roof chop – and with an LS sitting loose in the engine bay – it would have been hard to miss.
“Every day they’d push it out of their shop and every day they’d push it back in, but nothing ever seemed to change on it,” he remembers.
That was the situation for years; time progressed and Wayne moved on.
By the time the Chev crossed his path again, Wayne was in business for himself and doing all right. “I found it for sale in Just Cars magazine,” he says. “One phone call and a visit later, it was mine!”
Running a business can be lucrative but can make a man time-poor; besides, Wayne’s expertise is in wood, not auto fabrication. “I can make you a beautiful table, but my car-building skills weren’t there,” he admits. “I’m keen to learn, but not on this.”
So Wayne contacted local resto guru Graham Davies to take on the project, knowing that the former upholsterer had branched out into all aspects of vehicle fabrication. At the time, Graham was a one-man show working from his shed, but he was in-demand; the truck sat for about a year before he was able to turn an angle-grinder in anger.
But once the ball was rolling, Graham spent around five years tinkering on and off. “We re-did the roof chop, brought the floor up over the chassis and rounded the door corners,” Wayne says.
But they didn’t stop there. “Graham decided that it needed to be a bit flash; something to show off his skills.”
Although it looks like a pick-up, the cab is actually from a seven-tonne Chevy truck, consequently the wheelarches were designed to swallow enormous split rims. Graham brought the rear edge of the wheelarch forward around 150mm to better tuck it around those 20in Coddingtons; it’s one of those mods that you’d never notice, but you certainly would notice if it hadn’t been done.
“We also moulded the back of the cab and sills to meet the tub, which is from a 1994 stepside,” Wayne explains. The boys treated it to a ‘step shaver kit’ that deletes the step behind the rear wheelarch and introduces a rolled rear pan. The result is definitely smooth and helps tie the cab and tub together visually, despite their 37-year age gap.
The Chev had copped plenty of great mods with the previous custodian, including a boss nine-inch and four-link rear end set-up, but one thing had Wayne stumped. “They’d chucked in a rack-and-pinion, but it was upside down, which would have made left and right opposite.” Then things got even weirder: “They had installed the planetary gears from a Suzuki Mighty Boy to correct the issue,” he marvels. Needless to say, this convoluted system was binned. “I just replaced it with an HQ Holden power steering box; it steers fine.”
With things progressing, Graham’s background as an upholsterer came to the fore, although Wayne admits red wasn’t his first colour choice. “I wanted a dark tan, but Graham told me I was a pussy,” he laughs. It’s lairy all right, but it contrasts well with the matte black exterior and the stitched black leather dash pad.
Wayne was happy with Graham’s work, but then things went off the rails. “He got an opportunity, a business offer he’d have been mad not to take up,” Wayne explains. “So we shook hands on good terms and the Chev came back to my place.” Wayne certainly held no ill will towards Graham; the only issue was that the Chev was in pieces and the plans were in Graham’s head.
“I had a finished chassis, interior and a million little custom bits in boxes; just a great big jigsaw puzzle.” Wayne laughs – though he wasn’t laughing at the time. “It sat in my shed for four more years, irritating me no end.”
A chance meeting with hot rodder Mike Hite produced results. “He’s a super-talented guy; he looked at my car and my boxes of bits and felt it was no problem,” Wayne explains, still scarcely believing his luck.
Although the shape of the Chev was set, there were cuts, shrink marks, welds and grinds all over the place. “I just wanted Mick to sort out the parts and paint it; it would have looked ratty, but then I could go blasting around in it. Sound familiar?” Wayne laughs. Instead Mick went over the whole car, modifying, smoothing and improving everything, getting the panels to a state of perfection.
The LS1 that came with the rolling shell was faultless, but a standard Gen III isn’t real grunty out of the box, so Wayne fitted a Harrop supercharger. “It’s got a lazy little tune and four pounds of boost,” he says, “but it puts out 350hp at the wheels, so it goes fine.”
It took another year with Mick until the Chev was finished, but when Wayne drove it out of the workshop for the final time it was a great day. “It’s only been finished since July and I’ve already put 1000 kays on it,” he says.
After 12 years of waiting, we can’t say we blame Wayne for getting out and having a blast with his new old toy.
As for another build, he’s not ready to jump into that just yet. “I do have an SR20 waiting to go into my son Harry’s Mk1 Cortina, and after that, we should do something about my daughter Brittany’s ’65 Mustang.”
You can’t keep a good car guy down!