"We had no intention of buying a car at SEMA 2014, but when we came across this truck on display, we fell in love with it"
This article was originally published in the June 2016 issue of Street Machine.
GROUND-pounding American pick-ups sitting on airbag suspension have become one of the hottest trends around over the past few years, one that is perfectly encapsulated by Ben and Luke Sacilotto’s awesome 1950 Chevy 3100. With flat paint, big-inch rollers and tar-grinding ride height, it is as simple – and cool – as it gets. But DROPT’s story actually started Stateside in 2014.
“My brother Luke and I travel to SEMA in Las Vegas every two years to keep up with trends and to admire the craftsmanship coming out of the USA,” Ben Sacilotto says. “We have been into cars, mainly EHs, for 20 years, and that includes getting a Top 10 at Summernats 21 with our EH ute (SM, Jun ’08), but we like to get a taste of what the other side of the world is doing.
“We had no intention of buying a car at SEMA 2014, but when we came across this truck on display, we fell in love with it. We saw the owner and builder, Heath Pinter, cleaning her up and we started talking about the build. We asked him if he was interested in selling it and, to our amazement, he said he would eventually part with it but he wanted to enjoy it first.”
Heath is a professional BMX rider who has dabbled with cars in the past as a hobby, including a cool ’65 Lincoln. This truck was an unfinished project he picked up from a friend, with the intention of building a daily driver to cart his bikes around. But the build jumped a couple of gears when one of his sponsors asked him to take it to SEMA, just three months away.
Heath kicked into the build full-time, calling on Dalton Hill at Hillview Customs in sleepy Lake Elsinore, California, to get the stock ’50 Chev body straight enough to lay down the Hot Rod Flatz Olive Brown. He made the new bed frame and timber floor in the back, before the chrome was blacked out to give an understated finish.
The bodywork hugs the road thanks to chassis upgrades that include boxed rails, with a TCI Mustang II front clip replacing the stock front section and a notched rear section treated to triangulated four-link arms. The airbag suspension system had already been started when Heath got the car, but he finished it off with Firestone ’bags, using an AccuAir set-up with load sensors in each corner and pre-programmed ride height settings selected via a hand controller. This makes the truck super-practical, but also had the added side effect of making it possible for the Chev to be engineered in Australia.
Heath built the engine himself and put the whole driveline together using a donor ’70 Camaro for its 350, TH400 and Salisbury diff. He didn’t go over the top with the motor, just adding basic later-model Vortec heads and MSD electronic ignition, plus upgrading the intake and exhaust. The fuel tank is out of a ’66 Mustang, while the CPP disc brakes were already on the truck when Heath picked it up.
One of the standout features of the 3100 are the 18x8 Colorado Custom smoothie wheels, covered by 215/45 rubber. They were a custom order by Heath, who also decided to tread a unique path with the interior.
He had the original bench seat lowered on its frame, re-foamed and then covered in black canvas-style material by one of his sponsors, Red Kap Workwear. He also had the kick panels and door trims done to match, lending the Chev a real work truck vibe.
After the Sacilotto boys got back to Australia, they negotiated a deal with Heath to pick up the truck. This involved a quick trip to Long Beach via Heath’s home in Riverside, California, to deliver the truck to the shipping yard, following much back-and-forth with the Australian Government over paperwork (see breakout).
“After two months the truck landed in Sydney and we picked it up,” Ben explains. “Rocco Zannino was responsible for getting the truck roadworthy in Australia, including fitting Aussie-spec seatbelts, front and rear indicators, and wipers.” He also re-wired the airbags and fitted bump stops to comply with the engineer’s requests.
“The ride height is the highlight of this truck,” Ben says, “so it was only fitting that we got plates that emphasise it. We were amazed that DROPT was available, so we snapped them up before the truck even left California.
“Registration was fairly straightforward after fitting the mandatory safety mods and satisfying roadworthy rules applicable to NSW.”
While Luke and Ben got plenty of offers to buy the pick-up on its debut at MotorEx 2015, they’ve held out, even with another trip to Sin City coming up at the end of October.
“We are heading off to SEMA again this year and who knows what we might find,” Ben says. “But at the moment our minds are set on the next build: an EH panel van that has been sitting in the shed for 20 years.” s