How to build a hot rod pick up truck

Written by don kress
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How to build a hot rod pick up truck
Vintage pickup trucks are great bases for beginning a hot rod project. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Building a classic hot rod pickup truck is far from a simple task. At the same time, it can be extremely gratifying when the work is done and the finished product rolls out of the garage. Thanks to the custom car fans that have been building hot rod trucks for as long as trucks have been built, practically any vintage truck can be built as a hot rod.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Automotive Jack
  • Jack stands
  • Air ride suspension system
  • Choice of replacement wheels and tires
  • Late model V8 engine and transmission
  • Paint job
  • "Mexican Blanket"

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  1. 1

    Jack up the truck and support it on jack stands. Remove the stock wheels and tires, as well as the stock suspension system and replace it with air ride suspension for all four wheels. This will allow you to adjust the ride height of the truck with the flick of a switch.

  2. 2

    Mount the aftermarket replacement wheels and tires onto the truck. Opt for tires slightly wider than stock models unless your goal is to create a restoration hot rod. Otherwise, the additional grip offered by wider tires and wheels will help keep the truck on the road, while being driven by the larger displacement V8 engine.

  3. 3

    Remove the stock engine and transmission from the truck and replace it with a late-model V8 engine. Avoid using fuel injected engines. These require considerable wiring and computer controls, taking away from the overall effect of the hot rod truck. Use an engine which won't overpower the frame of the truck. Generally speaking, between 300-350 horsepower is a good range for most hot rod trucks driven gently and without additional frame stiffening.

  4. 4

    Repair rust spots and paint the truck in your choice of colour. For trucks undergoing a restoration hot rod build, try to stay close to the original colour of the truck, or if the metal is in good condition, consider leaving the original paint alone. Any wear spots which exist are now called "patina" and can actually make the truck look better. Original, good-condition paint should never be removed because the truck is worth more, the closer it is to original condition.

  5. 5

    Install a "Mexican blanket" on the bench seat of the truck. This is an inexpensive alternative to replacing the interior and it will also give the truck a sense of being a vintage hot rod build. Due to their vibrant colours, "Mexican blankets" were a really popular choice to revamp a hot rod truck's interior during the 1940s through the 1960s.

Tips and warnings

  • If running the original engine, rebuild it with new pistons, seals, rings and gaskets to ensure that the truck will run just the way it did when it was new.
  • Avoid customising vehicles of low mileage and in good or better condition which still run. Cars and trucks in good original condition are worth quite a lot more than rebuilt cars.

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