Y'know, it's funny how things pan out, but the evening before I sat down to write this feature I was scanning the HAMB and hit a thread about "bobber trucks." Apart from the fact that that's a dumb name (why does everything have to have a Name?), the thread talked a lot about the awkward proportions of chopped and channeled hot rod trucks, as well as them being the last truly affordable early body style. That second point I can almost agree with,but the first is true of many cars, though it takes a good eye to get it right with a truck body and no established wheelbase, like say, a '32. If you're contemplating a truck project, you could do a lot worse than study this pair of pickups from Michigan.
Let's look at the "late-model" '42 first, shall we? A lifelong tinkerer, Kirk Brown has modified everything from bicycles to go-carts to cars and trucks. The diagnosis and subsequent recovery from cancer in 2004 prompted Kirk to reassess his life and hasten his desire to build a ground-up hot rod. With a recent career change that saw him self-employed as owner of KB Metalcraft, a custom metal-fabrication business, Kirk's goal could be achieved in short order. The final piece of the jigsaw fell into place when Kirk met a group of guys at a local car show in July 2006 and formed the relix car club. The dedication of the core members means the guys regularly meet at each other's shops to encourage and help with their projects.
Starting with a '42 pickup cab he found behind an old boy's garage, Kirk fabricated his own chassis from 2x4-inch tubing, with a 124-inch wheelbase. He said this is the one thing he'd do differently if he were to start over, wishing he'd custom-formed a frame. Stock ford "wide five" wheels were mated to a frankland Quick-change and 3/4-ton ford axles in the rear, while 90-fin Buick drums were adapted to the wide five ford front hubs. The super low stance is accentuated by the headers from the Hot rod & Custom supply-built 239ci flathead exiting under The wishbones.
You may be wondering how Kirk's truck sits so low yet runs an I-beam front axle with no visible sign of airbags. They're there, all right, as Kirk said the suspension was one of the major challenges during the project. "The truck was built with the intention of bagging the suspension; however, the fuel tank location interfered with the placement of the rear 'bags, making it difficult to get the truck as low to the ground as possible. Thus came the idea of the cantilevered suspension system, which now allows the fuel tank to pivot with the raising and lowering of the truck." I guess moving the tank wasn't an option then!
"Another challenge I faced was that I wanted to avoid buying off-theshelf parts, and instead fabricate one-of-a-kind parts myself," Kirk continued. "designing the headlights was a kind of launching pad, and one custom-made part led to another in an effort to 'one-up' the last part and make the next more innovative and unique. The finished truck brings an element of the rough and raw but has the finesse of a WWII aircraft with its many aviation-inspired details." These include not just the many one-off drilled brackets, use of aluminum, faux fighter plane seats, and jet-age '60 Chevy dash, but also the genuine jet fighter fuel filler, the miniscule airplane instrument panel lights now doing duty as rear lights, and the "wing" at the rear of the bed, which some think is the fuel tank, but Kirk included it to add some visual weight to the rear of the bed in lieu of a tailgate.
The truck is a continuing evolving project, too, which is why you'll see the "flying anvil" hood ornament that wasn't fitted at the time of our shoot. You really should Take some time to check out this truck in person if you spy it at a show during the coming season. That's if you can fight your way through the crowd that always seems to surround it!