When Justin Hartman first called Star Kustom Shop, I had no clue what to expect. As I best know how to put it, you could say that after tallying the notes of that phone call, an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians had more direction! Yet when Justin and I first sat down face-to-face to discuss his ’55 Chevy he had a plan … sort of. Ten years before our meeting he had an artist pen a rendering of what would best be described as a turn-of-the-millennium mini-truck! Not exactly what either of us was after! But his initial rendering did have a few ideas that suited our likes—a molded tailgate, custom tonneau, frenched headlights, and everything shaved. From there I intertwined my thoughts with Justin’s styling cues and came up with a design that could only be described as a Star Kustom Shop original.
The build started off at the rear of the truck. The idea of molding in the tailgate stuck, but the concept was expanded upon by incorporating laying the gate down to match the rear angle of the fender. Taking things a step further I felt the bed lip should cascade down into the gate. After some planning it was apparent the easiest way to accomplish the new look would be to hack off the rear of the bed and construct a handmade, 20-gauge sheetmetal rearend. The angles and contour of the new rearend follow the dimensions of the factory fenders. From there unique elements were incorporated into the new look. For starters, a flowing custom license plate overrider was inserted. At the bottom of the rearend the bumper was tossed for a custom roll pan fashioned in the vein of dual ’53 DeSoto pans. Nestled in each corner of the roll pan is a handmade taillight encompassing a ’59 Cadillac lens and bezel with a custom bullet. Bucking the normal trends of Cad lights the assembled taillight was laid horizontally inside a congruently shaped cavity. From there the bed received a bedrail made from 2 1/2-inch exhaust tubing, which flows from step plate to step plate uninterrupted. The rest of the bed components were molded in. Justin’s original idea was to enclose the bed in a custom sheetmetal tonneau, but upholstery seemed better suited. Therefore, a two-piece tonneau cover was fabbed to mount flush with the bed, and then later covered in pearl white naugahyde.
With things wrapped up in the back, the focus was shifted to the front of the truck. Instead of customizing for the sake of change, a flowing profile from front to rear was mandatory. For that reason, the dual DeSoto pans crept into the picture when the front bumper was ousted. Inside the opening of the roll pan a custom insert was fabricated from a piece of 3-inch exhaust tubing. At each end of the insert is a clear ’59 Cadillac lens and bezel that now functions as a turn signal. Next, the stock headlight buckets were recessed 3/4 inch into the fenders and a set of altered ’53 Mercury rings and bezels were frenched in. The inner headlight hood was then reshaped to give more depth to the frenched headlight. The rest of the frontend was shaved and molded in, and the last obstacle was the grille. Justin had mentioned he liked ’47 Oldsmobiles, so a scratch-built 1-inch tubular grille in the vein of Olds ornamenture was placed inside the grille opening.