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.

In my eyes everything needs to be chopped, but being that Justin is 6-foot, 4 inches, and plans to log hours behind the wheel, he was reluctant to chop and sacrifice driveability. What we settled on was a chop to suit both of us. I began by removing the cap from the truck and eliminating the driprail. Then, I cut 1 1/2 inches from the front of the A-pillars to bring the windshield’s top line even with the top edge of the side glass. From there 3/4 inch was sliced from the rear of the cap. Next, the top’s windshield overhang was removed from the front of the cap so it could be pulled down to match the cut A-pillars, which created a smooth transition from glass to metal. When it was all said and done an inch was shaved out of the rear, 3 1/2 inches from the front, the contour and glass lines of the roof now reside on an even keel, and the doors, B-pillars, and structure of the A-pillars were never touched!

Although the outside of the truck screams ’50s custom, what lies beneath is all 21st century. The freshly painted semigloss metallic gray chassis was outfitted with a Total Cost Involved Mustang II crossmember—complete with rack-and-pinion and disc brakes. The newly positioned GM 10-bolt, also equipped with disc brakes, received a TCI Engineering four-link. Sway bars roost at both ends of the chassis, and a RideTech air ride system ensures the truck sits right for whatever duty calls. Power is supplied via a GM LT1 engine situated inside a one-off custom engine compartment fabricated from sheetmetal. Camouflaging the telltale signs of the LT1 is a custom engine cover featuring a Mooneyes’ valve cover with a custom inlay. Power is channeled through a GM 4L60E.

The last major hurdle to overcome was paint. From the beginning Justin was set on blue, so blue it was, yet we couldn’t find a blue that either of us liked, which meant if you want something done right you have to do it yourself. What we settled on is a custom mixed House of Kolor Kandy Oriental Blue I concocted from hours of trial and error! In the end I wound up laying the blue down over a white basecoat, and then sprinkling some diamond dust in the clear. Complementing the brilliant blue is a set of Coker whitewalls and ’57 Cadillac hubcaps. Advanced Plating in Nashville, Tennessee, plated the rest of the chrome adornments.

Growing up admiring the lavish show rod interiors, I had always envisioned something cut from the same cloth. Blue Kandy ground metal inserts covered in Plexiglas is what I kept coming back to. However, Justin stumbled across this killer blue drum set wrap, which went perfect with the truck. Therefore, various interior components, including the dash, door panels, pedals, console—as well as other exterior features—received the wrap/Plexiglass touch. The custom inserts are held in place via blue-jeweled CB radio screws, which Justin found at a truck stop! A ’59 Impala steering wheel mounted atop an ididit column was next. At that point the truck was taken to Mulvane, Kansas, where Walt’s Upholstery covered the entire truck in pearl white naugahyde. Walt kept a simple ratio of vertical to horizontal lines consistent with the upholstery. Along with that a custom insert is present in all panels, including the tonneau cover, headliner, door panels, and more. Lastly, a custom center console designed to mimic the engine cover was installed between the seats. With things wrapped up, all that was in order was to christen the vessel, “Stardust”, and set sail.

Justin Hartman

1955 Chevy Truck

“Stardust” by Star Kustom Shop

Rod & Custom Feature Car

Star Kustom Shop
OH  74331
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