The ’49-54 Chevy passenger-car spindles pinned to the front axle sport Wilwood Engineering’s modern interpretation of brakes popular during the Gasser wars: Airheart discs. Beyond their basic function it’s hardly worth comparing Airheart’s old leaky calipers to the four-pot Dynalite versions on this car, though. Like most quick-changes of the era the rear axle mounts a pair of Ford drums, albeit the latter-day, 11-inch versions.
“One of my close friends who does all of my racing engines, Robin Whitcomb, built the engine,” he notes. He based it on an early-’70s vintage Chevrolet 350 block, which he assembled with a forged crank, a Bullet Racing Cams hydraulic roller, and Manley Performance connecting rods. Dishes in the CP pistons combine with the Dart Iron Eagle Platinum heads’ 64cc chambers to yield an 8:1 static compression ratio, a favorable target for forced induction.
Weiand’s version of GMC’s venerable 6-71 series supercharger creates the engine’s artificial atmosphere. Moilanen crowned it with a pair of Holley 1850-series carburetors that he modified for boost reference. A pair of Offenhauser rocker covers modified with 90-degree Moon breathers flanks that induction system. When capped, the collectors at the ends of the S&S fenderwell headers below those covers feed Hushpower mufflers behind the doorsills.
The engine feeds a TH350 transmission. But this is no ordinary 350. “It’s a TH350 case but it’s all 400 internals: a 400 sprag, heavy-duty clutches, and so forth,” he says. “I’m a drag racer and I run the same transmission in my race cars.” The 3,500-rpm-stall Hughes converter lets the engine spin hard and makes the pickup launch even harder.
“The cowl was cut off right at the windshield and they had the throttle pedal on the passenger side,” Moilanen observes. To make the pickup more streetable he had Hill fabricate a new cowl. To make it plain driveable he had him build the floors as well. Naturally Hill built the three-point cage, too.
“The bed, I made that myself,” Moilanen adds. “The rear fenders are factory Willys fenders but I radiused them to fit the tires.” He also used the Willys stake pockets.
Racers dispensed with Willys front sheetmetal groups for fiberglass, making original pieces exceedingly uncommon. But this one is rare in that way, too: though it came with a fiberglass nose it now has a tin one. “It’s all handmade,” Moilanen reveals. “A guy out of California rolled that front end and it’s an exact match. This guy supposedly did only two sets because, as he explained to me, ‘I can’t charge enough.’
“You know, my painter definitely underbid that one, too,” he adds, chuckling. Rene Crunelle, Customs by RC in Hillsboro, straightened the panels and applied the single-stage polyurethane PPG.
Though now a street pickup, its cab’s innards are just about as simple as any race car. In fact, the seats came from Summit Racing. “They’re actually fiberglass racing buckets that I had to cut down to make look more period correct,” he says. Beaverton Auto Upholstery trimmed them in black vinyl pleats and the floor in black nylon carpet. The Grant 502-series Classic Cruisin’ steering wheel mounts to a Flaming River steering column in classic race fashion: with a quick-release hub.
The truck’s completion was bittersweet according to Moilanen. “Jerry had cancer,” he says. “He was actually going through chemo when he was helping me. He got to see the truck when it was finally done but not too long after that he died.” In fact, this was the last car he helped build.