HPI Customs' 1952 Chevy Truck
Can you ever repay your parents? This is a good start
Good or bad, you parents brought you in to the world and were influential in how you turned out. I’m reminded of the song Momma Tried, but let’s not get off topic. For many of us, at least one parent was instrumental in us becoming gear heads, be it through their own hot rods, an endless stream of car magazines entering the house, long days at car shows, or all-weather trips to the junkyard. Some of my fondest memories revolve around car stuff, all courtesy of my dad.
Tyler of HPI Customs up in Canada there, has a similar story, and felt it was time to properly thank his dad for shaping him into the man he is today. Tyler is not shy about giving his father credit in making HPI Customs one of the fastest growing rod shops in the great north. Like many parental units, Tyler’s dad, Bill, invested his own time, money and sweat equity to make his son’s dream a reality, often giving up his own luxuries.
Instead of a wimpy Hallmark card or a tie, Tyler aimed high and set his sights on a 1952 Chevy pickup. Bill purchased the truck years ago to build his dream hot rod which had been back-burnered for too long. Health issues prevailed in the following years, taking Bill’s time, energy and money away from the truck. Tyler was sick of seeing the man who gave him so much be defeated, so the HPI crew began “stealing” Bill’s parts stash. Excuses ran the gamut; a customer’s project needed a certain piece, an outdated part was sold to fund new HPI equipment, you name it! The real story is that Tyler and team were secretly making Bill’s dreams a reality; the shop was building the ’52 behind closed doors.
A C4 Corvette gave up its front and rear suspension systems, and a custom chassis was built to connect the two. Afco coilovers prop up each corner of the truck, while 14” Kore3 brakes are hung on the stock Vette spindles. Budnik wheels were powdercoated and wrapped with Nitto rubber.
When we finally saw this truck in person at the 2014 SEMA Show, we were surprised (to say the least) by what’s under the one-piece hood. A 355 Chevy is nestled into the engine bay and flanked by a V3 supercharger from Vortech. Pumping 22psi into the Edelbrock Pro-Flo intake manifold, the blower uses every bit of lift and duration afforded by the Comp bumpstick and forces the mixture through the aluminum cylinder heads with gusto. The rest of the engine is built for boost, with big names like Eagle and Keith Black rounding out the roster. A 4L85E Supermatic transmission takes the abuse and sends the twist rearward to a set of 3.07 gears. This thing has long legs!
The team at HPI spent many hours on the body before handing it off to Auto Resurrection, where it was covered in Subaru Tangerine Orange Pearl paint. It was decided early on that the truck would have a smooth exterior, but things really got crazy when the two-inch body-drop started. That first cut of the floorpan was the first day of the rest of the project, and sparks flew in earnest. Goldenleaf Automotive provided the aforementioned one-piece hood, but the rest of the metal magic was performed in-house at HPI. The frontend wears a tweaked stock grill, and underneath is a handmade lower sheet metal valance; Oracle LED halos are frenched into the fenders. Moving down the sides, Kindig-It Designs’ flush door handles were sunk into the doors, and down below are exquisite handmade steel running boards. As your eyes round the rear of the truck, that body line should look familiar. HPI wanted a smooth solution to the archaic bed styling of the Advance Design truck, so they liberated a box from an ‘88-98 Chevy truck and went to work. After a healthy section was taken out of the middle, a beadrolled floor was installed, the taillights were taken out, and a mini rollpan was molded in. The stock rear fenders were heavily massaged to mate up with the modern bedside, and Chevy HHR taillights were placed into formed buckets. The result is thoroughly GM, but like no other ’47-54 we’ve seen.
The small cab was treated to leather door panels and seats, with the centers featuring Rhinoceros inserts; I’ve seen Ostrich and Stingray inserts but I do believe this is my first Rhino! Kerry at Sew Fine Interiors covered the Pontiac Bonneville seats with the English tanned material, as well as the Eddie Motorsports steering wheel, while the floor and reworked transmission tunnel were graced with ACC carpeting. The dashboard is a departure from the norm; gone are the familiar round gauges, in their place is a one-off, billet panel housing the start button, VHX-1100 competition instrument system, DCC-3000 climate control unit, MBQuart stereo controls as well as the push-button shifter panel from PCS. A bold move, but I’d say it worked out for them; the VHX-1100 looks right at home with the rest of the high-tech gadgets.
The truck was set to debut in Las Vegas, but as far as Bill knew there was going to be a Road Runner in the booth. When he got to the show, he nearly lost it when Tyler explained that not only was this truck not a Plymouth, but it was indeed for Bill. It’s safe to say that Bill had no clue, as the original cab he’d purchased was still tucked away at home; Tyler secured a different cab to build the truck to keep suspicions low. HPI would like to extend a big thanks to their suppliers and sponsors, as well as each and every customer that’s helped put the shop on the map. Go call your folks and tell them how much you appreciate them.