Apicella Designs' Advance Design Chevy
A fresh look at a common sight
A long time favorite for rodders, the 1947-54 Chevy and GMC pickups have enjoyed an extended 15 minutes of fame, and while later-model C10 pickups have become the biggest rage of all, there are some folks who just can’t’ get over the curvaceous figure of the Advance Design trucks. For Brad Apicella, the style has been a lifelong favorite, and he’s built a shop focused on building the very best of the breed.
Apicella Designs calls Phoenix, AZ home, which is conveniently not far from Premier Street Rods, but we’ll get to that later. I think we can all relate to Brad’s situation, when you’re in love with a particular vehicle for years and eventually get a head full of ideas you’d like to try to create the best version of your crush. Brad did just that, which resulted in the Ultimate 3100 on the pages before you.
Considering that these trucks are 70 years old with most living a life of a real truck, finding a clean, straight example to start with is challenging to say the least. Brad looked to the aftermarket to get his dream rolling, and found Premier Street Rods in Lake Havasu City, AZ. Premier’s GM-licensed steel ’47-53 body was just the ticket; no dents, no rust and no creatures living inside. With the new body at home, the team at Apicella got to work on a surprising number of body modifications, most of which go unnoticed to the casual enthusiast. The front bumper was sectioned and tucked, while a rear bumper from a ’54 3100 was installed upside down, then also narrowed and tucked. Both bumpers enjoy custom filler panels to close out the body-to-bumper spaces. The front fenders were extended down just a bit to bring them even with the running boards, a pretty subtle move that makes you say “aren’t they all like that?” Speaking of the running boards, they were extended to meet the cab; another understated change you didn’t know was needed.
Brad reasoned that a brand new body deserved a new chassis, but wasn’t interested in a “one size fits all” set of rails and an off-the-shelf Mustang-II front end. Looking to build a better mousetrap, Brad contacted Total Cost Involved and together they designed a chassis that would stop, steer and ride with the best of them as well as handle the horsepower they had planned. In back you’ll find a Ridetech sourced and Apicella-spec’d four link. All four corners boast Ridetech coilovers, along with 14” Wilwood brakes with 6-piston calipers. A Rick’s stainless tank is home to a GM LSA fuel pump, which is a clue to what Brand chose to motivate his dream truck.
Continuing the theme of using all new parts, a Chevrolet Performance LSA crate engine was selected to live between the fenders. Pushing 580hp to the 6L90e six speed transmissions is no big deal for this supercharged mill. While many will argue that the 1960s were the golden years for performance, the case is getting stronger every day that we are currently in the glory days. Sure the 1969 ZL-1 Camaro was rumored to make 580hp, but driving that high compression, solid lifter music box is night and day compared to the smooth idle and zero maintenance LSA.
Inside the cab, Brad wanted his pet project to really shine. Hydes Leather was tracked down as the leather supplier for Bentley; Brad just couldn’t say no. LS Fab sent their billet dash kit which eliminates the stock radio, and a Dakota Digital RTX instrument system was set into place. A direct-fit into the stock gauge holes, RTX brings the look of factory instruments with a healthy list of modern, late model features. This truck is using our BIM-01-2 OBD-II/CAN interface that pulls data from the ECU to cut down on the amount of wiring and sensors required. Also hooked up is the BIM-22-2 tire pressure monitoring system; that’s right, this 1952 Chevy has TPMS information in the instruments just like a new Silverado! To make room for an AC vent, team Apicella cut up the dashboard, moved the glove box over, added the vent cutout, and put it all back together with a finished product well below the radar. Sure beats a couple of tacked-on vents below the dash! The Apicella center console houses switches for the Rockford Fosgate stereo system, Phantom Products switches for the Specialty Power Windows and Vintage Air controls. Ron Mangus trimmed the interior in the Bentley leather, including a headliner, kick panels and even the floor!
We’ve just scratched the surface of the details and custom modifications this truck has. We were lucky enough to see this truck at the SEMA Show in 2019, and the best part is that we had no idea who Brad Apicella was, so we were able to take in the Ultimate 3100 without bias. Sometimes when you know who built a vehicle, you “expect” it to look a certain way or take aspects for granted. Discovering this truck anonymously was absolutely the best introduction; Brad’s love for the Advance Design has proven contagious.