Chad’s First Custom Hot Rod Build
Photo Credit To Roger Jetter
Chad’s First Custom Hot Rod Build

Chad’s First Custom Hot Rod Build

It’s been said you never forget your first girl, your first kiss, or your first car. And then there’s that old saying: “There’s a first time – for everything.”

Such is the case for Chad Warne…son-in-law of long-time rodder, John Curtis of Denver, Colorado. When Chad married John’s daughter, he was introduced to rodding. Over the years, Chad watched John build some tasty cars — a chopped‘37 Dodge 4-door, A 31’ Chevy sedan delivery (was a sedan but…), a ’32 Chevy three-window coupe (was a five-window but…) and currently a ’27 Buick roadster. John doesn’t build ‘normal’ stuff and it rubbed off on Chad!

John’s ‘32 Chevy was the first time Chad rode in a hot rod. He wasn’t aware rodding gets in your blood, he became afflicted, wanted one for himself.

John had been given a’38 Dodge pickup body and bed by a friend – it’d been blasted to bare metal and then he lost interest – fahgetaboudit! It sat outside, in the Colorado snow- got rusty. John hauled it home, maybe build a simple roadster pickup-type but Chad’s hot rod dreams changed that.

The rod you see here came to Chad in a dream. He sat at the kitchen table and sketched it, showed it to John. Chad convinced his father-in-law to give him the pickup. Needless to say, John figured it was too much of an undertaking for a first time build and discouraged Chad. He couldn’t get the roadster pickup out of his head.

Hot Rod Build
Blown and Bad. New charcoal paint, new wheels and tires…gone are the whitewalls.

Chad enlarged his sketches and tacked ‘em to the garage wall. John gave in. The roadster materialized from a pile of parts. Starting at the bottom, Chad needed a suitable frame. He found a ’38 Ford frame and they modified it to fit the pickup body/grille.

A Speedway Super Bell 4” dropped axle, spindles and hairpins was hung out front and a coil-over triangulated four-link 9” Lincoln Versailles disc brake rear-end was added. Chad decided a Hemi would be perfect for a Dodge roadster pick-up, nothing else would be appropriate. Chad bought one and sent it out for rebuilding.

Hot Rod Build
Grille being fitted. Note Super Bell dropped axle.

In the meantime, the windshield was chopped 3 ½” and the original truck bed move to the back yard to became a flower planter. Chad’s sketches included a ’56 Chrysler tail for the roadster – another Mopar part. A crusty 4 door was purchased, the rear lopped off behind the doors and narrowed 15”…rear bumper, too, to fit the body. Mated to the Dodge body behind the doors, they channeled the whole thing 5”.

Hot Rod Build
New wheelwells fitted, new body reveals added.

The Dodge body had cool body lines running from the front and new body reveals were added to the sides. Wheel wells were built to partially cover the rear tires – make it look like it wasn’t just some extra parts stuck on the pickup. A ’51 Buick dash was narrowed and molded in. The ‘51 Buick steering column went in, the wheel was custom-formed but the Buick horn ring kept.

Hot Rod Build
‘51 Buick dash being fitted, not how the side panels of the dash fit the door

The body’s ‘back-rest’ was “rolled” using round rod, the ’56 Chrysler tulip panel massaged to meet the back-rest and welded in. The gas tank and filler opening were added behind the seat and a van seat narrowed. Not wanting to weld the deck lid closed, the hinges were kept and the original ’56 Chrysler key still unlocks the trunk.

Hot Rod Build
’56 Chrysler tail being fitted. Note the 15 inches removed from the trunk and bumper.

The 1956 354” Hemi arrived, a GM 700 R-4 tranny adapted, painted and snuggled into the frame. Dual fours were added and Lakes headers made it look hot rod. The Dodge hood was opened up so the air cleaner poked thru, satin black was sprayed and whitewalls, steel wheels and spiders completed the look –that is, the FIRST time it was ‘done’!

Hot Rod Build
Lakes Headers attached to the Hemi

Months later, after Chad had driven the car one full summer, he decided that dual fours just didn’t have the right look. He needed a genuine blower under those dual fours sticking thru the hood so he opted to re-do the roadster. Weeks later, he took it to the HAMB drags and turned some impressive times. Chad had the car upholstered in silver R and; P, black carpet added to the floor and had the body sprayed Charcoal. Some pinstripes compliment the car.

Now that it’s really ‘done,’ Chad has put some miles on it and he’s garnered a few awards. It may have been his first time building a ground-up hot rod, but you can bet it’s definitely not the last one he’ll build….he’s having those hot rod dreams again.

You might also enjoy:
David’s Custom Rat Rod
Introducing Chrysler’s First Hemi In A Dress
2nd Annual Goodguys/Speedway Motors Day At The Hay Show

About The Author

Roger has written five books about the 1960’s. The first two about his 3-year-old ’57 Chevy and the troubles it caused to his driver’s license while growing up in the Midwest. His latest book Arsenal Code R.E.D., is fiction about the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Denver, ColoRODo. He’s built several cars over the years in Denver, ColoRODo that have received major magazine coverage and won plenty of awards. His current build is a 1948 Cadillac Sedanet, although his current 'driver' is a '55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.

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