Significant risk equals big reward, right? Although every vehicle feature I write is unique unto itself, all share some commonalities. They all start with dreams and visions, and not one vehicle owner will ever tell you it’s easy to envision a completed project from scratch. What would you do to achieve your dreams? Dan Smalley, the owner of Pure Metal Works in Jackson, California, often dreamed about an offbeat choice—a ‘55–‘59 Chevy truck—and as we’ll see, a decision that resulted in a head-turning masterpiece when completed.
The story began in 2017.
“I collected cabs, doors, and parts to build my own crew cab ‘55–‘59 pickup. This truck was my dream truck, and I was going to build it,” he says.
As Dan was investing in parts for his truck, life sent him in a different direction. Dan’s wife was pregnant!
“When I found out we were having a baby, I decided to sell off all of my ‘55–‘59 parts because I knew I wouldn’t have the time to complete the build I wanted to.”
Several weeks went by, and Dan couldn’t get that truck out of his head. He found himself once again browsing Craigslist for those sought-after ‘55–‘59 truck parts. As he was looking, he came across a front-end photo of a 6500 Series pickup. The 6500 series pickups were big trucks, typically 1.5–2-ton versions. Dan looked a little closer and noticed something unique about this particular truck: it had four doors. He immediately contacted the owner, and the owner agreed to hold the truck until Dan could pick it up and take it back to Pure Metal Works.
“I sat down with my family, and we decided it was time to build this dream of mine to debut it at SEMA in 2019. Once we got it back to the shop in November of 2017, we looked to see who built it,” he says.
Automotive manufacturers such as Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge never built crew cabs during that period. Coachbuilders contracted by government municipalities typically manufactured four-door trucks in the 1950s. Dan never did find who produced the truck, but that didn’t stop him from moving forward with the purchase and the build.
A One-Off Chassis
Once he had the truck in his possession, the first order of business was to strip it all down to pieces. The cab and sheet metal were dropped off to Bo at Metalworks Paint & Rust Removal in Eugene, Oregon, to have those pieces chemically stripped, and the result of the stripping process provided a perfect bare metal canvas. The vehicle was mocked up, utilizing a ‘58–‘59 Apache Fleetside bed.
With wheelbase length specifications determined, a call was placed to GSI Machine & Fabrication in Arizona to discuss the build plan, as GSI had recently begun manufacturing full-frame ’55–‘59 chassis for regular cab pickups. Dan took a liking to their work and asked if they could build a longer chassis for the crew cab. GSI graciously accepted the challenge.
Once the chassis construction for the Pure Metal Works ’55 was sorted out, it was time to move on to formulating a plan for the powertrain. LS swaps have been pretty popular over the past few years, almost too popular by many accounts. Dan wanted his truck to be unique, but he knew it wouldn’t be easy.
“A few years ago, I came across some photos of an HSP Diesel billet intake for a Duramax Diesel, so we decided to go with the different route and go with the LBZ Duramax engine,” he says.
Dan broke out the credit card and started to buy all the engine components. They purchased the intake, billet front cover, and valve covers right from HSP.
Internally the Duramax consists of CP-Carrillo Hybrid pistons and rods, a Callies Durastar crankshaft, and SoCal Diesel billet main caps and alternative firing order camshaft. The Duramax tends to break the crankshaft right behind the first rod throw, and SoCal Diesel believes it is due to the firing order. This camshaft changes the firing order, and according to the company, can significantly extend the life of the crankshaft.
Also selected for the build were a DMAX Store main girdle and Max-Flow exhaust manifolds, Manton pushrods, valvesprings, valve bridges, and rocker arm shafts, along with ARP main bolts and Custom Age 625+ high-strength head studs. And of course, dress-up hardware was utilized almost everywhere on the truck.
“For turbos, we wanted a mirror image look, so we contacted Garrett Motion and got set up with the GTX3076R turbos,” he says.
To protect the turbochargers, they ran Turbo-Guard inlet covers. Cold-side intake tubing and the heavy-duty clamps connecting the tubing to the intake manifold, along with several other miscellaneous fabrication components, came from Vibrant Performance.
Once the turbo and engine build plans were completed, it was time to feed the beast.
“After talking with S&S Diesel, we decided to run their 14MM reverse-rotation CP3 and 200% injectors. Supplying the fuel to the engine is an Aeromotive dual Phantom Stealth system,” he says.
The Phantom Stealth fuel system plumbs right into the fuel tank using one of Aeromotive’s bolt-in hat systems and a pair of the company’s 340 lph in-tank pumps to support plenty of power within a bolt-in system and is perfectly suited for its duties in this truck.
Dan contacted renowned performance specialist Mike Creech Automotive out of Oakdale, California, to build a custom Allison transmission able to withstand the power of the ‘55 Crew. And, after all of the driveline performance upgrades were wrapped up, he realized they needed a badass cooling system.
“C&R Racing took care of all of our cooling needs. They custom-built a one-off setup, which consisted of a charge air cooler, A/C condenser, radiator, transmission oil cooler, and engine oil cooler,” says Dan.
They spared no expense for the rear axle assembly, installing one of Currie Enterprises’ Turn 9 full floater setups, which utilizes 35-spline axles, a Strange Engineering nodular case, and a 35-spline Wavetrac differential.
To get the power from the transmission to the rear axle of the Pure Metal Works machine, the professionals at Performance Driveline developed a custom driveshaft for the application. The truck features 14-inch Wilwood disc brakes front and rear and makes use of a remote mount master cylinder along with a Hydroboost system and anti-lock braking capability. Finally, custom BrakeQuip lines were made for the front, rear, and remote reservoirs. A conversation with Raceline Wheels resulted in the use of the company’s brand-new C10 wheel design, which they planned to debut at the 2019 SEMA Show. These consist of 22×10-inch front and 24×15-inch rear wheels wrapped in Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires.
How do you fit a particular engine and transmission combination into a truck when they were never intended to be there in the first place? Dan explains the thousands of hours in metal fabrication that were required to achieve this.
“We started with a recessed and smooth firewall to get the engine and cooling package to fit, then built custom inner fender wells. One morning as we were browsing eBay, we came across the lower valance that was a factory piece on all large 8000+ Series trucks. We snagged that as fast as we could and incorporated it into our front end,” says Dan.
“The front fenders were flared from the factory for the larger wheels and tires they used on the big trucks. We loved this look, so we decided to flare our bed to match. We ran Mr. Mud Guard wheel tubs in the bed and firewall. We added in some custom billet machined pieces along the way, from the tailgate extensions, exhaust tips, to the bedside trim, and the custom radiator cover. Aloha Products did all machine work.”
Once all fabrication was done, it was off to paint. PPG supplied all the paint for this build to showcase its products, and Keith’s Paint Shop out of Jackson, CA, laid it all down.
“We love the white and matte grey finish,” he says.
Brothers Trucks provided all the miscellaneous interior and exterior pieces needed to finish everything off. All American Billet supplied a beautiful set of machined hood hinges, while the headlights, fog lights, and bed floor lights are from Rigid Industries. The custom bed flooring is from Gatorstep and has been custom routed and engraved to Dan’s specifications.
The Final Countdown And Thanks, Given
No intense build like this is completed without difficulty, and in the case of the Pure Metal Works ’55, the lack of power became the biggest challenge.
“During the final weeks of assembly, we were building this truck under lights powered by generators, with minimal tools and light. We barely made it, but after 72 hours straight, the power finally came on, we got the truck in the trailer, and off to Las Vegas we went. With this truck’s debut for SEMA 2019, we ran into a number of obstacles. In the midst of the SEMA crunch we had packages missing, parts not showing up, and worst of all California power outages,” says Dan.
“I cannot thank my sponsors and everyone who lent us a hand on this build enough. A big thank you to my mom and dad for about a year straight leading up to SEMA, for coming down every night after hours to lend a hand in whatever needed to be done from welding, grinding, interior, anything you can think of, they were there to see it to the finished truck. Lastly, a huge thank you to my wife and kids for letting me build this dream. A lot of late nights went in away from them to make this happen. These builds don’t happen without a team. Thank you all!” he sums up.
Pure Metal Works ‘55 Crew Cab Twin-Turbo Duramax
|ENGINE:||6.6-liter LBZ Duramax, CP-Carrillo Hybrid pistons and rods, Callies Durastar crankshaft, SoCal Diesel billet main caps and alternative firing order camshaft, DMAX Store main girdle, Max Flow exhaust manifolds, Manton pushrods, valve springs, valve bridges and rocker arm shafts, ARP main bolts and Custom Age 625+ high-strength head studs, HSP Diesel billet intake manifold|
|ELECTRONICS:||2 PC1800FT Odyssey batteries mounted on the chassis, American Autowire harnesses|
|TRANSMISSION:||Allison transmission built by Mike Creech Automotive|
|REAREND:||Currie Enterprises Turn 9 full floater, 35-spline Axles, Strange Engineering nodular case, 35-spline Wavetrac differential|
|CHASSIS:||GSI Machine & Fabrication, powder coating by Applied Coatings (Lodi, CA)|
|BRAKES:||Wilwood 14-inch rotors, remote-mount master cylinder, Hydroboost, and ABS|
|SUSPENSION:||Airbag system with dual AccuAir 3-gallon ENDO CVT Tanks with e-Level controller|
|POWER-ADDER:||Two Garrett Motion GTX3076R turbochargers|
|COOLING SYSTEM:||C&R Racing charge air cooler, A/C condenser, radiator, transmission oil cooler, and engine oil cooler|
|INTERIOR:||Vibro Solutions sound and vibration dampening, Dakota Digital RTX series Gauges, Snowden Custom seats, The Recovery Shop in Pioneer, CA did the carpet, headliner, and helped cover the custom-designed door panels. Restomod Air Haymaker II HVAC system with six custom vents|
|WHEELS & TIRES:||Raceline 22x10-inch (F) and 24x15-inch (R) C10 wheels with Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires|