Tito’s ‘53

When CourtneyHalowell, better known as Tito, started building his ‘53 Chevrolet pickup, the project was the culmination of everything he’d learned throughout his 20-year career as an automotive journalist and photographer. The chassis being used as the foundation was an S-10 that Courtney had been holding on to for many years. He’d planned to place a rusted and dented farm truck cab on the chassis using a kit from Advanced Design Engineering, andthen he was going to surrounditwith fresh sheet metal from LMC Truck. The build would blend a truck foundation with hot rod influences. Heck, throw a bike in the back and you’d have a representation of everything Courtney had covered in the various magazines he’d worked on throughout the years. He started the work in his home garage with help from his girlfriend Cherry and friend Bill Hancock to show Street Truck’s readers what they could do themselves in their own home garages. His dogs Lucy and Sasha crept their way into the photos, and you could faintly pick out the Alberto’s wrappers on the workbench in the background; it was a true at home build.

 

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When Courtney passed away in July 2011, many in the industry around the world felt the impact; he’d amassed friends everywhere throughout his life. Many looked up to him as a mentor, friend and big brother. But, the sadness began to fade as friends shared fond memories and funny stories about their time with Courtney. A group of close friends,some members of Negative Camber (a club that he founded),as well as many other people he had touched decided it would bea fitting tribute to finish Tito’s last project truck. He never was one to totally complete a vehicle or worry about the fit and finish; he had more fun driving and building them, but everyone agreed that the truck should be finished to the level befitting the man.

 

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Tito’s ’53 is powered by a donor 350 SBC outfitted with Tuff Stuff accessories, March Performance pulleys, Edelbrock top end, Summit Racing wires, Lokar dipsticks, ARP bolts and PML valve covers with a special insert.

The build experience, just months before SEMA, consisted of many long hours, late nights and frustrations, but there were also new friendships, stories, jokes and smiles. The build started the day after the first of three memorial services for Tito at Devious Customs in Riverside, California, where close friend Jeff Davy lent his shop, tools and skills to the build. The truck was blown apart and a plan was drafted.The suspension, engine, cab and bed would be worked on simultaneously, in order to satisfy the time crunch. And a crunch it was as up until the final few days, friends would come together a few times a week and during weekends after hours to pitch in on the build, with guest appearances from out-of-state and even out-of-country club members.

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Tom McWeeney of Kustoms Inc. laid out some clean pinstriping over the green and black paint scheme executed by Eric Jackson.

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In order to get the running boards flat on the ground, the cab and bed mounts, aka stilts, were modified and cut down. The S-10 had been ‘bagged years ago, so a new setup was in order. Jeff created a wishbone 4-link setup with the Firestone ‘bags mounted off of a set of rear cantilever bars that came off of the Currie Enterprises Hot Rod 9-inch rearend. The front suspension received custom control arms with MOOG Suspension components, and Brake Performance brakes topped off with VariShock shocks all around. The frame was shortened a few inches to bring the LMC Truck bed closer to the cab, so a new driveshaft was in order from Dynotech. Inside of the bed, the bed floor from LMC Truck was stained and raised, and an Accuair system with eXo mount was modified and plumbed with Viair compressors before being installed. Once all of the mockup work was completed, the chassis and suspension was sent off to LudikrsKustomz for powdercoating.

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Aside from the farm truck cab, all of the sheet metal parts, trim and accessories, including the raised wood bed floor, came from LMC Truck.

Aside from the farm truck cab, all of the sheet metal parts, trim and accessories, including the raised wood bed floor, came from LMC Truck.

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Colorado Custom 15-inch Sugar City wheels feature the Tito Memorial logo center cap.

While the suspension and chassis was being worked on, the cab and a set of donor doors were placed on a dolly and sheet metal magic and days of bodywork began. The doors were reskinned for a fresh start and the years of neglect were pulled, beat, filled in and sanded smooth on the rest of the cab, a long process made shorter thanks to many hands, including Chivo and Robert. The door handles, drip rail, vent window and gas filler were all shaved. For a dashboard, Tito had already started narrowing a 1955 Bel Air dash to fit. The group finished it and molded it in to connect to the door panels. Once the bodywork was completed, it was taken to Eric Jackson’s shop where Eric sprayed the truck in PPG green and black tones supplied by Auto Body Color & Supply. Eric had sprayed many of Tito’s previous builds and green was a common color choice. It was also a continuation of the truck foundation, his old green S-10 nicknamed Kermit.

 

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In the meantime, the chassis was reassembled with G&J Aircraft brake lines, CGS Motorsports exhaust system thermal coated by Young Gun Performance Coatings, a custom fuel cell from Devious and Summit Racing lines and parts. The engine was an old crate motor that Courtney traded parts for somewhere along the line. It was outfitted with Tuff Stuff water pump, alternator and power steering pump with March Performance pulleys topping things off. On the top end, ARP hardware was used, and an Edelbrock Performer manifold and carb were crowned with a K&N filter. The heads received a set of PML valve covers with a Courtney’s namecustom-milled in old Corvette script by Colorado Custom. A set of Gibson headers was also added. The engine was painted black courtesy of KBS Coatings and wired up with Painless Performance wiring harness and accessories. A Flex-A-Lite Mustang radiator and fan combo keeps things cool under the hood that features a center peak from an F-100. Backing up the crate small-block 350 is a donor 4L60E transmission outfitted with a TPS sensor and controller from Powertrain Control Solutions and Lokar cables topped with a B&M shift kit and shifter.

 

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The classic, clean interior and audio work were the outcome of the efforts of The Interior Shop, Gary Bell and Patti Jo.

Once the cab came back from paint, the interior was addressed. Devious Customs wet-sandedthe inside, and Patti Jo brought her sewing table out to stitch up the Glide Engineering seat with a custom flip-down console housing Accuair controls. The smoothed Bel Air dash was outfitted with Danchuk parts, Dakota Digital gauges, a Flaming River steering column and a Kenwood head unit. The doors were a blank slate with only a set of power window tracks and door handle from AutoLoc. Gary Bell worked up some custom designs on the door that incorporate the logo. Behind the seat he worked his audio magic despite having very little room.He installed a set of Kenwood subwoofers and amplifiers, and Hushmatplaced throughout helps keep road noises out and the Mel Tormetunes inside. The system and truck are powered by a pair of Kinetik HC800 power cells under the seat,and were wired up using Painless Performance harness and accessories.

 

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The final touches were tributes to Courtney with custom interior work from The Interior Shop, a firewall panel and custom emblems from Sadistic Iron Works featuring the Tito Memorial logo, an NC brake pedal, and finally, a set of Colorado Custom Sugar City 15-inch wheels wrapped with Coker Tires and steering wheel with the Tito logo on the caps. The final touch was applied at the SEMA Show when Kustoms Inc. laid down pinstriping throughout.The build process and end result helped everyone involvedto grieve, and the tribute experience brought together new friends and old.

 

Legends Never Fade

 

Special Thanks:

AccuAir Suspension

Advanced-Design Engineering

Alex Anderson

Andra “Andra Pants” Bereznay

ARP/Automotive Racing Products

Audio Sports

August Slivnik

Auto Body Color & Supply

AutoLoc

B&M Racing & Performance

Bad Bettie Designs

Ben Nester

Billet Badges

Bill Hancock

Bitchin Products, Inc.

Black Oxide

Bobby Martins

Bobby McCurdy

Brake Performance

Brandt Fuqua

Brett “Daddy” Oakes

Brian Goude

Brian Jendro

Bryan Fross

Calin

CGS Motorsports

Chivo

Chris “Crash” Akalski

Chris Emblad

Chris “Topher” Fierek

Coker

Colorado Custom

Currie Enterprises

Dakota Digital

Danchuk

Dave Turner

Devious Customs

Dynotech Driveshaft

Edelbrock

Eric Jackson

Erich “Big E”Giardina

Erik Harbour

Flaming River

Flex-A-Lite

G&J Aircraft

Galen Armenta

Gary Bell

Gibson Exhaust

Glide Engineering

Hush Mat

The Interior Shop

Jake Moomey

Jamie “The Canadian” Starling

Jason “Killer” Johnson

Jason Mulligan

Jeff Davy

Jennifer Baker

Jeremy Cook

Joe “Leaf Eater” McCluskey

Kar-Tek

Keith Haymore

Kenny

Kenwood

Kevin “Captain” Kuenzie

Kinetik

Kustoms Inc.

Laurie “The Aussie” Starling

Little D

LMC Truck

Lokar

LudikrsKustomz

Maggie Halowell

Makoto Okunura

Mallory Ignition

March Performance

MC Motorsports

Micah Matthiesen

Mike Peters

Mike Alexander

Mike Cotten

Mike Sutton

Mikey D

MOOG Suspension

Negative Camber

Nick Gardner

Omar Aramburo

Orion

Patti Jo

Pauly Rivera

PML

Powertrain Control Solutions

Robert Curiel

Robert “Tallguy” Kamalski

Ron Perkins

Rudy Kratka

Rusty

Ryan Parma

Sarah Bartimore

Sean Brown

Shannon “Shay” Sousa

Shari Arfanz-McCullough

Shawn Cantrell

Shelly Mayes

Shenoa Robinson

Sled Shed

Sophia Rayo

Steve Kooiman

Steve Stilwell

Street Trucks Magazine

Summit Racing

Susan Berkowitz

Taryn Mooney

Tom McWeeney

TransDapt

Travis Noack

Tuff Stuff Performance Accessories

Viair

Viper

Young Gun Performance Coatings

ZowieSzotek

 

Text and Photos by Jason Mulligan

 

Owner

Courtney “Tito” Halowell

1953 Chevrolet Pickup

Negative Camber

 

 

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