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Everyone has that one truck—the one they want to build “someday.” Often, it’s either a better version of something they once had or something seemingly unobtainable they hope to own before their time on this planet has run out. For Chris Ortego, that ride was a COE (cab-over-engine) truck. 

“Building a COE was on my bucket list of builds,” Chris says. “I wanted something cool to haul my ’60 Buick LaSabre or anything else I might need [to haul]. COEs are pretty rare in our area, and I like stuff that’s different.”

He wasn’t dead-set on any one particular make, but it just so happened that his buddy Cody Stoute from Popeye’s Rod Shop had a ’41 Ford COE collecting dust in his shop, just waiting for someone to give the go-ahead to start building. With the stars aligned and an open slot in Cody’s schedule, plenty of raw steel was ordered up and put on the rack. The work on Chris’ dream truck had begun. 

The foundation consisted of a custom ACME Chassis Factory front clip, with everything from the firewall back being fabbed up in-house at Popeye’s Rod Shop. The front was suspended with large double-convoluted Firestone airbags, while the rear got a set of Goodyear ‘bags mounted behind the monster Thor Bros parallel four-link and GM 3500 rear end, making for one beefy setup that was definitely up to the task of carrying some heavy cargo. 

As you can imagine, a lot of other stuff is going on underneath the scratch-built ramp, including the AirLift 3H air management system, FLO compressors and FLO air tanks. All of the pneumatic and hydraulic lines were bent out of stainless-steel tubing, and the whole chassis and all suspension components were painted or powdercoated to match the rest of the truck. Oh, and then there’s that 12-valve Cummins that got stuffed under the ramp, along with the Allison AT545 automatic. For Chris’ needs, you couldn’t ask for a better combo! In keeping with the “match everything” theme, even the 20-inch Fuel wheels were matched to the cab before being shoved into the DiamondBack radial whitewall tires. 

Chris really wanted the truck to be comfortable for those long trips to shows, so the interior had to be plush and well-appointed. LB Upholstery took charge and got right to work on revamping the cab. The first thing to go down was a layer of Vibro Solutions sound-deadening material, after which some fresh carpet was laid down before the Snowden Custom Seats were bolted in. Add to that an Ididit steering column with a Ford Crestliner wheel, some vintage-y looking Dakota Digital RTX gauges, and a Vintage Air setup neatly integrated into the dashboard, and it doesn’t get much cooler! 

But, of course, there’s that amazing finish work on the outside—the perfectly smooth ramp sides, the aluminum deck flooring, the polished stainless-steel toolboxes and the rest of the bodywork that is somehow subtle and high impact at the same time. Take, for example, the fenders, which were stretched to sit flat on the ground when the truck is aired out. 

Aside from the laser-straight ramp sides, we’re also impressed by the polished stainless-steel toolboxes, which give Chris plenty of room for tools, ice chests, passengers…

Then there’s the beautiful paint. It would have been easier to paint the whole thing a bright color that screams, “Look at me,” but Chris instead chose to let the hard work speak for itself.  Shawn’s Auto Body got the call to spray the colors, which consisted of a metallic gray from a Hyundai along the bottom, and a custom-mixed burgundy kandy from House of Kolor on top. 

Now that Chris finally has his “bucket list” truck, we wonder if he’s updated that list. Nothing like the next goal to keep you motivated! Hey Chris, how about building a classic mini-truck to stack on your COE? Just a suggestion! 

’58 Chevy Impala taillights were added on to the rear of the COE to add just the right amount of hot rod flair.

The trick bench seat from Snowden Custom Seats looks right at home in the vintage ’41 Ford cab, especially with the classic diamond stitching in the black Ultraleather.

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Shot of bed side: 

 

 

 

Interior seat shot: 

 

 

 

Taillights shot: 

 

 

 

 

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