When it comes to custom truck projects, no matter how many times we submit ourselves to the cruel mistress that is a full custom build, there’s always one problem or another that inevitably comes up along the way. Just to distract the custom gods a bit, Craig Rowley tried his hand at drag racing and pro-street after building five custom trucks, all of which have appeared in magazines. But the high cost of racing got old, and Craig couldn’t deny his true passion for custom trucks; not to mention, his brothers from Negative Camber weren’t going to let him “live his life a quarter-mile at a time” for very long without harassing him to build another truck.
Craig has been in the custom truck scene since the early ’90s, and something kept tugging him back no matter how many times he tried his hand at other types of builds. During his most current dip back into the custom building pool, he set out to build his version of a hot rod shop truck, having been inspired by a ’64 Carryall. For our story, the truck started as a beat-up and run-down shop truck in Slidell, Louisiana, when Ty Zito picked it up and turned it into a bit of a rat-rod-styled build. Craig decided it would become the shell of his next creation, so he struck a deal with his buddy Ty and brought it back to St. Louis to begin the tear down. Craig’s dad, Joe “Pops” Rowley, helped Craig tinker, and many a late night was spent bench racing in the garage planning the ultimate SEMA build.
Although his original plan was to build a cool little cruiser and get it back on the road quickly, one thing lead to another, and things—as they sometimes do—got a bit wild. Craig and Pops kept pumping each other full of wild ideas, adding fuel to the fire as they discussed how cool it would be to debut at the SEMA Show. They finally settled on a plan to finish the build in time for SEMA 2012; unfortunately, life threw a few curve balls and the build was pushed back.
Almost a year later, they were no closer to their end goal when tragedy struck. Pops passed away in 2013, and although this was a devastating blow to Craig and his family, it was also the final push that he needed to see his dad’s dream come true, finish the build and debut at SEMA.
Fortunately, good friend Scott Griffin from Griffin Racecraft had already laid the groundwork. Scott built a solid chassis and air ride setup that laid the Carryall out on 22-inch Centerline Smoothies. The big push came from good friends at Sprengel’s Innovative Customs, who pulled out all the stops and helped Craig finish the 6-inch chop, smooth out the body and custom build a hood to showcase the crown jewel: a mean 383-ci stroker built by S/S Fab. With things coming down to the wire to debut at SEMA and make Pops proud, friends and family pulled all-nighters to button things up on the exterior and lay down the satin Axalta Dark Gray base. Really nailing the iconic hot rod look that Craig and Pops had decided on a year earlier, Jason Sprengel taped off a perfect set of satin flames that really set off the build. The attention to detail was flawless and the satin clear buried any hope of finding an edge or a tapeline.
With almost everything buttoned up, the last piece of the puzzle before final assembly came in the form of a truly wicked hot rod interior from the masters at Bruce Hagee Interiors. Bruce and team worked hard to tie the custom hot rod theme together with beautiful leather, diamond pleating and custom touches throughout. Pops aptly named the truck a year earlier when he looked at Craig and said, “These builds really sneak up on you if you’re not careful. You go all out and, before you know it, you’re knee deep and flat broke!” Flat Broke is certainly a fitting name, but none of this would have been possible without the group of dedicated family and friends who pulled in the face of tragedy to honor Pops the best way they knew how: seeing his dream realized when they debuted this amazing build under the glow of the SEMA show floor lights.
In Memory of Joe Rowley
1964 Chevy Carryall
355-ci Stroker Chevy small-block V-8
350 turbo transmission with TCI converter
One-off valve covers
Custom velocity stack air cleaners
Dual Edelbrock carb
Victor Jr. intake manifold
March Performance serpentine system
Sanderson headers, heat coated and black wrapped
3-inch Dynomax mufflers
Hot Rod wiring kit
Performed by S/S Fab
Suspension & Chassis:
Mustang II front end
Ridetech air suspension
Griffin Racecraft custom rear 4-link setup
Wilwood disc brakes
Ford 9-inch rearend with Strange axles
One-off aluminum driveshaft
Custom fuel cell
Performed by Scott Griffin at Griffin Racecraft
Wheels & Tires:
22-inch Centerline Smoothies polished and painted with chrome hub caps
265/35R22 Lexani tires
Body & Paint:
6-inch chop top
Shaved gas door and emblems
Custom sheet metal hood sectioned and flushed to showcase engine
Custom-made rear bumper
Long-bed bedsides used for lower quarter panels
Axalta Dark Gray with flat clear and flat hot rod flames
Performed by Sprengel’s Innovative Customs
Interior & Stereo:
Full custom hot rod interior
1959 Impala dash and steering wheel
1980 Chevy dually bench seat wrapped in leather
One-off custom door panels and interior panels
Lizard Skin sound deadener
Vintage Air billet controls
Upholstery by Bruce Hagee Interiors
Special Thanks From Owner: “A big thanks to everyone that helped make this build possible and helped me see it through in honor of Pops, especially my wife and family who put up with the countless late nights. Scott Griffin at Griffin Racecraft, the talented crew at Sprengle’s Innovative Customs, Bruce Hagee Interiors, Axalta finishes, Greg Gibbs with Advantage Paint Supply, Metal Brothers Hot Rods, Steve Justus with S/S Fab and Speed Shop, Precision Glass Company, Mark Jones and everyone else who came together to help.”