You Can’t Rush Great Art

In those golden olden days of the last century, when you wanted to learn a trade, you apprenticed under a master craftsman. When he felt that you were ready, he would assign you a masterpiece and your work would be evaluated by the Craft Guild. Your entry into your chosen field would be dependent on the quality of your work. While the Guild and its evaluation process may be gone, the desire to create a masterpiece is still alive and well. 

As a student in Wyotech at the Laramie, Wyoming campus, Justin Short learned from the best. He’s always been into cool rides, thanks to growing up in an automotive-oriented family where Dad encouraged a love for cars and trucks at an early age. The experts at Wyotech developed Justin’s natural talent and enthusiasm, preparing him for a job in the automotive industry. He’s been making a living as a painter for the last 20 years and throughout that time he’s been collecting ideas for his personal masterpiece. In fact, he found his ’69 Chevy K-5 Blazer while he was at Wyotech, buying it because that model had been his original dream ride ever since he saw a K5 Blazer in an Air Ride Technologies brochure. He transported the rough project vehicle back to his home in Tullahoma, Tennessee, storing it for more than five years while he developed a plan and acquired the funds. 

When work finally began, the forty-year-old body was rough since some areas were only held together with good intentions. Separating the body from the chassis, modifications began with boxed rails, a C-notch in the rear with steel wheel tubs, and a Z-notch upfront. Fortunately, the frame on the Blazer does not hang down below the body so it was somewhat easier to get that ground-scrapin’ stance, with the Z-notch accounting for much of the drop. The open space between the rear frame rails was the perfect slot for the new 17-gallon aluminum tank. Front suspension upgrades began with a late model GM truck power rack and pinion steering, Ride Tech shocks, GM disc brakes, and 2.5-inch Mcgaughy’s drop spindles.

In the rear, a triangulated Thorbecke 4-link holds the GM 12-bolt, fitted with an Auburn Locker and 3.73 gears as well as GM disc brakes and Ride Tech shocks. Since a lowered profile was always part of Justin’s masterpiece image, the suspension uses a pair of Viair 480 compressors that fill a 5-gallon reserve tank and activate four Firestone 2600 pound bags using Big Red valves and 3/8-inch steel braided lines. Dakota Digital gauges on the dash keep track. The modified rails got rolling with tall Hipnotic Roxstar rims, fitting 20s up front and 22s in the rear. Nitto 35-series rubber keeps the Blazer in close contact with the asphalt. 

Power was next on the list and the vintage ride moves quick, thanks to its small block 350 running a hot rodder’s dream sheet of performance parts. The engine was fitted with a steel crank, Speed Pro 10:1 pistons, Comp Big Mutha Thumper cam, Comp retro fit roller lifters, and a Cloyes gear drive. A Holley Street Avenger 670 carb sits on a polished Professional Products intake sending the fuel/air mix to Edelbrock Performer polished aluminum heads. A GM HEI distributor creates precisely timed explosions while stainless Block Hugger headers scavenge spent gasses, using a 2.5 inch system and dual Flowmaster 40-series mufflers. The mellow rumble from the side-exiting exhausts let you know this is more than just another pretty face. Justin chose a Be Cool radiator and dual electric fans to ensure the ride ran as cool as it looked. Power from the V-8 is multiplied by a GM TH400 trans with a 2800 RPM stall speed and a TransGo shift kit.

Once the chassis and power train were complete, body mods were next on the agenda. Since Blazers never came with rigid tops and Justin liked it that way, he decided to make his a full-time roadster, chopping the windshield and adding a tilt-forward hood along with a custom grille and roll pan. In the rear, he rounded the corners of the body and punched louvers in the welded tailgate, now sporting ’39 Ford-style taillights. Sheet metal caps were added to the tops of both doors. Since Justin’s specialty is paint, he wrapped up the exterior spraying complimentary shades of Scarlet Red and White Diamond.  

Moving to the interior, the unique design was also part of the master plan, beginning with the four custom seats. Justin ordered a frame and foam kit and tasking the team at Tullahoma Seat Covers to put the package together using a combination of black vinyl and white ostrich. While they were hard at work, Justin built the dash from fiberglass, creating a custom center console that holds the new digital instrument package. The chrome gauge pod was designed for late fifties trucks, adapted to fit, and a Billet Specialties wheel sits on a Flaming River column. Every automotive masterpiece worth its trophy deserves a quality stereo and plenty of volume is always an important consideration in an open air truck. The Blazer runs a Pioneer head unit to control the pair of Massive Audio amps inset into the rear deck. The first four-channel amp powers four 6.5-inch Cerwin-Vega component sets and the second mono amp lights up the pair of Pioneer Champion Series 10-inch subs. Twin Optima Red Tops ensure plenty of juice.

You can’t hurry a masterpiece, especially when it defines your reputation. And when the only time you have to work is after customer cars are done, creating great art takes a while. Justin spent about 10 years on his project, doing everything himself including the body, paint, and engine work, only farming out the upholstery. His father, William (‘Willie T’) Short was a big help with Dad handling the wiring. (It’s also really nice that the truck is stored in Dad’s garage!) Since a masterpiece is often a continuously refined work of art, future plans call for a woody-style top, maybe even accented with a surfboard. Looking back on old traditions, we are certain that the Guild would be proud to accept Justin and his modern masterpiece with open arms!

Justin Short
1969 Chevy K5 Blazer
Tullahoma, Tennessee

1969 Chevy 350
Steel crank
Speed Pro 10:1 Pistons
High-volume oil pump
Comp Big Mutha Thumpa cam
Cloyes gear drive
Comp retro fit roller lifters
Holly Street Avenger 670 carburetor
Professional Products polished aluminum intake
GM HEI ignition
Stainless Block Hugger headers
Summit electric cutouts
Flowmaster 40-series mufflers
Billet Specialties engine pulleys
Aluminum water pump
Dual electric fans
Champion radiator
GM 100 amp alternator
GM TH400 transmission
Jeg’s 2800 RPM stall converter
TransGo shift kit
Transmission work by Rodney Hall of Rodney’s Body Shop in Tullahoma, TN

Frame was boxed, notched, Z’d, smoothed, and painted.
GM truck power rack and pinion steering with GM disc brakes
2.5-inch Mcgaughy’s drop spindles.
Triangulated Thorbecke 4-link
GM 12-bolt rear, 3.73 gears and Auburn Locker
Disk brakes on all four wheels
Ride Tech shocks on all four wheels
Firestone 2600 pound bags on all four wheels
Dual Viair 480 compressors
Big Red valves
Steel braided 3/8-inch lines
5-gallon reserve tank

Red Hipnotic Roxstar rims, 20 x 8.5 in front, 22 x 9.5 in the rear
Nitto 255/35-R20 front, 265/35-R22 rear.

Full-time roadster
Windshield chopped three inches
Sheet metal caps on the doors
Tilt-forward hood
Custom grille and smooth pan
Rounded rear corners
Louvers in the welded tailgate
’39 Ford-style Devil Face taillights.
PPG base/clear, Scarlet Red and White Diamond.  

Shop: Tullahoma Seat Cover and owner
Two custom buckets, rear bench seat, and matching door panels
Black vinyl with white ostrich inserts
Custom center console with Dakota Digital gauges in a chrome surround
Billet Specialties wheel on a Flaming River column
Pioneer AVH-P4200 DVD head unit
Two Massive Audio amps Four 6.5-inch Cerwin-Vega component sets
Two Pioneer Champion Series 10-inch subs.
Two Optima Red Top batteries