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Big Boost for Blobby’s new ride
Calling in for a sneak preview of John Martinez’s in-progress ’49 Chevy truck sort of knocks you back - literally. If John’s friendly, giant-sized “Labradoodles” – a cross between a Labrador and full-size poodle – don’t knock you off your feet, then the amount of work John has already put into this truck certainly will.
Trick air filters look the part. Body awaits attention
And the amazing thing is that John, who is a carpet fitter by trade (there must be a joke about getting laid in there somewhere), is building the whole thing himself. By that, we mean sorting out the chassis, fitting a custom-built, twin-turbocharged motor, fettling and painting the body, sorting the electrics and stitching up the interior. Now taken as a whole, that’s a list of jobs beyond the reach of many specialist rod shops! More to the point, when you look at the standard of John’s past work, you get the impression that it will be one very nicely turned out truck once complete – probably some time next year.
John's '37 Ford in the background along with Chris Smith and Mark Belcher (left)
No doubt the fact that John has been at the rodding game for many years gives him the confidence to get stuck in and see a project through from concept to completion – pretty much as he did with the gorgeous, yellow ‘37 Ford Sedan that he still owns, and the pink, ‘40 Ford Pro-street Coupe he debuted a few years back. In fact, it was this car that earned John the “Blobby” nickname – because it was pink and had a "Mr Blobby" caricature painted on the rear.
The truck you see here was purchased as a complete, running vehicle, which was initially intended as a general run-around. As often happens with rodders, though, the imagination slips into overdrive, and it wasn’t long before John’s original notion was replaced with a new vision – in this case, a truck completely rebuilt to stock external appearance, but with some very heavy horsepower under the hood. In short, the plan was to build a real Q-ship . . . er, truck!
Intercooler is mounted in front of stock radiator
In short order, off came the body, to be stripped and media blasted, and out came the LT1 350 Chevy motor and matching six-speed transmission, which had originally come from a 1995 Camaro. The front suspension has been narrowed, by chopping a section out of the cross-member, to provide more wheel arch clearance when the body is dropped down over the wheels, which will be controlled by an air bag suspension system. John’s philosophy here is that by narrowing the cross-member, you can retain the standard suspension geometry rather than having to mess about with it afterwards in order to try and overcome any clearance problems. We have to agree that his idea makes a lot of sense. Along the way, the chassis has been kicked-up 2 inches at the rear and a triangulated, four-bar set-up has been grafted in. This eliminates the need for a Panhard rod to aid rear axle location.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the build at this stage is that heavily reworked Chevy motor, which among other modifications, now boasts twin turbochargers. While most of us would be happy with a stock Chevy V8 burbling away under the hood, this was just the starting point for John in his quest for something a little different from the norm.
Performance Unlimited in York supplied a kit of parts for the turbo installation, including matched pistons that provide a more ignition-friendly, 7:8:1 compression ratio, while the turbos (Garrett T3 or T4 copies) were purchased via e-Bay. These feed into John’s home-made induction system, which consists of a pair of upturned exhaust header manifolds with new flanges, an aftermarket BBK throttle body, two dump valves, a fuel regulator, some special, ultra-thick, steel layer head gaskets and a large intercooler fitted in front of the normal radiator.
New BBK throttle body has higher flow characteristics
Spent gases exit though a 2.5-inch diameter exhaust system and there’s an engine timer, which cuts in automatically when the motor is switched off. This keeps the turbos spinning for awhile in order to help overcome oil vaporisation problems and provide added protection for the shafts and bearings. How much power the motor will develop once the installation is complete is still up for discussion, although the kit is said to be good for up to 800hp. You get the impression that probably half of that would make for an entertaining ride. Transmitting the power to the rear wheels is a racing clutch, the aforementioned six-speed Borg Warner transmission and a Ford 9-inch rear axle.
Jaguar front discs/callipers on cleaned up wishbones
Jaguar ventilated discs and callipers have been grafted on up front, while standard Chevy drums are retained at the rear. The truck will roll on original-style American Racing wheels and Redline tyres, which have already been purchased.
As for the bodywork, John has made real progress in this department. The hood is louvered, to help dissipate the additional heat generated by the turbos, while considerable amounts of new metalwork have been purchased, including parts for the bed and a new tailgate, to help ensure the truck is as solid and straight as possible before painting. When it comes to colour, an understated, ‘50s shade of green (actually, Nissan Figaro green) has been chosen. There’s no doubt the finished truck should look pretty stock, with just that distinctive turbo whoosh giving the game away when the throttle pedal is pressed hard.
John talks transmissions with Dave Sturgess and Steve Young (right)
All we can say is we’re mightily impressed with the progress made with this one-off project. John readily admits he’s had a lot of advice from friends regarding the turbo installation, but by and large, it’s all his own work.
Story: Andy Kirk & Graham Jones
Photos: Andy Kirk