Family heirloom 1955 Chev pick-up

This ’55 Chev truck has come a long way from its days as Grandpa’s old workhorse


Family-heirloom cars can be a blessing or a curse, with the weight of history and expectations heavy on the shoulders of the caretakers of these important pieces. Fortunately, Ashton Camilleri’s super-cool ’55 Chevy pick-up, bequeathed to him by his nannu (grandfather) Louie, has been very much a blessing.

First published in Street Machine’s Summer Special magazine 2023

“Louie brought it in from America and wanted to restore it,” says Ashton. “It wasn’t tidy, but it wasn’t a wreck; it was definitely a project. He got ProFlo to convert it to right-hand drive, but then he got too sick to finish it.”

Right from the outset, Ashton knew he wanted the heavy Chevy to be a cool cruiser that would do justice to his nannu’s vision, so he got ProFlo Performance on the phone. ProFlo is normally where people get wild, tubbed-out, mega-powered party cars built, but this wasn’t Ashton’s vision for his ’55.

“I wanted it to have the essence of a 50s vehicle but updated to be nicer and more user-friendly,” he says. “It really wasn’t quite meant to get to this level. I never dreamed it would turn out this nice.”

Thankfully, this pick-up had very good bones to start with. Nannu Louie had bought himself a dry, straight ’55 6500 long-bed – actually a large, heavy-duty truck.

Chevrolet’s range of pick-ups and trucks were available in a dizzying number of body and tray configurations (see sidebar, p.100), but the cabs are pretty much all the same. Because Ashton wanted a lowered street truck, the original heavy-duty chassis and bodywork needed to go, in favour of all-new, medium-duty-spec tin. “The great thing is, you can buy every single thing for these trucks brand new,” he says. “It certainly made the job a lot easier.”

Vintage pick-up trucks, regardless of brand, were never praised for their panel fit or quality of finish even when new. SIKPIK is a different story, with all the steel smoothed to perfection and coated in that awesome custom pastel green by Rob Melish.

A typical ProFlo-built car might have an 8/71 through the bonnet or run a donk with a higher number of cubes than Clive Palmer’s weekly pie count. But Ashton was adamant that his rig be reliable and pay tribute to its 50s heritage, so restraint has been shown in the engine bay.

That isn’t to say the 350 small-block Chev up front is a boring stocker. Forged slugs with a Scat crank and rods combo live in the bottom end, which also sports a mild cam that works on hydraulic lifters. Up top, Crow 5/16-inch pushrods, Manley valve springs and EVL valves live in the mildly ported iron heads, which are crowned by a Holley 600 four-barrel carb.

While they were renowned for hauling huge loads around, classic pick-up trucks were never the nicest-riding nor finest-handling machines on the blacktop. To cure this, a full independent TCI front end has been grafted in under SIKPIK. With tube control arms, improved geometry, coil-over struts and modern rack-and-pinion steering, it is possibly the ’55’s single biggest performance upgrade.

“We put the brand-new front end in to make it drive like a much newer car,” Ashton explains. “I drove it when it had the old front end, and it certainly didn’t drive as nicely as it does now! It also sits a lot different now; we dropped it eight inches, as it used to sit right up like a truck.”

The rest of the drivetrain is fairly conventional, with a Stage Two Turbo 350 auto, 2800rpm converter and built nine-inch diff turning noise into motion. It’s simple, reliable and easy to work on, and this was really the key theme of the entire build.

“It has taken about 18 months to finish,” Ashton says. “The first [event] I took it to was Cars Under The Stars in Wetherill Park. It was a great time. It has done a few shows, but I really just want to take it out and enjoy it. What I’d like to do regularly with the truck is start it up like any normal car, go grab some beers and bring it home. It means a lot to me, and it always puts a smile on my face.”

While the Chev now looks a million dollars, Ashton says there are still a few things left on the to-do list before it can officially be stamped as ‘complete’. “I need to find another back window, because Nannu Louie was a bit rough and had thrown grinding sparks all over the back glass,” he laughs.

We’re sure your nannu would be stoked with what you’ve built his old truck into, Ashton.

Numbers game

Long before Chevy used the Silverado or C/K-series nomenclature, the company used a more confusing four-digit code to break their trucks into light-duty, medium-duty and heavy-duty models.

From 1947-1962, General Motors trucks were arranged by size into the 3000, 4000, 5000 and 6000 ranges, from simple, quarter-ton farm trucks to the high-riding, heavy-duty tray-back machines you’d see hauling produce or steel, or a box-back for cargo-carrying.

The huge heavy-duty machines featured larger chassis, drivetrain and suspension to cope with the industrial-sized loads they were rated to carry, and this can make turning them into fine-driving street machines a much bigger job than starting with a light- or mid-duty truck.

However, as few light- and medium-duty pick-ups survived their life as work vehicles, punters have taken to grabbing the cabs from the full-size HD trucks, as they’re mostly interchangeable.

One positive for street machiners wanting a cool vintage big-block Chev is that the HD trucks were available with the 348ci W-headed big-block. From 1961, the W-series mill could also be had with a capacity of 409ci – made famous both in Super Stock drag-racing Impalas and The Beach Boys’ 1962 song 409.


Paint:Custom green
Type:350ci small-block Chev
Carburettor:Holley 600cfm
Camshaft:Hydraulic, [email protected]
Oil system:Melling high-volume pump
Fuel system:Electric pump
Cooling:Alloy heavy-duty radiator, thermo fan
Exhaust:Dual 3in custom stainless system
Gearbox:TH350 auto
Converter:TCE 2800rpm
Diff:9in, Truetrac LSD, 35-spline axles, 3.5:1 gears
Front:TCI IFS, coil-over struts
Rear:Custom four-link
Brakes:Wilwood 14in discs and six-piston calipers (f), Wilwood 14in discs and four-piston calipers (r)
Master cylinder:Tuff Stuff Performance
Rims:Schott Mod 5; 22×8.5 (f), 24×15 (r)
Rubber:Nexen N3000 245/30R22 (f), Pirelli P-Zero Nero 405/25R24 (r)

My family all for their support, especially my dad, Jason, and fiancée Renee; Paul Sant and the team at ProFlo Performance for the driveline build and fabrication; Mark Sant at Ontrak Auto Electrical; Bruce Martin for the trim; Rob Melish and the boys for the body and paint; Deyan for the timber tray; Geoff Warleigh at Premier Awards for the rear window; Daniel at Killer Finish for the detail.