504ci Cummins-powered 1941 Chevy pickup

When the late Greg Telford decided to turn from two wheels to four, this mean, Cummins diesel V8-powered pickup was the result

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

What you see here is what happens when a biker who gives his job as “self-employed, light engineering” and lives in Castlemaine, Victoria, decides to build something with four wheels.

First published in Street Machine’s Hot Rod 13 magazine, 2013. Greg passed away in early 2023, while doing safety checks at Lake Gairdner for the DLRA. We miss him heaps, but we love that his son Bob brings his dad’s pickup out to play so the rest of us can marvel at its inventiveness.

The idea for a mean pickup was hatched a decade ago, when Greg Telford’s son Bob sketched out a concept. Many hours were spent in the planning stage by the pair, before they sought out a body.

After sifting through photos and wrecks, they agreed upon a 1941 Chev cab that they picked up as a running truck from a local farmer.

Once the body was off and in the shed, Bob — better known these days as Tex — was given the job of taking a few inches out of the roofline of the cab. Despite his youth, Tex had absorbed a lot through hot rod mags and books.

“I’d always wanted to chop something, so I gave it a go,” he says.

He removed 3¼ inches out of the back and 3½inches out of the front just to give it a slight wedge chop, doing all the measuring, marking and cutting himself. Greg leant a hand with the oxy, and Tex then gave it a good ol’ beating with the hammer and dolly to get it back into shape. Then the body was sat on a ’53 International chassis and eyeballed.

“The original plan was to just fit the stock Chev stovebolt six and run with a full bonnet but no fenders,” Greg says. “Then I went on a little tangent. Some truckie mates of mine brought an old restored Dodge out to my place to give me a look. I could hear it coming a mile away — Jesus, it sounded good!”

Looking over that engine, the thought struck Greg that the big diesel V8 would look right at home in a hot rod. Everyone thought it was a good joke but Greg had the vision. He found a ’72 International prime mover 504ci motor, which had been reconditioned in the 70s, on eBay for $1500. He got it home, stripped it of any items unnecessary for its new hot rod application and gave it a coat of copper paint.

The next trick was to get the unsuspecting body and chassis ready to accept the giant mill, while achieving the desired hot rod stance.

“The chassis has been pie-cut a little on the original kicks in the rail and re-welded to ‘Z’ it a bit more and get the car nice and low,” Greg explains.

To transmit the torque to the rear, he mated the engine to a four-speed ’box from a five-ton International truck, machining down the flywheel and sourcing a custom clutch to link it all up. With the engine and ’box mocked up and the suspension in, Greg got a good idea of what the proportions were going to be and worked out how he wanted the overall stance.

While they were at it, the chassis was treated to a lot of cosmetic toil. Around 100 man-hours were spent in filler work alone, getting the rails nice and smooth for the gloss two-pack paint.

The front end now consists of a ’53 International front axle converted from twin half-elliptic to a transverse spring set-up, with Mini Cooper shocks and AU Falcon disc brakes. The rear end is a Ford nine-inch with F1 axles and drums.

With the underpinnings sorted, all that was left was to finish the body with a ’35 commercial Chev grille, repro Model A tub and original ’29 tailgate.

Tex did all the bodywork and some repairs, all without filler, leaving exposed welds and using black epoxy etch primer as a topcoat.

The result is mean and purposeful and, to most onlookers, somewhat mystifying as to what the hell the engine might be! Job done on all counts then. But what’s it like to drive?

Inside, the cab is primarily bare steel, with some gloss black highlights. There are handmade aluminium seats to sit in and the exposed gearbox to gawk at. The dash is ultra-minimalistic, with no gauges to monitor engine vitals, not even a tacho.

“The motor is governed at 3300rpm,” Greg says, “so no need for a tacho — I just hold it flat!”

On first fire, it throws out big puffs of black smoke from the stainless lakes pipes, accompanied by an even bigger grumble. A small smile spreads across Greg’s face and he idles it out of the shed.

“First gear is a waste of time,” he laughs, though in fact there’s little to prevent the pickup spinning the tyres through the next three gears as well.

Out on the road, the truck cruises nicely, sitting on a lazy 1800 revs at 100km/h. The sound, though, is something else. The acceleration is best described as constant torque, pulling from idle all the way up to top revs. It’s different, it’s tough and it’s functional. Light engineering it is not!

1941 Chevy pickup hotrod
Greg Telford

Paint:Satin black
Type:1972-73 Cummins Diesel V8, 504 cubic inches
Induction:stock with breathers removed
Exhaust:Rolled stainless lakes pipes with cutouts
Box:International four-speed
Diff:Ford 9in, Lincoln 2.5 gears
Front brakes:AU Falcon discs and calipers
Rear brakes:Ford F1 axles and drums
Master cylinder:Unknown Japanese item
Steering:Early LandCruiser
Front suspension:International I-beam axle, Mini Cooper shocks
Rims:15×6 international (f), 15×8 1948 Ford (r)
Rubber:195/70 (f), 265/70 (r)