Slammed LS3-powered 1951 Chevrolet 3100 pick-up

Combining old-school tin with modern-day tech, this in-the-weeds Chevrolet 3100 could be the ultimate tradie's tool


This article on James Wolter’s Chevy pick-up was originally published in the September 2018 issue of Street Machine

RUST removal and bodywork. It’s often a major chunk of any project, eating away at your precious time and money and resulting in more than its fair share of headaches, but it has to be done right if you’re chasing that perfectly smooth and shiny finish. So when James Wolter went online searching for a new project, he decided to go the other way and leave the exterior exactly as it came, making a full body resto unnecessary. “It was always the plan to have the patina, as you don’t have to stress about it when you drive it down the shops,” James says. “Leave it rough on the outside with all the mod cons on the inside.”

Getting the chassis low enough to lay the body on the ground required a slight notch for steering rack clearance

The Perth-based plasterer has an untouched EH sedan awaiting a restoration and upgrades, so he had his eyes peeled for a street-bound project to hone his skills on before diving into the early Holden. He reckoned an old Chev pick-up would do the trick. “I think having the separate cab-chassis construction seemed a bit simpler to understand when dipping my toes into a build like this,” he explains. “Everything just bolts on and off. You can see what you’re working with.”

With the driveline upgraded to such a modern-day level, James figured keeping an eye on it all would be a good idea. The Parrot Asteroid display shows all that the GM ECU sees, while doubling as a fully featured stereo and sat-nav

James’s internet-scouring came up trumps when he found this solid ’51 Chevrolet 3100 residing in Tasmania, where it had sat collecting moss after being imported. It was described as rust-free and still wore its original green hue, conditioned from a lifetime in the US mountain state of Colorado. Jackpot!

The deal was done, and on arrival the ex-Colorado Springs hauler turned out to be in great stock-standard, rust-free condition, although as James recalls: “I drove it once before registering it and couldn’t believe they’d rego something that drove like that!”

James raised and hinged the floor, even going to the trouble of whipping up a set of custom hinges to lift the lot on gas struts, exposing that incredible custombuilt chassis

The pick-up was quickly returned to James’s modest two-car garage – relegating the wife’s car to the driveway – and the EH was put into storage, freeing up a workspace.

Chassis technology has come a long way since 1951, so the Chev was stripped down to its undies and the chassis sent off to Clint DiGiovanni at Street, Race & Muscle (SRM), with instructions to sit the running boards on the ground. Clint set about boxing and notching the chassis, while welding in the new double A-arm front crossmember, which came with rack-and-pinion steering and uneven-length A-arms. The new modern-day powertrain was set in position and a new under-dash brake master cylinder and booster installed. Moving to the rear, a four-link was built around a solid nine-inch diff, and Clint constructed his own version of cross-bracing, making the under-tray area one of the highlights of the build.

Laid out like a washed-up pugilist. Those huge 1950s guards do a great job of swallowing the massive 22in hoops, allowing the skirts to touch down with ease

A combination of Slam Specialties and Ridetech airbags provide the pick-up’s ground-scraping stance when parked, but turn the ignition key and the AccuAir computer sparks the air solenoids into life, bringing the whole shooting match up to ride height while keeping things level with constant four-corner height monitoring. Alignment issues were eliminated by setting up the chassis to run at its intended lower ride height, negating the bump-steer and wandering often seen on lowered cars, while also getting as much power to the ground from the upgraded donk as possible.

The modern LS3 looks surprisingly at home in this 50s pick-up’s capacious engine bay, while the custom radiator shroud and cream paint add plenty of old-school cool

In the meantime, James got busy at home with the welder, installing bear-claw latches, fast glass, and removing the door quarter windows. Making it sound all too easy, James recalls: “I ordered some ’49 glass and a couple of extra window channels and converted it all over.”

Laid out like a washed-up pugilist. Those huge 1950s guards do a great job of swallowing the massive 22in hoops, allowing the skirts to touch down with ease

Beneath that Colorado-crafted patina is a naturally aspirated LS3 that had been transplanted into a late-model Monaro. It also came with all the wiring and electronic trickery to run the later Gen IV donk with the Monaro’s Gen III LS1 computer and 4L60E ’box, which made things a lot easier when it came to dropping the mill into the Chev. Engine mods were kept to a minimum. “I’m not any kind of engine guru,” James admits, “so I wanted something that was reliable.”

Reliability didn’t have to look boring, however, so James welded up any holes no longer needed in the ’bay, while also constructing a shroud to house the new AFCO radiator and thermo fan. The Holley Hi-Ram manifold makes good use of the extra height afforded by the truck’s bonnet line, filling the space nicely.

Rolling stock can make or break the look of a build, but after seeing the cab back on the chassis James went with 22-inch Intro Twisted Rally rims and low-profile Nitto rubber, which nails the retrotech look perfectly. “It originally had fat whitewalls on it, but about three-quarters of the way through the build I decided to go with the 22s, which are roughly the same rolling diameter as the pick-up wheels I originally had for it,” he says.

Lifting up the beach seat reveals a completely upgraded and very tidy wiring installation carried out by Jamie Staltari at ShiftKits Australia

Once James was happy with the cab interior and engine bay, the two were coated in a custom DeBeer cream mix chosen to complement the ageing exterior while maintaining that cool old-school look. Running the clock right down to the day before the truck’s debut at the recent WA Hot Rod & Street Machine Spectacular, Jason Turner from World Custom Trimming stitched up a storm, taking the interior from 1950s sparse to modern-day luxury. The distressed tan leather complements the new cream paint, even extending to the rear tray, where a custom cover was made for the fuel tank. The dash now incorporates a Parrot touchscreen display, Vintage Air a/c and Dakota Digital gauges, while the AccuAir airbag controller is hidden in the original ashtray compartment.

From a simple desire to develop his car-building skills, James has ended up with a cracker of a pick-up, and the future is looking bright for that EH waiting patiently in his garage. I don’t think he’ll need much of an excuse to head out parts-chasing now he’s got this lowdown load-hauler at his disposal.


Paint: Green patina; custom DeBeer Cream in cab and engine bay

Brand: Chevrolet Gen IV LS3
Induction: Holley Hi-Ram
ECU: Stock LS1
Heads: Stock
Camshaft: COME LSCH-923
Conrods: Stock
Pistons: Stock
Crank: Stock
Oil pump: Stock
Fuel system: Aeromotive in-tank Phantom 340
Cooling: AFCO radiator and fan
Exhaust: Custom headers into stainless 3in pipes, Flowmaster mufflers
Ignition: Stock coils relocated behind firewall

Gearbox: 4L60E with Lokar shifter
Converter: 3000rpm high-stall
Diff: 9in with 3.7:1 LSD, 31-spline axles
Tailshaft: Final Drive

Front: Scott’s Hot Rods & Customs IFS crossmember, Slam Specialties SS6 double convoluted airbags
Rear: SRM custom four-link, Ridetech ShockWave rolling-sleeve airbags
Brakes: Wilwood four-piston calipers on stock GM rotors (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood 11/8in under-dash master cylinder and booster

Rims: Intro Twisted Rally; 22×8.5 (f), 22×10 (r)
Rubber: Nitto; 245/30/22 (f), 295/25/22 (r)

Trim: Custom tan distressed leather bench seat and door trims
Steering: Forever Sharp billet/timber
Column: Ididit
Gauges: Dakota Digital
Shifter: Lokar 23in, custom-made console
Stereo: Parrot Asteroid
Air con: Vintage Air