The Ultimate 3100 Pickup –
A 1952 Chevy Refined by Apicella Design
The best way to build a vehicle of this stature is to start with something that has never been modified by anyone else. Taking this approach will ensure that the only mistakes that happen are the ones you make. Of course, the goal is to not make any mistakes, but it does happen to the best of us. What’s even worse is to build on top of a project and have to go back a few steps because the base was bad from the start.
Many people try to take someone else’s old projects and build on top of them. The allure here is that you think you are getting more by picking up someone’s pieces for cheap. We’re not saying it can’t be done but it’s often difficult to repair any damage done by previous builders. Brad Apicella of Apicella Designs knows this all too well as he has suffered through finishing other people’s failed projects many times.
Starting off in the ‘bagged truck scene, Brad’s first build was with a Silverado that someone else worked on. He’s had decent success with it and was even able to show it off at the SEMA Show when it was completed. Wanting to push himself, Brad sought out classic vehicles that he could finish and help create a new reputation for himself.
At the time, Brad contracted some of the work out to other shops and realized it was a big mistake. This all came to light when he started a ’50 Chevy pickup build that didn’t go as planned. Basically, he trusted the wrong person to work on it and had to scramble with a few friends to complete it for its debut. Afterwards, he had to start from scratch and pick up all the pieces in order to fully finish this truck.
Brad learned a few hard lessons along the way but was able to build on top of them. At the time he had a warehouse and only a few tools when he decided to take things into his own hands. He hired a couple of guys to work in the shop and finish the ’50 Chevy. The goal was to create a truck of this age that could break into six-digits when sold. After completion, it was auctioned off and the new owner paid a total of $205.7K, which was a new high for these trucks.
Knowing that he was on the right track, Brad decided to take things to the next level by building the ultimate ’52 Chevy 3100. At this point, Brad knew that he was better off starting with as many new parts as possible to avoid rust and pieces that were messed up by others. He knew that money spent on new parts would outweigh time spent fixing problem areas. Starting with the foundation, Brad ordered up a chassis from Total Cost Involved (TCI) and worked with Ridetech to develop a new coil-over suspension. The chassis was then set up with a Wilwood disc brake system that includes 14” rotors and 6-piston calipers.
To power this truck, Brad decided to go with a supercharged LSA, which is a derivative of the gen III Chevrolet small block engine. Though there were many options, Brad chose this platform as replacement parts are easy to find. It was mounted 1 1/2-inches further forward to help with legroom down the line, but it also caused a problem for running exhaust. For the solution, Doug Thorley was able to develop a set of headers that would fit. Behind the engine is a 6L90E transmission, which delivers power to the Currie 9” rearend equipped with an Eaton Trutrac.
For the body, Brad went all new to make sure he was starting on the right foot. Taking care of this, he used a full GM Licensed sheet metal kit. Going this way would prevent having any issues with using rusty old steel. The coolest part of this kit is that it offers the complete cab with doors. Having parts like this available means that you can build one of these trucks without having to search for a clean original.
The products come just as the stock units and that means you can build from a clean slate. Taking things into his own control, Brad reconfigures the mounting system on these cabs to make them more durable. In doing so, the bed can be mounted closer while ensuring it will not hit the back of the cab when the chassis flexes on the road. To achieve 3 1/2-inches more legroom, an extended firewall was created and welded into place. Under the cab, the running boards were made taller to close some gaps and help with proportions.
Out back, the bed received a set of Apicella Designs radius corners for a smooth look. The taillights were shaved, and customized bumpers replace the original versions. The oak bed floor was custom made and has an opening compartment to access the Rick’s stainless gas tank and rear suspension. With all the body pieces in place, the gaps between them were tightened and made even by adding material. Afterwards, the body was worked straight and painted in a custom paint that started out as Chevrolet’s “Blue Me Away” color that can be found on late-model Camaros. Completing the look is a set of 20 and 22-inch Raceline Del Mar billet wheels with Michelin rubber.
Inside the cab looks like original but it has been highly modified. For starters, the glove box was moved a few inches towards the center of the truck and air vents from a Silverado were placed in the dash to vent cold air from the new air conditioning unit. Also, on the dash is a modern set of Dakota Digital RTX gauges and below it is a Flaming River column with wheel by Sparc Industries. In the center is a console made out of fiberglass, which holds the Rockford Fosgate PMX head unit that controls the rest of the audio system.
For seating, Brad ordered a set of buckets from TMI Products to ensure a clean base rather than questionable ones from a junk yard. The truck was then sent out to Ron Mangus as the team there is able to produce some of the best interiors in the custom scene. Along with modifying the seats, the crew was able to create new parts like the door panels and headliner to transform the interior to be more luxurious. Once everything was together, it was covered in high-quality Bentley New Market tan from Hydes Leather chosen for its longevity.
Now in its finished form, this ’52 Chevy is the perfect example of what the Apicella Designs team is able to create for others to enjoy. During the process of building this truck, Brad was able to examine all the pieces up close and develop a method for building future versions of ’47-’53 Chevy trucks. And that’s exactly the goal in mind here as Apicella Designs now has a fleet of these trucks in production. With trucks that look as spectacular as this, we would have to agree that building from scratch gets the best results.