Edward and Amy Fitzgerald opened Cool Hand Custom paint shop in 2008, and since then have built the company and its reputation as a leader in airbrush, custom part fabrication and custom paint. They put together parts and pieces from cars and trucks here and there to create this bright orange 55 Dodge Pickup with their take on a famous monster.
The picture above, by Enilda Aguilar, shows the magic minds behind this beautiful 55 Dodge Pickup known as Frankentruck: EJ, builder and co-owner of Cool Hands Customs: Pinstriper extraordinaire Von Hot Rod and Amy, co-owner of Cool Hands Customs.
Started Small and Dreamt Big
The raw material for Frankentruck arrives on the flatbed hauler. Photo by Enilda Aguilar.
Edward (known as EJ to friends) and Amy Fitzgerald took the gamble to open their own custom car and paint shop on what to some would see as be a very strange date to commence this type of journey: April 1, 2008, April Fool’s Day. They hadn’t made their choice as a joke, though, and Cool Hand Customs has since then built such a following and reputation that E3 Spark Plugs invited them to be the “automotive eye candy” in their SEMA booth #71000 this year.
Much Had to Be Done Before the Halloween Unveiling of Frankentruck
Frame and power rack and pinion from a late model Chevy S10 with custom aluminum A-arms make Frankentruck something to be respected on the autocross track. Photo by Enilda Aguilar.
What do you get when you slap a 55 Dodge Pickup’s body on top of chassis components from one car and one truck, as well as some that are custom-made? You get what the builder Cool Hand customs calls “Frankentruck.” The independent rear suspension with aluminum crossmember and power disc brakes all around are out of an early C4 Corvette. The frame is out of a late model S10 pickup. The front end is a custom design with lightweight aluminum A-arms.
A Tribute to Creativity and Hard Work
The stock solid axle rear was removed in favor of a completely rebuilt C4 Corvette’s independent rear suspension with an aluminum crossmember. Photo by Enilda Aguilar.
What arrived on the flatbed that day, a barely-rolling front shell, rolled out of the shop several days before SEMA 2017 as a beautiful tribute to hundreds of hours of hard work.
Some Replacements Necessary
Both inner fender panels had to be replaced. Image courtesy Cool Hand Customs Facebook page.
Along the way, the cab and front fenders were taken off and worked over to remove any imperfections. Sections of the body, both large and small, had to be cut out and replaced to get ahead of the rust that had set in.
Before and After
Before and after shots of the front suspension and the mods it received. Photo by Enilda Aguilar.
A C4 Corvette’s brake system from Classic Performance Industries was pieced together and installed at all four corners while QA! supplied the four shocks. The use of aluminum suspension components shaved about 3000 pounds off the original weight of the truck, something that really comes in handy on the autocross tracks.
Power in the Low- to Mid-RPM Range for Autocross Strength
CHC could have installed a big Hemi in it, but this old-school 383 stroker just feels right in the engine bay. Photo by Enilda Aguilar.
Autocross is one of those racing formats where the ability to tap into your engine’s power and torque throughout the RPM range, but especially in the middle of that range, is especially important to road course style racers and autocrossers. Frankentruck’s aluminum independent rear suspension and control arms allow it to hug the track and the made-for-autocross drivetrain gets it scootin’ on the track.
A Formidable Engine
The attention to detail paid in the engine compartment is the kind that wins shows. This engine bay is immaculate, and the perfect cross between modern tech and old school power. Photo by Enilda Aguilar.
Primary motivation is derived from an old school GM 383. This stroked and blueprinted engine runs a Blueprint Cam (.447 lift intake, .464 lift exhaust and 214/226 degree duration, and 115 degree lobe separation) from Crane Cams and puts out a respectable 427 horsepower at 4500 RPM. A special bellhousing was fabricated to mount the GM 700R4 out of a Corvette. The 3.73 gears in the independent rear puts that power and torque to the Federal Tire-shod Voxx Rally wheels when an autocrosser needs it, down below 4500 RPM.
Nothing says nostalgia like a set of Rally wheels from Voxx. Cool Hands painted the center caps with the shop’s logo and custom colors. Photo by Enilda Aguilar.
The engine inhales through a Holley 750 double pumper sitting on top of a Weiand Action Plus+ dual plane intake and exhales through custom headers and Flowmaster pipe and mufflers. A Be Cool aluminum radiator keeps it all cool.
Pinstriped Live at SEMA by Von Hot Rod
Looking at it from this angle, it really does look like they had a jack-o-lantern in mind when they chose this truck and the colors. Trick or treat! Photo by Enilda Aguilar.
Dual sideways/semi-gullwing-style hoods were crafted because “this type of hood just grabs your attention.” After all the body work and the wet and block sanding of the primer coats was done, it was time to come up with a color for the truck. It had to be something different from the milky/creamy whites, cherry reds and midnight blacks that are common fare on vehicles of this age.
Von Hot Rod hand stripes a customer’s model of Frankentruck with stripes just like those he’d be putting on the real thing shortly. Photo by Enilda Aguilar.
A bright orange reminiscent of a jack-o-lantern that resembles Mopar/Dodge orange paint with a paint code number of 999 from 1969 was the winner of the selection process (think General Lee). To make the color pop even more, the pinstriping skills of Von Hot Rod were called upon. After doing some fan work and signing numerous autographs, Von Hot Rod pinstriped Frankentruck live for EJ and Amy in the E3 booth. It was amazing, and definitely a privilege being able to watch him create these unique but similar designs all freehand and with a brush.
The Custom Interior is a Work of Art
A vehicle’s interior can make or break it at a show. It’s got to be clean and well thought out to look like it belongs there when it isn’t the stock interior. CHC hit it out of the park with this interior. Photo by Enilda Aguilar.
Knowing that the whole build could rest on the interior, EJ and Amy put lots of thought into how they were going to customize and paint the interior. Would they reuse the stick dash or would they customize and add to it? Would they paint it matching or contrasting colors with the exterior?
An Impressive Interior
The center console alone took several dozen hours to design and build. Photo by Enilda Aguilar.
Other than the eye-catching bright orange color, the one thing about the interior that really jumps out at you is the center console. CHC spent hours getting the console just right. The result, in our opinion, is a definite show stopper.
Mike's love of cars began in the early 1970's when his father started taking him to his Chevron service station. He's done pretty much everything in the automotive aftermarket from gas station island attendant, parts counter, mechanic, and new and used sales. Mike also has experience in the amateur ranks of many of racing's sanctioning bodies.
2 Comments on Cool Hand Custom’s ’55 Dodge Pickup
Sweet truck, too bad they a**ed it up with a chevy drive line.
Sweet truck, too bad they a**ed it up with a chevy drive line.
Too bad, it could have been awesome if they had kept it all Mopar. As it is, it’s just another Chevy swap ruined classic.