Old American truck iron has acquired respect from all custom truck enthusiasts over past decades. These mature heavy-metal masterpieces have been resculpted using yesterday's design with some of today's cutting-edge technology. We have been noticing a wider variety of early-model trucks on the show scene.

While attending the Goodguys Show in Columbus, Ohio, we discovered this slammed '45 Chevy of Billy Phelan from Gainesville, Missouri. What makes Phelan's ride most unique is the pair of '02 Mercedes headlights grafted into the front fenders. For the past 14 years, his successful custom restoration business has enjoyed building a variety of mild to wild early-model custom pickups and street rods. This '45 Chevy, his latest creation, is also a rolling business card. Jim Weber was the financial backer allowing Phelan and his talented crew the opportunity to build the truck as a prototype for their fiberglass kits. The project took two years to complete.

They started with the original frame, which was completely boxed using 1/8-inch plate. The frame has been channeled 6 inches, and its ride height has been dropped 10 to 15 inches. The suspension package was installed by Phelan's team at Trucks and Roadsters by Bill in Gainesville. Up front, they used OEM Mustang II front spindles with Air Ride Technology airbags. To achieve the dropped rear, Phelan used Air Ride Technology Shock Wave 'bags in the rear.

A pair of Chassis Engineering ladder bars, with Phelan's own custom-designed Panhard bar with air spring brackets, plants the power to the ground and eliminates any lateral slippage of the Ford 9-inch rearend, which was stuffed with Richmond 3.70 gears. A 20-gallon fuel tank was donated from a '67 Chevelle, then mounted between the framerails and behind the rearend housing. It was filled by lifting the rear license plate. Stopping power is produced by front and rear '95 Corvette disc brakes with stainless lines. The '45 Chevy rolls on Custom Konic Villain wheels, polished then chromed, measuring 18x8 inches front and 18x9.5 inches rear. The wheels are wrapped by BFGoodrich P235x40R18s in front and P295x35R18s in the rear.

A '72 Chevy 350ci engine with four-bolt mains and 202 heads was machined and assembled by O'Reilly Automotive Machine in Gainesville. A mild Competition Cams (224-degree duration, 0.470 inch of lift) bumpstick was installed mostly for good gas mileage and cruising. The block was bored 0.040 over, then honed to achieve a nice crosshatch pattern on the cylinder walls. A 650-cfm Holley carburetor delivers the fuel to the Edelbrock Performer intake manifold.

The Mallory coil is responsible for delivering the spark to the Mallory distributor, which distributes the electrically charged impulses through the Mallory 8mm ignition wires to each spark plug and cylinder. A pair of Sanderson Jet-Hot-coated 2-1/2-inch-diameter block-hugger headers flow into dual exhausts bent by the crew at Phelan's shop, then into two Flowmaster muffs. The engine is bolted up to a GM 4L60-E automatic transmission with Overdrive.

There is a cherry steel hood, grille, cab, bed, and front fenders. The rear fenders were made from modified '39 Ford fenders; they were widened 2 inches, then shaped to fit correctly. The reworked fenders were then used as molds for custom fiberglass fenders. The original three-piece hood was welded up to make a solid one-piece hood. Hood side panels were also welded to the front fenders and smoothed. The front grille was split horizontally in the front, to allow the hood to tilt forward.

After the truck was taking shape, Bill's son Vess said that those old '45 headlights had to go. He suggested a pair of '02 Mercedes flush-mounted headlights. So the original front fenders were reworked, shaped, and filled to allow for the grafting of the '02 Mercedes headlights, creating a totally unique sleek, aerodynamic, smooth look to the '45 Chevy's front end appearance. A pair of custom-built fiberglass running boards maintains that smooth styling. The cab features shaved suicide doors, with the bottom of the doors rounded, and a third brake light in the rear of the cab.

To achieve a tight appearance, the bed is wrapped around the cab. The bed's stake pockets were filled in and smoothed. When all of the body modifications were complete and the skin was media blasted to bare metal, it was primered and block-sanded smooth, then sprayed with DuPont '72 Corvette Red at Trucks and Roadsters by Bill.

The gauge cluster was moved over 4 inches to the left and the glovebox was moved over 4 inches to the right. For comfort, a pair of Corbeau bucket seats was installed. For easy entry and exit, a Flaming River tilt column with a LeCarra 14-inch-diameter leather-wrapped steering wheel. Power windows and door locks are all remotely operated. A '71 Chevy pickup center A/C louver unit is located under the stereo. Traditional billet push/pull knobs decorate the dash.

Stylish billet armrests accent the custom-made tweed door panels and matching one-piece headliner. The medium tan wool carpet covers an insulation layer of Dynamat that absorbs both exhaust heat and sound. For those cool cruisin' sounds, Phelan installed a Sony CD player and AM/FM head unit flush-mounted in the dash, powered by a pair of healthy 150-watt amps. A pair of 6-inch speakers up front and two 6x9-inch speakers stashed behind the seats project the tones and sounds whether it be country or rock.

It amazes us to see an early-model truck that has been transformed into a show-stopper like Billy Phelan's '45 Chevy. We can't wait to see the next wild truck from Phelan's stable. Surely, it will turn heads.