As we mentioned, the engine and trans were installed in a TrailBlazer SS chassis, which was a cinch, because the TrailBlazer SS was powered by an LS V-8, albeit a 400 hp 6.0L engine, but that wasn’t an E-ROD engine. Builder Copeland says the dimensions of the chassis aligned with the 1955 body surprisingly closely. For example, the wheelbase of the ’55 was 114 inches, while the TrailBlazer’s was 113 inches. For reference, a fullsize 2011 Silverado’s wheelbase is a much-longer 119 inches. “A little trimming was required here and there on the ends of the frame, but for the most part, the ’55 body was a great fit on the TrailBlazer SS chassis,” says Copeland.
The benefits of transplanting the vintage body onto a late-model chassis include modern suspension, steering and brake systems, along with its rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes. Copeland had the chassis components tweaked, too, with a set of Eibach lowering springs and the addition of a GM 9.5-inch rearend that was filled with an Eaton limited-slip diff and a set of 4.10 gears. It rides on painted 17-inch steel wheels from a new Silverado, which had to be modified to fit the different bolt pattern of the TrailBlazer’s axles. The performance and drivability of a modern truck matched with the style of a classic seems very much like having that proverbial cake and eating it, too. During our photo shoot, the Chevy started, idled and drove with the ease and comfort of a showroom-fresh Silverado.
The Lingenfelter team relocated the factory brake booster under the cab to keep the engine
And while the Lingenfelter ’55 has the immediate look of a vintage truck, it incorporates a number of subtle styling updates, thanks to the input of General Motors designer Dave Ross, who lent his services to the project. The most obvious and dramatic is a custom grille, which has a prominent cross bar that houses a large gold Bow Tie emblem from a late-model Silverado. Other touches include a hidden gas door (located on the backside of the left-rear fender) and smoothed trim. The rear bumper was also flipped upside down, so the stock cut-out for the license plate could be used as the exit point of a pair of 3-inch exhaust outlets. To the credit of Ross and the build team, they retained enough chrome bits to accent its vintage style. Many of the exterior trim parts were sourced from Classic Industries.
Given the E-ROD powertrain’s environmentally friendly intent, it’s no surprise that green was selected for the truck’s exterior color. It’s a custom hue mixed by Wanda Paint and is accented with a cream color on the bumpers, wheels and roof. Even the wooden bed planks were tinted green when stained.
The green theme continues on the inside, with the verdant seat upholstery and door panel inserts. They came from C.A.R.S. Inc., which also contributed other trim items, while an ididit tilting steering column was installed with a Grant steering wheel. The shifter for the electronically controlled four-speed automatic was adapted from the stock tall, chrome-stick shifter you’d expect to see atop a Fifties-vintage three-speed manual. There’s also a neatly integrated air conditioning/heater system from Vintage Air, an audio system that uses stock-type controls and a Painless wiring system that was incorporated to take care of everything the engine and transmission controller harnesses didn’t.
The cream color that is used as a contrasting accent on the exterior serves as the primary color on the interior’s exposed steel elements, such as the dashboard, doors and roof. And like the exterior, careful use of chrome trim—the door handles, window cranks and gauge panel—adds richness and classic style.
The excellent attention to detail seems even more impressive when you learn the construction of the truck was put on an accelerated schedule last year, so that it could debut at the 2010 SEMA Show. And while the Dynacorn body provided a great start, it required some massaging before all the panels lined up satisfactorily. Copeland even had to contend with a windshield that broke at the last minute, during the assembly stage. A dash down to Ohio from the project shop’s Brighton, Michigan, location produced a replacement with seconds to spare.
More than the sum of its parts, the Lingenfelter truck incorporates traditional custom touches that complement its production–based running gear. A look under the hood, for example, reveals only the engine, a Be-Cool radiator and the engine and transmission controllers. In classic, hot-rod–style, the firewall was smoothed and the brake booster was moved beneath the floorboards and mounted to the frame. The bumper bolts were shaved and filled, too. Copeland and his crew also took pains to ensure the Chevy had the right stance, with a mild rake that looks great. If this truck is the future of hot rodding and high-performance, we’re ready, willing, and excited to participate.