Hurricane Katrina: two words that serve as a sobering reminder of one of the greatest natural disasters to ever befall the United States. In 2005, Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast region, killing nearly two thousand people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. All told, Katrina's wrath caused a staggering $84 trillion in damages. Joe Damare, a 51-year-old construction professional from Mandeville, Louisiana, was one of the millions affected by the hurricane. As the storm passed through the city of Mandeville, flooding and high winds damaged many houses in his neighborhood. After the winds had died down and the waters receded, Joe put his construction knowledge and tools to work, helping his neighbors sift through the debris.

While removing fallen trees from a friend's yard, he came upon the shell of a rusty old 1948 Chevy pickup, partially buried beneath the wreckage. His friend had been planning to rebuild it someday, but under the circumstances, the truck's future seemed bleak. However, as thanks for his help, Joe's friend offered him the Chevy, asking him to give it a good home. Joe accepted, and over the next five years, this empty shell would become one of the Gulf Coast's finest custom trucks.

Although Joe had considerable experience working with his hands at construction sites, he had never built a custom vehicle before, so he quickly began learning from his friends who had. Work on the truck began under the instruction of his friend Dave, with whom he started building a custom chassis and suspension. A new front end was assembled using a steering rack and control arms from a Mustang II, along with 2-inch drop spindles for an aggressive stance. Joe wanted a modern approach to his classic's suspension, so he mounted Slam Specialties airbags with SMC valves front and rear, giving the truck the ability to ride comfortably on-road and lay out completely at shows. Joe topped off the new chassis with a set of four slotted and vented Mustang disc brakes, chrome American Racing wheels, and sticky Mickey Thompson S/R tires. The tires are a massive 18 inches wide in the rear, giving the truck an imposing presence.

With the rolling chassis completed, Joe moved on to the engine and drivetrain. A Chevy 350ci V-8 was mounted to a Gearstar 700-R4 transmission, which delivers power to the wheels through a 9-inch Ford differential with Richmond 4.11 gears. To stabilize the power, the rearend was also reinforced with a triangulated four-link setup. The engine exhales through Sanderson headers and a custom side-exit exhaust system with Cherry Bomb mufflers. Joe even welded in some electronic cutouts for extra rumble. When combined with the ported and polished Edelbrock heads and .488/.510 lift cam, the entire setup produces a respectable 410 hp and 408 lb-ft of torque.

As Joe worked to revitalize the truck, the years passed and he became more comfortable working on it. Soon, he was ready to reconstruct the body, and although it may not look it at first glance, this Chevy's panels have been modified extensively. To start, the top was chopped 3 inches, and the entire body was smoothed and shaved, including the bumpers, doors, vents, and tailgate. The bed was moved up 2 inches and forward 2 inches, and then the bed's edge was contoured to the cab. To fit the colossal 18-inch-wide rear tires, Joe cut and widened the rear fenders by 3 inches. The new grille, one of Joe's favorite pieces, was carefully fashioned out of hand-cut aluminum. Other subtle touches include 1939 Lincoln Zephyr taillights, suicide doors, and a flipped tailgate that provides access to the rear-mounted fuel filler cap. After completing the bodywork, Joe intended to learn how to paint the truck himself, but his friend Kirby saved him some time by spraying the truck in a vivid PPG Blue Ribbon Metallic.

In order to match the truck's smooth and subtle exterior, its interior was also customized. Comfort and livability were key, as Joe wanted to be able to drive the truck for hours without fatigue. With this in mind, he installed a pair of Pontiac GTO seats upholstered in black Ultraleather. Joe also installed a new Ultraleather headliner, black carpet, and smoothed and painted dash. Interior electronics consist of a Pioneer head unit, four Pioneer two-way speakers, and two RE Audio amps and subwoofers. Autometer and Cobalt gauges convey vital information, and Vintage Air air conditioning keeps the cab cool.

When we first met Joe at Scrapin the Coast in Biloxi, Mississippi, we were captivated–not only by the truck itself, but also by its story. With no prior experience, Joe dedicated five years of his life to transforming this truck from hurricane wreckage into a flawless custom. Upon seeing our reaction, Joe smiled and said, “It just needed a good home.” Joe would like to thank his friends Dave, Kirby, and Buddy, and most of all, his wife Ruth for her patience during his many late nights in the shop.


Inside the Build

Year Make Model: 1948 Chevrolet Pickup
Owner and City/State: Joe Damare • Mandeville, Louisiana

Engine:
Type: 350ci V-8
Heads: Edelbrock RPM heads, ported and polished
Cam: Edelbrock Performer .488/.510 lift
Induction: Edelbrock intake manifold, Edelbrock air cleaner
Exhaust: Sanderson headers, custom side-exit exhaust with Cherry Bomb mufflers and electronic cutouts
Fuel System: Edelbrock four-barrel carburetor
Ignition: MSD distributor, Taylor plug wires
Output: 410 hp and 408 lb-ft

Drivetrain:
Transmission: Gearstar 700-R4 automatic
Rearend: Ford 9-inch with Richmond 4.11 gears

Chassis:
Front suspension: Boxed frame with 3/16-inch steel, Mustang II steering rack and control arms, 2-inch drop spindles, Slam Specialties airbags, SMC valves
Rear suspension: Boxed frame with 3/16-inch steel, C-notch, Slam Specialties airbags, SMC valves, triangulated four-link
Brakes: Ford Mustang slotted and vented four-wheel disc

Wheels & Tires:
Wheels: American Racing Torq Thrust II, 15x8-inch front and 15x14-inch rear
Tires: Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R, 26x10R15LT front and 31x18R15LT rear

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