Since late 2012 we have been busy building a 1949 Chevy step van for Top Gear on History co-host, Rutledge Wood. We teamed up with Summit Racing Equipment and several top parts manufacturers to conquer the task of turning an old beat up bread truck into an undercover beast.
For the record, Rut not only plays a car guy on TV, he is a serious gearhead in real life (if you are interested in some nitty gritty details on the Rut-man himself, check out our blog post inspired by our web lady’s personal friendship with him by clicking here.). Having owned 55 cars and trucks in his lifetime (ranging from a 1966 VW Double Cab and the 1968 Dodge Charger that was Kyle Petty’s high school ride to a Buick Roadmaster Wagon and a 1975 Bricklin SV-1), you can guarantee that if anyone can figure out how to make a step van cool, Rutledge can.
Adding extra fuel to the fire, this Chevy step van is something Wood has wanted since his college days. “I used to pass a van just like this one all the time when I was at the University of Georgia,” He recalls. “The day I went to inquire about it, it was gone. So, when I found this one, I knew I had to have it.”
The goal for this project was to have it ready for the 2013 Hot Rod Power Tour. That being said, although everyone involved wanted to build something cool with big horsepower for the occasion, it had to be reliable and comfortable for long distance drives like the Power Tour. Holding true to our namesake, we went on about creating a restomod fit for the objective.
The first order of business was replacing the stock frame with one from a 1999 Chevy 2500 HD pickup. We modified the frame to fit the van’s wheelbase and C-notched it in back to accommodate a rear axle flip kit. It took a lot of nipping and tucking to get the van body to fit over the frame, but we got it sorted out. As an added bonus, modern suspension and brakes comes with the package.
For the rest of the project Rutledge wanted to deal with the best when it came to parts, and that’s where Summit Racing Equipment comes into play. We handed over Rut’s wish list, and they got together with their manufacturers to make it happen:
- Chevrolet Performance 525HP LS3 crate engine and engine controller kit
- Performance Automatic Street Smart 4L80E transmission kit
- Summit Racing headers
- Be Cool Power Cooling Module
- ididit steering column and Touch-n-Go keyless ignition system
- Energy Suspension Hyperflex bushing kit, sway bar bushings, and motor/transmission mounts
- Vintage Air climate control system
- American Autowire wiring harness
- Yokohama Parada Spec-X tires
- EBC brake rotors and Power Stop brake pads
Other components include a full Magnaflow exhaust system and one-off 20 and 22 inch wheels from Asanti Wheels.
Rutledge decided he wants to keep the aluminum body au naturel with just a good scrubbing to remove decades of grunge and oxidation. That’s fine by us, because although we have been known to spray a few shiny coats of paint in our day, we can more than appreciate a classic ride sporting its original patina.
UPDATE June 1: It Lives!
UPDATE June 3: Bread Truck with a 500hp LS3 maiden voyage!
UPDATE July: After the tour thank you video from Rut-man himself.
EXTRA: Read here if you are interested in getting to know the real Rutledge Wood.