By Meda Kessler
Photos by Ralph Lauer
Scott McConnell turns a ’46 Chevy truck into a street rod with a few surprises. Suicide doors. Tilt-forward hood. And a head-turning paint job.
When Scott McConnell’s buddies announced to him that they had found a vehicle he couldn’t live without, his ears perked up.
“I wasn’t really looking for a truck, but it was hard to pass up,” says McConnell of the 1946 Chevy truck that had been sitting untouched and unloved by its owner for eight years. Gray with white pinstriping and a burgundy interior, it was largely original. McConnell bought it — he’s the third owner — and took it home in October of 2004.
Nearly 15 years later, he admits he’s getting closer to completing what has been a labor of love. “You’re never really finished with these kind of projects,” says McConnell with a smile as he flips through a scrapbook of the truck’s progress. Photos document various stages of the makeover, which involved taking it down to the frame.
An avowed “car guy,” McConnell knows just enough to know when to ask for help. He met like-minded souls at the continuing education automotive classes offered at Tarrant County College. He picked up some skills and made new friends. One guy, Chris Waltenburg, ended up helping him bring the truck back to life as a street rod.
“A lot of the truck was original, although it had been modified once in 1987, but there was a lot of work to be done just to get it running. We pulled the motor and found that a couple of the pistons had rusted shut. And that was just the beginning.”
Lisa McConnell, a Fort Worth jewelry designer, jokes and says she lost her husband Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends to “another woman,” one with four wheels.
McConnell’s love of cars extends back to his youth. His oldest brother would take him to a couple of car shows a year, and he remembers gazing at the shiny steel and chrome creations in wonder. While he appreciates the stylings of British classics such as Triumphs and MGs, he loves American cars. Today, he continues to check out shows big and small and has long been involved with the Wheels for Wellness benefit car show (wheelsforwellness.org) held every September in downtown Fort Worth.
“I actually attempted to take the truck to its first car show while it was still a rough work in progress. Unfortunately, the show got rained out.” But five years after he purchased it, McConnell trailered it to a car show in west Fort Worth, where it made its formal debut without an engine or hood, among other things.
What it did have was a striking two-tone paint job combining a flat black body with Copperhead Orange pearl paint on the top. The grille, originally chrome, shines now with metallic black paint.
McConnell continued to push the project forward these past 15 years. While the interior is still a work in progress, with door panels needing some finessing, the painted dash with its updated gauges is striking in its simplicity. Volvo bucket seats are narrow enough to allow for a future console. The wood panel in the truck’s bed contains a mounted bicycle rack for McConnell’s two-wheeler. What looks like a toolbox actually holds the truck’s battery (along with a few tools). Major changes in the body design include suicide doors and a solid tilt-forward hood.
Underneath the hood, the 350 Chevy engine is basically stock, but has a mild cam and offers just enough rumble when McConnell fires it up.
To complete some of the bigger projects and fine tune some of the smaller ones, McConnell enlisted the help of Wes White, owner of Injected Customs in Fort Worth, a company specializing in custom builds. White’s work is well known in the automotive world, and McConnell met him through a mutual friend.
“I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of good people. The car world is such a supportive community. I’m glad to be part of it.”