Matt Mussillo’s ’53 Chevy pickup has been on quite the adventure, and that journey actually began with a different truck.

Troy Gudgel and the crew at BBT Fabrications in Mahomet, Illinois, were approached by an executive from Jimmy Johns, the popular sub sandwich chain. He had recently bought a ’50 Chevy “rat rod” truck and wanted them to get it into shape as a safe, low-buck driver.

Troy says “ratty” was an understatement for the cobbled-together old Chevy, and after assessing the project, BBT decided they would be better off starting with something else. Away the ’50 went, and in came this ’53. They found it locally – a stalled project that had been started in the 1980s. The hood had been louvered, the top had been chopped. The chassis was fitted with a Camaro subframe and a deep C-notch out back, giving the truck an almost channeled appearance.

'53 Chevy Pickup, Goodguys
Though the “quick and dirty” game plan and matching budget didn’t allow BBT to pull out all the stops, they worked within their parameters to create a cool truck. One thing that wasn’t skimped on was the chop. Since it’s such a focal point of any vehicle, they spent some time fixing the previous errors and dialing it into perfection. They also tucked the bumpers, louvered the welded tailgate, shaved the handles and pulled the running boards up tight. The rear fenders were also trimmed and finessed to line up for an even flow long the bottom.

A fleet-style PPG Deltron single-stage paint job fit the budget and has held up incredibly well since the truck’s completion in 2013. Troy picked the color and custom-mixed it to his liking. The putty gray hue is complemented with a red leather and suede interior, done in-house at BBT. They also smoothed the dash for the Classic Instruments gauges and hid the requested radio in the dash. Other highlights include Vintage Air A/C, a Lokar shifter, and a 14-inch ’40 Ford wheel on an ididit column.

A trusty 350/350 combo was installed in the chassis and dressed in polished billet bits. The pickup was enjoyed for a few months by its owner, but presumably, the old hauler didn’t drive as well as the executive’s newer cars, like his Porsche and his Ferrari. It was taken to the Mecum auction and sold. It was sold a second time a little later at another auction, where Marty Bobbins of Texas bought it. Marty, in turn, brought the chopped truck to the Goodguys Spring Lone Star event in March of 2015, where Matt saw it and fell in love. He ended up working a two-car trade for it and brought it back to Austin where he lives.

Though the truck was cool, Matt knew a few changes would not only make it “his,” but also maybe realize some of the hidden potential the initial budget might have restricted. The chassis was taken to Luke’s Garage in Austin and treated to a full round of RideTech Shockwaves. The original painted steel wheels were upgraded to a slick set of 18- and 20-inch wheels from Schott. They were wrapped in redline tires from Diamondback that complement the paint and interior perfectly.

The small-block engine was pulled out and stripped of all the polished aluminum trimmings, and then painted Chevy Orange for a little contrast. It was reassembled with black-painted accessories, including the Billet Specialties Front Runner system, the valve covers, and cool Cadillac air cleaner. Luke’s Garage upgraded the carb to a Holley Sniper EFI system and gray thermal wrapping was applied to the Patriot headers. A special firewall plate with the truck’s name, “Hooper” (given to it by BBT), was bolted back in place.

'53 Chevy Pickup, Goodguys
Matt says the single-stage paint was flawlessly applied and continues to shine like a new application. The RideTech suspension and the outstanding BBT interior make the truck a joy to drive and he has racked up a ton of miles.

Troy from BBT says the truck looks really good now, and he is happy Matt appreciates it and has done it justice. Matt’s plans for this winter call for a stainless steel exhaust upgrade and a lot more clicks on the odometer. If you see the truck called Hooper cruising somewhere in Texas, be sure and check it out.

'53 Chevy Pickup, Goodguys

Photography by Mike Harrington