Unlike snowbirds that instinctively head for warmer climates when winter arrives, full-time northern enthusiasts need to find ways to keep occupied and warm when the neighborhood gets around 170 inches of snow each year. One of the best ways is what Watertown, New York’s Robert DeLong did; find a classic 1949 Chevy truck and work on it until it is just to your liking. With the help of his friend and fellow Chevy enthusiast, Randy, the two used this off-season of hot rodding to update Robert’s truck accordingly.
Robert made the most of past seasons during white-and-fluffy weather by working on his other Chevys. He’s had modern muscle, such as a 2018 Camaro SS, some modern sports cars, and a blown 1966 Chevelle SS396 to help keep him warm on those long, wintry days and nights. Randy allowed Robert to use his heated garage this past winter and the two set out to work on the truck, making it exactly what Robert wanted.
Robert, who lives just a stone’s throw away from the Canadian border, found this truck in September of 2022, located even closer to the nation’s upper border in Clayton, New York. The previous owner enjoyed the pickup for a few years, originally purchasing it from a gentleman in Wyoming about eight years prior.
When Robert purchased the truck, it had already been putting on the highway miles, thanks to a conversion to a 2002 long-wheelbase Chevy S10 chassis underneath. The chassis retains the stock S10 differential, but the swap updated the 1949 Chevy truck’s stopping with a full round of disc brakes. Initially, the truck was powered by a 1979, smog-era 350 that might have been able to eke out 175 horsepower on a good day.
Robert told us that while the V8 conversion was engineered pretty well, it was obvious that the truck’s engine could use an update, so that’s exactly what he did! Just three weeks after purchasing the truck, Robert began making it more to his liking. The shop truck theme is still going strong, but being a Harley Davidson enthusiast, Robert wanted a way to combine his two hobbies.
It had a Voodoo cam which was wasted on those stock, smog heads, and the tired engine could be best described as a leaker as well as a burner. – Robert DeLong
The plan was to carry the iconic company’s black and orange theme into the design of the truck. That way, Robert could still enjoy being immersed in the brand when the weather isn’t quite right for riding. The truck already has the cool matte black finish and the pinstriping and Robert wanted to incorporate the H-D styling to finish the look.
Beyond that, Robert’s main focus was to update the powertrain to put a little more pick-up in his pickup. Instead of rebuilding the tired small-block Chevy, Robert contacted the folks at Blueprint Engines for a complete crate engine. Blueprint Engines creates each package as a high-performance, drop-in powerplant. There was no doubt the new engine would bring substantially more horsepower than the old, smog-ladened V8 currently powering the truck. In Robert’s case, the crate for his new small-block came full of 360 horsepower, which will make this truck fun to drive, but not crazy like his blown big-block Chevelle.
Behind that new engine, there now resides a B&M Street/Strip T350 transmission. Now, with that fresh engine, shifts are super-firm and those rear tires leave a little scratch mark on the asphalt if Robert isn’t judicious with the tall, skinny pedal. To make sure he always finds the proper gear, Robert also swapped to a B&M MegaShifter inside the truck.
Small-Block Chevy Swapping
The uniform nature of Chevy’s design simplifies swapping in a small-block Chevy engine, especially if there was one installed already. But, in this case, Robert was making the vintage 1949 Chevy truck more to his liking, so that meant a few changes were necessary. To start, a set of headers would help the new engine breathe and give it a better sound than those factory manifolds. They look better too! He also swapped out the existing turbo mufflers for a set of sweet-sounding Cherry Bombs.
The headers meant the steering shaft needed to be rerouted so it didn’t interfere with the exhaust flow. Robert adjusted the Ididit column slightly to give the steering shafts and universal joints better alignment and to give a nicer angle to the steering column inside the cab. There was also some interference with the mechanical fuel pump on the other side of the engine. It would hit the suspension’s upper control arm. Robert quickly realized why an external fuel pump was originally used in the installation so many years ago. The new Blueprint engine also featured a Holley carb, so Robert massaged the linkage mounts to fit the new four-barrel.
With everything bolted in place, Robert said the engine fired within seconds during its first start. He attributes the quick response to ordering the complete engine package and Blueprint’s original setup. He did modify the engine slightly with a dress-up kit to add a little touch of Chevy orange atop the aluminum heads and intake of the engine.
The outside of the truck was pretty much how Robert envisioned it, save for just a few touches. There is an old Coleman cooler that Robert modified and mounted in the back of the truck for additional storage of ice and beverages, and the Harley shop-truck theme could lead to a vintage-looking “Bar & Shield” logo on the doors sometime in the future.
Now that spring has sprung, Robert is ready to start putting miles of smiles on his ’49 Chevy. He has several local cruises planned and intends on visiting Clayton, New York, where the previous owner lives, to show him the upgrades completed over the winter. From there, Robert is going to enjoy his new-to-him 1949 Chevy pickup as much as he can before winter weather falls upon the area once again. Then, we’re sure he’ll have something else to bide his time. We’ll just have to wait and see if it entails this cool little ride, or if there’s another one down the road.