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Building a ’48 Bomber Truck in 48 Hours

Instant gratification. It’s an addicting thing whereby somewhat suddenly, you find compete satisfaction. It’s the opposite of long, laborious projects that linger on for years, doling out their pain and pleasure in measured portions along the way. Sure, it can be fulfilling, but few things are more fun than putting things in fast-forward and doing what should take a long time in a short time. TV shows are based on just such rewards in this ever-accelerating time we live in, and in a reversal, we now find life imitating art as hot rodders do their own versions of Overhaulin’; we like to call it Over-Thrashin’. Generally, there are no cameras whirling, no lights and no scripts. It’s just a bunch of hot rodders, a good garage and maybe stacks of empty pizza and parts boxes in the corner.


Picture of Gerry Burger

Gerry Burger

Photography by Josh Mishler

A team of real hot rodders, a pile of finished and nearly finished parts and 48 hours was all it took to turn this pile of parts into a truck. It was pure fun and a fine example of a weekend spent Over-Thrashin’.

We’ve got a story of a group of hot rodders who decided to do the final assembly and building of a hot rod truck in one weekend. Now, not only does that seem preposterous—it is—but they could certainly assemble, wire and upholster a truck and then drive it after a long weekend, couldn’t they? It may seem like a tall order to most folks, but if you own a rod shop and have plenty of hot rod buddies, the chore becomes a lot easier.

When the team at II Sly Hot Rods in Brandon, South Dakota, started bench racing, they realized that it was time for a shop truck. Now, the II Sly Hot Rods shop is not like your average shop; this is a shop that brings friends, families, customers and hot rods together. It’s a shop where local hot rodders can come down, tinker on their own cars, lend a hand on another car or just hang out and talk about hot rods. The Bowman family, Kevin, Edane, Tonner and Gaven, decided that they wanted a fun hot rod for traveling, and it seems that each bench racing session came to the same conclusion: They needed a shop truck.

And so the search began in earnest. Well, actually, it began in central South Dakota, where Warren Wilson located a pair of donor trucks on a ranch. One truck was a ’54 Chevrolet with a good frame, and the other was a ’48 wrecker with a great cab and front clip. A deal was struck, and two early Chevy trucks were subsequently hauled to the II Sly shop.

Between making a living and helping friends, team Sly worked on installing a Progressive Automotive front crossmember, associated C4 Corvette suspension, Aldan coilovers, a T-bird rack-and-pinion unit, a triangulated rear four-bar and another set of Aldan coilovers. Custom motor mounts and transmission crossmembers were fabricated, and a healthy 468ci big-block Chevy engine and Turbo 400 transmission were built to power the truck. The engine and trans were built by Tim Mathern while Mitch Meyers and Jerry Schelske came up with some very cool, one-off polished pieces for the pair. The wheels and tires were mounted, and the chassis was a roller. Greg Burrell and Dave Richardson plumbed the chassis and fabricated an aluminum fuel cell for the truck.

While all of this chassis work was being performed, bodywork was underway, and the team included no less than five guys working 57-year-old sheetmetal to perfection. The bodywork team consisted of Mike Linton, Jerry Schelske, Kevin Adney, and Kevin and Tonner Bowman, and while the fit and panel finish would be done to a very high level, the final finish was still up in the air. The ability of the team made everything from Candy Apple to Blitz Black an option, and when the bench racing ended, several layers of red primer were covered with Blitz Black. Later, the black would be “worn through” for the ever-popular patina look. The trend toward alternative finishes is really big in street rodding today, and many of them don’t include full gloss. Rather, mixtures of textures and finishes in varying grades of luster are used to provide plenty of old-timey flavor to a hot rod. Some call them rat rods, others call them beaters, and still others, including our friends at II Sly, prefer to call them bombers, which seems to suit this style of car as we can remember saying “bombing around” as an alternative to “cruising.” And so the theme was established, the mission was on the board, and after briefing the crew, a date for the mission was set. The bomber truck would be assembled in one weekend, and our own Josh Mishler would be invited to attend as both a photographer and a worker, for Josh is first a hot rodder and then a photographer.

Kevin Adney batched the Blitz Black in a bucket, poured it in the gun and laid down a stunning finish without a finish; it was the ultimate stealth bomber look. Proving that some shine is fine, the firewall, inner fender panels and rims were all coated in a custom-mixed, high-gloss color called Combat White. And so, a chassis, suspension, engine and body panels were finished and awaiting assembly, and seats and door panels awaited upholstery. Myriad minor tasks in assembly would be discovered along the way, and everything from complete wiring to bleeding the brakes would have to be done. The mission had a total of three days at their disposal, the goal being to do it in two.

And so, one Friday morning, a group of dedicated hot rodders gathered in the II Sly shop. Building a bomber requires proper uniforms, so black bomber T-shirts were handed out for a stealth look. They came from as far away as Cleveland, Ohio, and some were hometown hot rodders. It was a formidable collection of talent.-

The build went off without a hitch—no clash of egos, no tools thrown about, no storming out of the room or slamming of doors. No, this was a group of professionals, semi-professionals and pure hobbyists that came together to assemble a great truck and have a good time while doing it.

Team II Sly gathered Friday morning. The chassis was assembled, and the cab was mounted. Warren Wilson and Tim Mathern completely wired the truck, and virtually everyone on the team had something to do with body and chassis assembly. The Bowman family stretched cowhide and stitched seats on the inside, and they even had time to install loop carpet on the floor of the cab. The clock kept ticking, and so did this bomber assault team. Day turned to night, and by sunrise on Saturday, major progress had been made. And then at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon, the team came together around what appeared to be a finished truck.

Danny Tesar slipped behind the wheel and belted in, and the big block fired to life. Vital signs were checked on the engine, and several team members dropped to their knees to check for leaks; it was just your typical pre-flight inspection. The pilot was given the thumbs up, the shifter slipped into drive, and the black bomber rolled out of the door under its own power. After a short taxi to the straight part of the runway, Captain Tesar lined up and was cleared for takeoff. Now, he could simply take off, or he could go for a full launch. Being a true test pilot, the left foot went to the brake pedal, and the right foot brought the engine up to power. Then, the right foot went down, the left foot lifted, and the bomber launched hard with smoke billowing out of both rear fenders. Mission accomplished.

The basic look of a bomber truck is hard to resist. What makes this truck work so well is the perfect stance and selection of finishes. A modern chassis ensures that this shop truck will be reliable for the long haul.
Basically, stock sheetmetal was all that was needed to make a good-looking hauler. The custom rear pan holds ’47 Chevy taillights.

THE BUILD: ’48 Bomber

The Crew

Danny Tesar . . . . . . .  Tech Support & Assembly

Kevin Adney . . . . . . .  Bodywork, Paint & Assembly

Carl Johnson . . . . . . .  Assembly

John Leonard . . . . . . .  Custom Sheetmetal & Assembly

Mike Linton . . . . . . .  Bodywork & Assembly

Greg Burrell . . . . . . .  Wiring & Assembly

Warren Wilson . . . . . . .  Wiring & Assembly

Tim Mathern . . . . . . .  Engine, Wiring & Assembly

Mitch Meyers . . . . . . .  Assembly

Jerry Schelske . . . . . . .  Bodywork & Assembly

Bruce Knudison . . . . . . .  Glass, Bodyshop Provider

John Feltman . . . . . . .  Graphics

Shirley Bowman . . . . . . .  Upholstery, Lunch Crew

Cyndy Burrell . . . . . . .  Lunch Crew

Josh Mishler . . . . . . .  Photography & Assembly

Kevin, Edane, Tonner & Graven Bowman
Shop Providers, Tech Support,Upholstery, Assembly & Lunch Crew

And the Humanitarian Award Goes to Barry & Ginny Lobeck for Putting Danny Tesar on Work Release for the Weekend.


Picture of Bowman Real Hot Rods

Bowman Real Hot Rods

(formerly II Sly Hot Rods)

1011 7th Ave. North • Brandon, SD 57005 • (605) 582-3082

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