A Dealership Promo Truck Turned Into a Passion Project For Mike Shannon
By Fuelish Media – Photography by Author
This 1950 GMC truck embodies a lifetime of work and passion for the automotive industry. “I was born with a little gasoline in my blood,” Mike Shannon, a proud custom-loving Wisconsinite who fell in love with cars as a child and made auto sales his career, says. “My dad started with a Sinclair gas station in the ’30s and used to tell me about selling 10 gallons of gasoline for $1. Can you imagine that?” Mike muses. “When he (Shannon’s dad) became a local Pure Oil distributor, I began hanging around filling stations more often and would accompany my dad on trips to Road America at Elkhart Lake to deliver a truckload of Pure Firebird racing gasoline every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for race weekends. I really used to look forward to these adventures every summer when I was young,” Mike continues.
Mike’s first fulltime job was selling Oldsmobiles at Holiday Olds in Fond du Lac. While working at the dealership, he learned everything he could about the vehicles in his inventory. “It’s hard to believe it but here I am 49 years after I first began selling cars, now owning four dealerships, including Holiday Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Holiday Ford, Holiday Mazda, and the Holiday Budget Center,” Mike says, with a hint of amazement.
With Holiday currently being Wisconsin’s number one GMC dealer, Mike thought it would be fitting to search out an old GMC five-window pickup to restore and customize. This promotional classic truck would also be a passion project.
To help find the right truck, Mike enlisted Fat Fender Garage in Arizona to do what they do best—track down the coolest rides with the most potential. From there, Jason Noel and the rest of the crew worked their magic to turn Mike’s custom, classic vision into reality.
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Fat Fender Garage located a solid 1950 GMC pickup and Jason and the guys kicked off the project by ordering a brand-new REVO Series chassis from Roadster Shop. The REVO chassis is built with an Independent Front Suspension front end as well as a rear four-link and was equipped with Ridetech coilovers, Wilwood spindles and braking components, and power rack-and-pinion steering. Whereas old trucks have undeniable charm and appeal, you’ll never hear anyone raving about factory ride quality, which is why this upgrade was crucial in gaining optimum handling and control and a much lower stance.
Now that Mike’s GMC rode like a dream, the next order of business was to ensure that it started and drove like one, too. To that end, the tired old engine was uprooted to make room for a modern mill to power the ’50. A ’17 6.2L Chevy LT1 crate engine now powers this old truck. To make it even more interesting, a few tweaks ensured optimal performance: A SPAL fan and Champion radiator were introduced to keep things cool, and 1 3/4-inch custom headers along and a 2 1/2-inch stainless exhaust system complete with a Borla XR1 muffler were paired to better the LT1’s breathing ability.
To complement the crate engine perfectly, a new eight-speed auto 8L90E transmission, which GM developed specifically to partner with the LT1, was mated to the motor. General Motors recently introduced this combination as part of their Connect & Cruise powertrain system of factory-matched engine and transmission combos equipped with specially calibrated controllers and harnesses to increase the ease of retrofit installs.
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With a fresh performance-driven drivetrain now in place, Noel and the guys at Fat Fender Garage then turned to prepping the GMC’s exterior for paint. The crew applied Mazda Soul Red Crystal, a color that was first used by Mazda on concept cars and only sprayed by hand to ensure its deep and lustrous finish, giving this classic an updated Candy Apple Red finish. Mike knew the color’s bright, shining properties well, and successfully predicted it would pair perfectly with his truck’s full-figured exterior.
Original exterior parts were used, where possible, including the grille and mirrors, while the front and rear bumpers and door handles were sourced from LMC Truck, a company that reliably partners with classic truck builders. While making some updates, a set of 18- and 20-inch US Mags Mad Max US354 billet wheels with Nitto tires were bolted up. Furthermore, LED headlights and tails update the GMC’s illumination just enough to give it a modern twist. A custom, wood bed was another timeless addition.
Incorporating the warm wood from the bed on the cab floor was an unexpected interior restyle. Tan leather hides cover the seats, panels, and steering wheel. Bryan Cline of Queen Creek, Arizona, expertly tackled the upholstery job and finished the leatherwork with a mesmerizing diamond-stitch pattern. Dakota Digital gauges now take up residence in the dash, as does a new stereo unit and control panel for the Vintage Air climate system. Mike made sure to request power windows and cruise control to complete this first-rate build.
“This truck turned out very cool, and the quality of the build from Fat Fender Garage is truly something special,” Mike admits. “Since I got the truck back to Wisconsin, it gets all the attention at car shows and wherever else I happen to be cruising the truck while out and about.”
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For a guy who was raised around the sweet scent of gasoline, Mike could have been tough to please, but Noel and his trusted talent at Fat Fender Garage applied their business-as-usual approach to this GMC truck project and delivered one satisfied customer.