Curbside Classic: 1973 Chevrodge Custom 30 – Custom Doesn’t Even Begin To Describe It


Pickups aren’t really my thing.  However, when I saw this one out of the corner of my eye, something made me pull over to take a closer look.  I’m glad I did. There are some serious surprises in and under this truck.


You’re going to have to help me out with this one though and forgive me in advance, I know many of you are much better versed in trucks than me.  What caught my attention initially was the short cab with dually setup.

While those aren’t unheard of (but relatively rare around here) the truck just looked a little different than normal to me.  So as I approached it and started to take some pictures, I took a look at the For Sale sign.


Hoo Boy, it is different!  A “1972” Chevy Custom 30, mated to a 1994 Dodge 4×4 Chassis, all powered by a 2-stroke Detroit Diesel 4-53T engine.  $7500 seems very ambitious to me, but there may well be a lot I am not considering.

Also, I was under the impression that this would have to be at least a 1973 model, not a ’72 as 1973 was the first year for this body style, no matter what the man’s sign says.  In any case, the 30-version would be the 1-ton, it being a regular cab with dual rear wheels means that it was one of the “Big Dooley” versions.



Silver is not its original color, looking around the gaps it appears that it was a medium tone metallic green originally.  Maybe even the same color as my old Concours wagon?


Coming around the front, that doesn’t seem like an original grill either.  But, hey, it’s an old car, we can open the hood, nobody will mind.  After fiddling around with the latch for a while, eventually it opened for me.


Yup, that there is a Detroit Diesel engine.  It looks like it belongs right in there.  From what I can tell, the engine alone weighs around 1230 lbs even though it’s only four cylinders, each one displacing 53 cubic inches, for a total of 212. Not much displacement for an engine weighing over half a ton. But it’s a two stroke, so it makes more power than the displacement might suggest. The truck version of the 4-53T was rated at 170 hp at 2500 rpm, and 402 lbs ft of torque (full specs here). Needless to say, these are very noisy. It seems like it would be more at home in a larger (commercial) truck, for which it was designed.


At least this truck is hauling something, looks like parts for another (more modern) turbodiesel engine and a tailgate.


I thought I’d take a shot of the rear axle and was surprised to find that this was probably the cleanest part of the whole package.  That wiring bundle leaves a bit to be desired though.  Maybe the project is only 99% complete.


Here is a shot of spacer that the builder used to mate the bed to the frame.


The inside looks in fairly good condition as well.  That bench actually looks sort of comfortable. That appears to be a Norse transmission shifter, nicely carpeted!  For that matter, the dash is upholstered in the same material as the seats, both of which look to be in great condition. You don’t really see thick, heavy upholstery like this anymore.

I see the Sierra badge on the dash, which indicates it came from a GMC rather than being original to this truck.  However the steering wheel has the Chevy logo.  Bonus points for the apparently functioning 8-track player.  Alas, I couldn’t tell who the artist was on the cassette.

And another case of a GM doorpanel with the color somehow actually falling off of it.


In any case, it is certainly an interesting mashup of parts.  One wonders – what happened to the top half of the ’94 Dodge 4×4? And also what happened to the bottom half of the Chevy?  Maybe there is another truck running around as a reverse build…I’ll keep my eyes open.

Editor’s Postscript: This is a fairly common engine swap into Chevy/GMC trucks of this vintage (not the Dodge chassis, though). A neighbor down the street some years back had a Suburban with a 4-53. There’s a number of videos of these trucks in action, but this is probably the best one.