Last updated Oct 20, 2011
Incredible 1937 Ford custom pickup nicknamed “Grave Digger.” With virtually
every single component on this vehicle being hand-made, it’s the kind of truck
that you could own for years and still not see every trick detail that went into
With a name like Grave Digger, your first instinct might be to think of the
monster truck by the same name, but you’d be mistaken—this truck is pretty much
the exact opposite of those jacked-up car smashers. Instead, it’s a slammed,
flamed, and channeled custom that can draw crowds without crushing a single
hubcap. When you set your sights on winning show trophies, you know that every
single detail has to be right, and as a result, show-winning trucks like this
one are so carefully assembled that they really are more than just cars. Every
component is carefully selected after considering how it will look and function
as part of the total package. Of course, that kind of workmanship isn’t cheap,
and building a truck like this costs cubic dollars—in the case of Grave Digger ...
The body is a fiberglass piece from Wildrod, a radical dream truck that the
original Ford designers never could have envisioned in the 1930s. It blends the
nose and passenger compartment of a ’37 3-window coupe with a mythical (and
functional) pickup truck bed. Of course, everything was laid-back, chopped,
smoothed, and tweaked to get just the right look that’s both vintage and
aggressive, with a killer stance. There are ten coats of mirror black lacquer on
the body, which gives it that astounding miles deep look that only flawless
black can deliver. Then they added five airbrushed murals, including the unique
flame-inspired graphics on the hood panels that look almost 3-dimensional with
subtle shadows and layers that you really need to see in person. The tailgate
features a matching mural with some skulls and the truck’s name just for fun.
And, of course, with that big fiberglass bed cover, you have the perfect canvas
for a cityscape that reminds you of Las Vegas for the undead. When you pop the
hood, you’ll find one more mural, a laughing skull on the underside that seems
to be keeping guard over the small block underneath. When the murals were
finished, they were all buried under another few coats of clear. Cost of all
that paintwork? About the same as a new BMW.!!
Up front, you’ll find a polished stainless steel grille that draws on the ’37
Ford piece for inspiration, but is completely custom. The teardrop headlights
are also very similar to the OEM Ford pieces and include built-in turn signal
indicators to keep the nose smooth. They also perfectly compliment the cat’s eye
taillights out back. Billet “peep” mirrors have been added for safety (because
this is a very drivable piece), and all the glass is custom-cut for just this
application. You’ll note that there are no exterior door handles interrupting
the smooth flow of black lacquer, because those suicide doors are actuated by
remote door poppers, for some vintage flair, the running boards have been
retained, which actually enhance the truck’s long, low appearance.
Grave Digger is no lightweight in the power department. The engine is a crate GM
350 that has been fully dressed for show, but packs plenty of go just in case.
Up top, you’ll notice a pair of 4-barrel carburetors, which help this potent
small block crank out an estimated 450 horsepower—plenty in a lightweight
vehicle like this one. The valve covers and air cleaner form a matching set, and
anything in the engine compartment that wasn’t polished or chromed was painted
in more of that jet black lacquer. MSD supplied the ignition system, while a Be
Cool radiator and fan assembly keep it cool, even on the hottest days with the
A/C cranking. Also notice the billet accessory drive setup, which includes power
steering, all from March and all polished like chrome. A pair of shorty headers
from Hooker take care of the exhaust, feeding a true dual exhaust system with
Flowmaster mufflers and chrome tips at the rear.
If you think the engine is impressive, wait until you see the chassis! Riding on
a fully adjustable Air Ride setup, each corner is individually adjustable for
that “in the weeds” look while you’re parked, but enough ground clearance to
protect that beautiful black paint on the road. Up front, there are tubular
A-arms (fully chromed, of course), while out back there’s a 4-link holding up a
durable Ford 9-inch rear with 3.70 gears and 31-spline axles. The frame itself
is a custom-built unit that was painted to match the body and provides the
perfect backdrop for all the polished bits and pieces. The transmission is a
built 700R4 automatic overdrive unit that has been treated to its own fluid
cooler for long-term durability. I always make a point of looking at how
carefully assembled the chassis on hot rods are assembled. An awful lot of
builders cut corners here, knowing that the underside will rarely be seen. But
on the very best builds, every detail is as carefully finished and engineered as
the engine bay and interior, which is case with Grave Digger. Look at the
contrast between the satin black exhaust system and brightly plated hardware,
the way the hoses and wiring have been carefully routed and expertly secured,
and how someone clearly cared about how it looked beyond how it would function.
As I said, that’s the hallmark of a top-flight piece.
Rolling stock is another important consideration in any custom build, and the
wrong wheels can erase a lot of quality work. Fortunately, the designers got it
right on Grave Digger, asking Boyd Coddington to whittle up some custom hoops
for this truck that are completely unique. Drawing inspiration from traditional
Torq-Thrusts, they’re an updated version with a razor-sharp edge that gives a
lot of definition to the spoke. The centers were powdercoated black to match the
body, while the rims were polished to provide some contrast. And they didn’t go
outrageously big on this car, either, which you’ll appreciate from behind the
wheel: 18s up front and 20s out back. It’s enough to put a great rake on the
car, but not so much that you feel like you’re driving around in a boxcar.
Wheels are spectacular frames for the vented and cross-drilled Wilwood disc
brakes, which feature blue powder coated calipers that match the graphics on the
At this point, you know they didn’t just phone it in with the interior. Most
rods have nice interiors, but they’re predictable. Not in this case. That’s gray
leather with super-cool snakeskin inserts that fit perfectly with the theme of
the truck. The patterns mimic the murals on the hood panels, and despite the
truck’s compact dimensions, it’s a very comfortable place to spend some time.
The dashboard is full of Dolphin gauges, and there’s a full-feature
entertainment system that also includes a rear-view camera. The billet vents for
the Vintage Air climate control system are well integrated into the dramatically
curved dashboard, while the billet steering column and wheel are from Flaming
River. There’s more billet in the form of the pedals, shifter,Rear View Mirror
all from Lokar and the climate control knobs. Inside the center armrest, you’ll
find the controls for the Air Ride suspension, power windows, and headlights.
With Less than a 500 miles showing on the odometer, everything is in new
condition, ready to be shown today..
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