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In 1947, Chevrolet introduced its post-war Advance-Design series of pickup trucks. The series, which was produced until 1955, had the best-selling trucks in the United States. Until the later 1960s, pickup trucks were designed and sold primarily as work vehicles, unlike the modern luxury pickup trucks of today.
Steve Barber, of Zephyrhills, wanted a classic Chevy pickup truck. In 2011, he embarked on an odyssey that led to the purchase of his 1954 Chevrolet 3100 pickup.
“I always liked the body lines of the Advance-Design series of Chevy pickups,” Barber says. “I travelled about 800 miles in one day, to seven different locations in Florida, looking at pickup trucks. The 1954 3100 was the last one I looked at, and it was too nice to pass up.”
The body on the truck is all original and, although he says that 50 percent of the build was completed when he bought it, Barber and his father-in-law began an intense restoration to turn the former Alabama farm truck into the showpiece it is today.
In 1954, Chevrolet redesigned its trucks with a curved one-piece windshield, eliminating the vertical strip that divided the previous flat two-panel windshield. The grille was changed from five horizontal slats to the crossbar design, often referred to as a “bull nose.” The trucks were powered by a 235 cubic-inch straight six engine with a single barrel Rochester carburetor. The engine in his truck had already been replaced with a 454 cubic-inch Chevrolet big block power plant, so one of the first things he did was to pull the body off and box the frame to support the heavier engine and other high-end performance upgrades he made to the truck.
“We added a Mustang II front end with power rack and pinion steering and front disc brakes,” Barber says. “We smoothed the firewall, added a Holley 750 four-barrel carburetor and had the whole engine chromed.”
Barber has ensured that, beneath all that chrome, is a high-performance beast with a Doug Herbert racing value train including hydraulic cam, lifters and roller rockers, as well as an Accel HEI ignition system and a Griffin radiator.
“I added a custom 2-inch headers and exhaust system with electric cutouts, a Turbo 400 transmission with a B&M 2000 stall converter and a Lokar shifter,” Barber adds. “The transmission is tied to a Ford 9-inch rear end with a 275 posi limited slip differential.”
During his restoration work, Barber was careful not to damage the eye-catching blue metal flake paint job, but he had to have additional pieces and alterations painted to match, including the ZR1 Corvette roll pan in back, the Gaylord custom fiberglass bed cover and the Frenched headlights. Chrome Cragar wheels and a new finished oak truck bed add to the allure.
“We removed the interior and installed a Dynamat heat shield and sound deadener, a Dakota digital dash board, an Ididit tilt steering column, vintage heat and air conditioning, a Secretaudio SST hidden sound system with remote, new carpeting, a new wiring harness and chrome trim pieces,” Barber says. “The high back bucket seats are from a Dodge Dakota and we added a center console.”
The interior is a far cry from the Spartan cab of 1954, yet it retains the simple look of the original.
His work has not gone unnoticed. His 1954 Chevrolet 3100 pickup has been featured in Classic Chevy World magazine, and it has twice been in the Long Haulers Club on the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour in 2011 and 2015.
“The truck has won trophies at almost every show it has been in,” Barber says. “The color, the paint job and that chromed big block make it stand out as shows. People always comment on how clean and tastefully done the entire vehicle is.”

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