Car Feature: Willie Elder’s One-of-a-Kind 1940 Chevrolet COE

lead_artThe automotive world is full of opportunities to be different, whether it’s about who built your car, what components were used, or even what the end goal was for the build. The point is, the automotive world is yours to enjoy how you wish, and it’s that much greater because of it.

I thought it would be unique.   – Willie Elder

For Greeley, Colorado, resident William (Willie) Elder, the car scene is all about unique style and authentic passion, something every one of Elder’s builds exhibits to the tee. After all, there aren’t too many home-built COEs like Elder’s running around, and that’s exactly the way he likes it.

The truck’s name is Grace, and it took Elder about four years and just under twenty grand to build. Willie has a true love for the automotive scene that dates back some 30 years, thanks to friends introducing him to all the goodness.

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One-of-a-kind, Grace the ’40 Chevrolet COE stands out in a crowd no matter how big or small! Something tells us that’s exactly what Elder was after when he built her!

He’s completed a handful of other custom builds as well, such as a ’49 Studebaker, ’56 T-Bird, and a ’63 Ford pickup. Elder’s building of this 1940 Chevrolet COE was an exercise in passion as much as exclusivity. “I thought it would be unique,” Elder told us when asked about the reason behind the build.

Frequenting automotive events for the better part of the last two decades, we’ve seen a growing number of custom COEs being built. From tow trucks to haulers, to even a couple that were autocross-worthy. There’s no doubt that COEs are becoming more and more popular, but never have we found one quite as unique as Elder’s.

Elder is no stranger to one-of-a-kind builds. In fact, a custom barbecue grill Elder crafted out of the front clip of a 1939 Dodge was so unique, it made it on an episode of Mobil 1’s Extreme Grillers! But that’s a story for another day. You can see the episode HERE.

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The COE is an increasingly popular build platform in the hot rod world, but Elder found a way to create a unique truck despite all the “competition.” If he had to do it over again, all Elder would change on the truck would be using wider wheels and adding an overdrive transmission.

The base of the truck is a 1940 COE, but that’s about as “factory” as this Chevy gets. Underneath, you’ll find virtually an entire S10 pickup suspension system attached to the shortened frame, giving the truck much more modern handling characteristics than its classic body would otherwise be paired with. In addition to the 1997 S10 suspension, the truck makes use of 15-inch “secondhand” five-spoke wheels and upgraded ceramic brakes. Both power steering and power brakes are modern amenities that “Grace” now features.

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When Willie Elder purchased his 1940 Chevy COE for just $1,600, it was in bad shape. With a lot of work, serious dedication, and a goal in mind, his labor of love paid off and came to fruition in the form of this one-of-a-kind truck!

Powering the truck is a 1990s 350ci Chevy small block with tuned-port injection, which is kept cool using a Griffin radiator. With overheating and electrical issues realized during the build process, it was important to Elder to make sure the fuel-injected power plant stayed as cool as possible, so that he could enjoy cruising his unusual truck without trouble.

Where Elder’s truck really shines is in the aesthetics. A traditional snub-nose cab mixed with a custom bed, the truck features a Rootbeer, Harley Orange and Cream base coat/clear coat paint scheme with Chestnut and Gold metal flake mixed in. Adding even more intrigue are subtle pinstriping details done by Dave Ripley.

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Ask anyone along the Colorado Front Range about “the Coke truck” and they know exactly what custom vehicle you’re talking about. How many builds do you know that are that unique?

Out back, the bed of the truck is one-of-a-kind, featuring diamond plated stepped bed walls, a blonde wood bed floor spaced with brightwork slats, and a custom Coca-Cola cooler/bed box, complete with matching pinstriping and Chevy-branded bottle opener. When asked what his favorite part of the build was, Elder told us while he loves the entire finished truck, he likes the custom bed the best.

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With a unique color scheme like this, it’s no wonder this truck is such an attention-getter!

Inside, all three primary body colors are incorporated into the interior, from the Pearl White seats borrowed from a 1970 Bronco that are flanked with orange seat belts, to the Rootbeer and Cream dash and metal door panels. Topping everything off is just enough brightwork to make things such as the steering column, door handles, and the gauge cluster pop. Though Elder says he still needs a stereo for the truck, it does feature power windows as a little added bonus.

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In addition to being a sweet ride with a one-of-a-kind personality, it’s also a point of family pride, as are all of Elder’s builds.

“I enjoy it – it’s fun,” Elder told us in regards to his truck. “I find it therapeutic. It is very unique and people turn their heads.”

“I love to create,” he continued. “All of my vehicles have personalities.”

“My family is very supportive of all my projects,” Elder explained. “When my kids were little, I would put a piece of the truck together at night, and then take it apart so they could put it together the next day, they thought they had a part in the build!”

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Elder would like to thank the following people for their help on the build: Don Bauer, Gene Martinez, Ernie Kallsen, and Bill Knutson.

Elder certainly has a knack for creating some truly individual pieces of rolling art, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for the home builder. So keep your eyes peeled, as we’ll definitely update you on any future projects we come across from Willie Elder and his unexpected sense of style and design.

About the author

Lindsey Fisher

Lindsey is a freelance writer and lover of anything with a rumble. Hot rods, muscle cars, motorcycles - she's owned and driven it all. When she's not busy writing about them, she's out in her garage wrenching away. Who doesn't love a tech-savy gal that knows her way around a garage?
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