A Brotherly Tribute: Shawn Gillahan’s 1935 Ford Pickup

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If you have ever been to a pre-1972 auto show, you will more than likely find at least one 1935 Ford pickup in the crowd. We have seen these street rod trucks lifted, slammed to the ground, or simply restored at their just off the assembly line ride height.

No matter the owner’s taste, these early model haulers have the right body lines and curves that just make them a downright appealing truck to gaze at for a while.

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While covering the 12th Annual Slamology Automotive and Music Festival, at the Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana, we ran across this custom 1935 Ford street rod pickup, owned by Shawn Gillahan of Louisville, Kentucky. Since it was the end of the day, the sun was sitting just right on the kustom truck. After a quick chat with Gillahan and his friends, we set up a shoot on the return track where the NHRA U.S. Nationals is held annually.

Love For His Brother

Shawn Gillahan is no stranger to the custom scene since he has built a 1983 Cadillac and a 1993 Ford Ranger, but this is his first street rod. You might ask yourself why he went from one extreme to another and there is a heartfelt and simple answer—brotherly love.

In 2007, Gillian suffered the loss of a family member when his older brother, Jason Gillahan, passed away. Since his brother was a gearhead, owning a 1940 Oldsmobile and several motorcycles, Shawn felt that it was only right that he honor his brother’s legacy by building a pre-49 vehicle.

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At the 2007 NSRA Street Rod Nationals, Shawn was walking along enjoying the show when he ran across a steel-bodied 1935 Ford pickup in primer, nothing special, but a great foundation for a “home grown” project. Shawn talked to the seller and agreed on a price of $13,000, loaded it onto a trailer, and took it back to “the barn” where this truck would receive a $35,000 makeover over a six year time span.

Kicking off the build, the truck was disassembled so that the chassis could be examined and modified. After drawing out his ideas, Shawn and his club, Wee Built Customs, decided to graft in a Mustang II sub-frame along with tubular A-arms.

After the front received the proper attention, it was time to give attention to the rear of the truck. Shawn and his crew installed a Ford 9-inch rearend along with a custom four link. Buttoning up the chassis was a full Air Ride suspension with dual ViAir compressors, a 5-gallon air tank mounted to the frame, and Air Ride air bags.

With everything fitting correctly and working as it should, Shawn decided the frame and suspension components needed a slight aesthetic touch. As a result, he built a custom oven to accomplish the task of powder coating the frame silver, and various suspension components burnt orange.

Building Out The Engine

With the frame and suspension work wrapped up, it was time to focus on the engine. Shawn came up with a 1968 Ford Mustang 289ci small block engine with a mild cam, and bored .40 over, producing approximately 300hp. Adding to the performance upgrades is a blower, custom hoses, and an aluminum radiator.

A Ford AOD (Automatic Overdrive) transmission was matched to the small block with a B&M shift kit to keep things under control. A custom bent exhaust made of copper pipe allows the fumes to exit through a trick set of exhaust tips that house custom mufflers.

Once Shawn’s truck could drive under its own power, it was time to get down to the nitty gritty and square away the body. The rolling lines of the body have been refined to perfection, with modifications including shaved door handles, trim, and emblems.

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The running boards were smoothed and a custom handmade pickup box was welded together. The fuel tank is mounted to the front part of the pickup box and a custom roll pan was fitted with a LED brake light strip. Finishing off the body modifications is a unique set of suicide doors.

After all of the sanding and smoothing of the sheet metal was complete, Shawn’s friend, Kent Hansford, sprayed the truck’s body with PPG Black and a custom mix of Burnt Orange. Next, Kent laid down flames on the smoothed firewall, tailgate, as well as inside. After the paint dried, the body was wet sanded, and waxed to a brilliant show car shine.

1935 Ford with Model Nicole Herr

Making The Right Choices

While Kent was applying the paint, this gave Shawn an opportunity to search for the right set of wheels for the truck. Instead of going with larger, modern wheels, Shawn chose a classic set of Eagle Alloys Torque Thrust 17-inch billet wheels wrapped in Fuzion HRi 240/40R17 up front and 245/45R17 rubber out back.

The wheels achieved the look that Shawn wanted for his truck, but he also wanted adequate stopping power. Keeping in line with modern braking standards, he mounted up disc brakes all the way around.

The last modifications performed were in the cockpit of this classic Ford hauler. Shawn opted to not retain much of the stock interior by replacing it with all kinds of upgrades.

The dash was fitted with a custom set of gauges that blend well with the paint scheme. The rest of the dash was painted PPG black to match the exterior and a custom Von Dutch flying eyeball graphic was painted on the glove box.

A set of bomber style bucket seats were mounted into the cab in place of the stock bench seat and Sewn Tight & Rockford Auto in Louisville, Kentucky, were tasked with applying the black and orange ostrich skin to the seats. A custom leather headliner with a trick LED lit Ford emblem was installed into the ceiling of the cab. Fiberglass door panels and a center console were custom made and painted PPG black with the same flame graphics that can be found on the exterior.

The center console houses an 8-inch Audiopipe sub-woofer and 1,000 watt amp, along with a Pioneer stereo deck. Audiopipe 6.5-inch speakers were mounted in the kick panels and 5.25-inch speakers rest in the rear corners of the cab. A leather wrapped Lacarra steering wheel topped off the Flaming River tilt steering column, and a few other billet accessories were also added to dress up and finalize the interior.

Looking back at the finished product, Shawn achieved what he set out to accomplish—a hot rod truck that is a tribute to his brother Jason. Best of all, he got to build the truck with his friends: Benny silvers, Jason McDonald, Tim Cheeks, and Kent Hansford.

1935 Ford Pickup

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About the author

J.R. Janicek

A resident of Nashville, J.R. Janice's passion for cars was fueled by weekends shared with his uncles at figure-8 races in Louisville. By the late 80s, he was immersed in the mini-truck genre, and attending shows and hangout spots. After graduating from high school, he joined the U.S. Marines and spent one year in Japan where he became familiar with the automotive culture. In 1999, he started photographing automotive events and eventually established a freelance photography company serving the custom automotive niche. He brings a unique perspective as a freelance writer to Power Automedia.
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