What is it about well-built classic pickup trucks? They seem to be the closest thing we have to an actual time machine, even when an old truck has been updated to like-new specs in almost every way. We recently had the chance to drive Legacy Classic Trucks' latest creation in this vein and it was impressive.
As with the Legacy Power Wagon and Jeep Scrambler before it, the latest from Legacy is arguably one of the most iconic pickups ever: a late-1950s Chevrolet Napco 4x4 3100 series. This truck is basically a fresh version of the classic, swoopy Chevy pickup with a four-wheel-drivetrain twist.
For GM aficionados who may not remember, Northwestern Auto Parts Co. was a company founded in 1918 that installed all the parts and pieces as an aftermarket kit to convert Chevrolet and GMC pickups for those discerning customers who wanted four-wheel drive. It wasn't until 1960 that GM (for Chevy and GMC pickups) started building 4x4s in-house, no longer needing Napco for the conversions.
It All Starts With a Donor
Like all of its custom-ordered restoration projects, the Legacy builds begin with a donor truck (usually with a good frame and rusted body panels]) that is completely recreated to meet the specs and needs of its customer.
One of the most interesting things about these Legacy restoration builds is that they use some of the best, most modern parts and pieces available, which means this restored Chevy had heavy-duty Dynatrac ProRock axles (Dana 44 in front, Dana 60 in back), King remote reservoir shocks with pressurized bump stops, ARB locking differentials and 4.11:1 axle gears. The suspension is also specially tuned with extra-long Alcan Spring leaf springs (front and rear) and a unique Offroad Design shackle reversal kit to allow the axles more flex.
In order to give the truck the proper four-wheeler stance, the Chevy Napco will fit the 33-by-10.5 or 33-by-11.5 Toyo tires (customers can choose between the Open Country all-terrain sizes and whether or not they want a set of TrailReady beadlock rims) under the fenders.
Under the hood, the Chevy Napco offers a choice of two aluminum-block V-8s (the current-generation 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter), as well as a choice between GM's 4L65-E four-speed automatic or Aisin AX15 five-speed manual. We should also note that there's a bulletproof Atlas twin-stick transfer case (with 4.3:1 gearing) for rock crawling. One of our favorite features to this powertrain is the quad-pipe dual-mode Corvette C7 exhaust system that offers one of the greatest notes we've heard coming out of any pickup.
Taking It on the Road
From behind the wheel, it's difficult not to feel transported back in time, with shiny Horween leather bench seats (without whiplash-saving head restraints) and soft leather-lined doors, roof panels and foot panels. The steering wheel is a custom Nardi Torino-designed wheel that seems like it should have been offered in every 1950s luxury sedan. Legacy also includes a Vintage Air climate-control system, a 900-watt sound system (with under-seat subwoofers) and the classiest set of V-shaped instrument gauges you've ever seen.
During our short test drive near Ojai, Calif., we had the chance to run the Legacy Chevy through a few neighborhood streets and even on a few off-road trails in the local mountains.
As you might imagine, with a rather tall and big-tired vehicle, there is a little bit of wander with the large steering wheel and heavy-duty steering box — it'll keep you on your toes. This is not the type of vehicle where you can sit back and rest one hand on the steering wheel; you need to be alert. Still, the manners and handling dynamics aren't bad for a classic pickup that's completely reconditioned and rebuilt. Notably, the original frames were only designed to accommodate a two-wheel-drive powertrain, so the upgraded, fully boxed and structurally reinforced frame makes for a solid foundation, which translates to a solid feel on the road.
When driving, our biggest surprise of the day was how stable it felt cruising, but maybe that's not surprising with the top-of-the-line King shock package and relatively soft leaf springs. But all of that is nothing compared to the wonderful sounds coming from the back of the truck when you mash the throttle.
Our test truck had the AX15 manual transmission, which is equipped with a heavy-duty flywheel to keep the shifts smooth and solid, and your left leg well toned. In back, although the Chevy does have a wonderfully reconditioned polished oak wood panel bed, we're told the payloads are pretty close to the factory ratings of the truck when it was new some 60 years ago.
What It Costs
Like other Legacy Classic Trucks, the Chevy Napco 4x4 is relatively expensive: To start the process with the basics of the truck order — assuming it already has a donor platform — pricing begins around $120,000; then you can start checking option boxes to your checkbook's content. The model we were driving, which was designed as a preproduction tuning truck, costs around $150,000. Yes, that sounds like a lot, but we would argue there is some solid value here.
Still, as optimistic as Legacy Classic Trucks wants to be for choosing this beloved American Chevy pickup, it's not likely to sell more than 20 or 30 per year, but we'll see. Whatever the case, don't expect this to be the last classic pickup it brings to market. For more information, go to www.legacyclassictruck.com or call 888-589-1664.
Manufacturer photos; Cars.com photos by Mark Williams