Shark Bite! We Drive the Amazing Project PT-57 Hot Rod Pickup

We Drive Project PT-57
Words and photos by Mark Williams for

It was just last November when we first saw this custom ’57 Chevy pickup on the floor of the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. In fact, we picked the PT-57 as one of the top trucks of the show and knew we had to get a closer look.

Based in Luling, Texas (about an hour east of San Antonio), Hot Rod Jim’s builds late-model Corvette chassis to order for any hot rod-loving car nut who wants to build a Cobra-killer for the racetrack. Builder and owner Russell Alexander said the idea for the PT-57— named for the Pro Touring race class and 1957 Chevy pickup — came from an old bomber jacket his grandfather gave him years ago. He started working on the pickup about three months before the SEMA Show.

Without question, the most eye-catching aspect of the truck is the war bird theme as interpreted by its builder. With olive drab green as the base coat, both the yellow and black highlights make for a dramatic visual one-two punch. Clearly borrowing from the famous Curtiss P-40 Warhawk designs of the early ‘40s, the PT-57 screams World War II fighter, with the most pronounced detail being the signature “shark mouth” face boldly emblazoned on its snout.

PT-57 On The Street

Astute P-40 experts will notice the eyes (actually stickers) on this PT-57 fender were inadvertently mounted upside down, changing the overall effect ever so subtly from fierce to mildly upset. Still, the look on the front end of the truck looks striking and perfectly keeps with the project’s theme. And it’s cool. Russell credits his brother with all the painting, which includes the mock rivet and panel lines. But this truck isn’t just about looking good.

From the outset, with a clean ’57 Chevy body in hand, the team tailored the signature Corvette chassis to fit the truck’s narrow front stance. Russell and his crew also had to widen the rear bed fender wells to more closely align with the Z06 rear-end geometry. To keep the center of gravity as low as possible, Russell heavily modified the floor pan and firewall to give it a menacing low-slung stance. And he decided to keep the bed floor open to highlight all the suspension and performance components. For those looking for more rear-end grip, any number of bed floor designs could be accommodated.

PT-57 6.0-L Engine

Under the hood is a 6.0-liter GM V-8 taken from a 2500 Silverado HD and bolted to a Borg Warner T56 six-speed manual transmission. After a few modifications to the engine block, Russell mounted a pair of STS turbos behind the rear axle so they stay cool. Two K&N air intake filters are tucked behind the bed quarter panels with air inlets in the side panels designed to pull as much cool air as possible into the system. It’s worth noting the side pipes on the PT-57 (one of our favorite touches) are functional, working as an external wastegate, dumping unneeded exhaust gases when pressure builds. Although it hasn’t been on the dyno yet, Russell estimates it’ll put out almost 570 horsepower and close to 600 pounds-feet of torque at the rear wheels. And, he says, all the emissions from the tailpipe are completely legal, which may not be a surprise because in the state of Texas, it just needs to be as clean as a factory ’57 small-block pickup.

The finished truck weighs about 3,400 pounds and has a better distribution (closer to a 50/50 weight split) than a brand-new C6 Corvette, Russell says. With the heavier-duty rear axle bracing — complete with a custom-cut “PT-57” nameplate — and roll bar attachments, we’d guess the front-to-rear ratio is closer to 53/47, making it a strong and confident tight-track racer.

Our visit to the shop was supposed to include a thorough test drive of the rig, but we were pounded with ugly weather and nasty rain. (That’s why many of the photos are a little messy.) Although the roads were slick — and muddy in some cases — we were still impressed with how balanced and sure-footed the truck handled cornering and acceleration. No doubt the massive Michelin Pilot Sports helped provide tremendous grip. A quick spin around the Lockhart Municipal Airport convinced us that the chassis is about as dialed in as any pickup we’ve ever driven. And Russell says the payload to the truck is more than 1,000 pounds. Seems like a performance pickup truck with an independent rear suspension could make a lot of sense.

Turbos mounted in the bed

Perhaps our favorite part of the truck was on the inside — specifically, the PT-57’s fuselage-like interior, with its Spartan use of sound-deadening materials or basic amenities. (It looked more stripped than bare bones.) Like many SEMA project trucks, the interior is likely to remain a work in progress for quite some time. For now, we’d describe it as “rough,” not unlike the P-40 Warhawk’s interior — all that you need, nothing you don’t. No luxury or high-dollar details here, just gauges, levers and a steering wheel — ready for combat.

When asked how much it would cost to order one of these custom trucks, Russell was reluctant to give a definitive answer because his shop can offer so many options, including a Stage I or Stage II or Stage III configuration, depending on how much racing the owner wants to do. With that said, he figures the starting price is somewhere around $90,000. That’s interesting, because that turns out to be about twice what a brand-new P-40 cost when the Curtiss-Wright Corp. built them in 1944. How times (and prices) have changed.

Still, the PT-57 is craveable. Just imagine all the Japanese and German sports cars you’ll be able to notch on your belt or paint on the PT-57's flanks.

PT-57 Shark Teeth


Hey Mike, why no pic of the interior? I know you said it was basic but i still would like to see what they did. Cool truck though.

I love it. One of the things I like the most about this truck is that it's actually made to be driven. It's not a "trailered" show truck. Don't apologize for getting it dirty. Isn't that what trucks are for? 90,000 is out of my price range but it sits squarely in the high end Corvette price range. I'd take this truck over a Corvette any day. I also love the fact that it's not covered in chrome - like the old saying "if it don't go - chrome it!".

I like the idea for this truck, but the Corvette-wheels don't fit the classic design, plus the're too big and with "made to be driven" it's really stupid not to install the inner fenders, so the result is, that the engine and cargo area are full of dirt sh*t!

That is one sweet ride. Love the shark mouth. Makes me want to build one.

Putting an old body on a new,totally unrelated chassis makes no sense.The blocky old body is horribly un-aerodynamic and ergonomically nonexistant.Like mounting a Henry J body on a Mercedes platform.You are then driving a better handling Henry J,nothing more.

This is one bad-a$$ Truck!!!!! Yehawwwwwwww

Lol! @ Tony

O.K. if you are into the whole rat-rod thing. BTW- when did it become 'cool' to run around with no inner fenders?

I think the truck was intended to be a street legal road track race vehicle.

@Big Bob: since they has been a big hype especially on West Coast for (air) bagged/lowered trucks. They are the latest trend-faction in low rider scene.

@Aron - cool link. It boggles the mind as to how versatile pickup trucks are for work and/or play.

@ Frank
Its not cool to run without inner fenders, in our last minute dash for SEMA we got screwed by one of our vendors and we had to change from the 6.0 truck intake to the car intake. So now all of our intercooler piping had to get moved and hit the inner fenders so they got pulled out so we could run the turbos. We have a set of killer custom inner fenders but the trucks a test platform for that frame not a show truck.

The inner fenders in mock up

One little correction, The truck made 567 RWHP and 506 RWTQ on the base tune, We just got it on the dyno to get some numbers then we were off to the track for the Optima Street Car Challenge. I expect to be 620 with the proper tune and well over 700 when we build the new motor.

You can also see more on the PT-57 here at our site we also have the dyno run so you can here her scream.

Russell Alexander
Hot Rod Jim's

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