James Seltzer’s 1949 Chevy Pickup is the Latest in a Long Line of Award Winners

Some guys have a cool car and it’s their signature ride. They keep it forever and it’s a staple in their life. Then there are the guys like James Seltzer who find their joy in building them, one after another. Their favorite one is the next one.

James has been a Goodguys member for thirty years and has built many award-winning vehicles over the years. He’s won everything from Suede & Chrome and Chopped & Dropped, to Hottest Hot Rod, Meguiar’s Magnificent Masterpiece, and a Top 10 in Raleigh with his ’67 Chevy – each award with a different car.

He’s got the process down pat and cranks them out quickly. Each one usually gets a name, like the green Sweet Pea ’49 Chevy, the Desert Rat ’31 Ford coupe, and the Vanilla Ice ’50 Chevy, and they all have a distinctive color combination. James is known for his “off color” choices. This 1949 Chevy Pickup 3100 named Sweet and Low is no exception, and it turns heads whenever it’s out.

James’s buddy Jeff found this truck stashed underneath a local carport and told him about it. The owner had intentions of fixing it up, but it had been sitting for several years. Liking that it was a five-window, they stopped in one day and asked the guy if the truck was for sale. His wife’s eyes widened and she quickly said, “Oh yes, it’s for sale.”

Trucks like these aren’t built quickly alone and James works closely with his buddies, Al Alkoff and Larry Stauter. They have it dialed in, doing the chassis and fab work at Al’s shop, the paint and body at Lane’s Body Shop, and final assembly at James’s place.

James has had very good luck setting these trucks up on S10 frames using the E-Z Chassis Swaps kits. These are complete body-to-chassis adapter kits that include everything from body and bumper mounts to steering column extensions, a firewall insert for the brakes and column, and necessary hardware. They make it easy to do it right and are very affordable. The rear cab and running board mounts are integrated to keep everything lined up. James selected their 2-inch channeled option that mounts the body closer to the frame for a dropped look before you even start to lower the suspension.

A short-bed 1949 Chevy Pickup like this one uses a single-cab/long-bed S10 donor vehicle, which James found locally. His was a 1986. He added dropped spindles and a 3.73-geared posi rear on the leaf springs out back. The disc and drum brake setup keeps everything simple and the truck handles very well. The 327c.i. small block was scooped up from a friend doing an LS swap. James had the machine work done on the block and double-hump heads and did the assembly himself. He topped the Holley 650 carb with a cool dual-snorkel air cleaner from a ’66 Olds Tornado – a swap meet score. A pair of vintage finned Cal Custom valve covers, Hedman headers, and a polished alternator and A/C compressor round things out. It’s backed with a 200R4 transmission.

When the project began, James was inspired by a grayish blue paint from Jeep/Chrysler called Anvil. He knew that would be a great color for the truck and wanted to use a brighter contrast color on the engine and interior. His search was over once he laid his eyes on a burnt orange hue Ford used for one year on Mustangs in 1969. He added the orange to the engine and the wood of the bed floor, which was sealed in epoxy and sprayed in base/clear. The dash, garnish moldings, and ’61 Impala steering wheel were also color-keyed burnt orange.

James says he usually designs his interiors on paper and has JB Upholstery in Garner, North Carolina bring them to life. He happened to have a cool set of sculpted Eureka door panels from Rod Doors on hand. These “full door coverage” panels are designed by Ron Mangus and have an integrated armrest. They were upholstered in orange along with the restyled seat. Over the years James has found that the bench seat of an ’88-90 Chevy Silverado fits very well in these trucks, and that’s what he used.

While the upholstery design may be updated, James likes to leave the rest of the interior close to stock. The factory dash remains intact, including the ash tray, and he added a Retro Sound stereo in the original location. He had Classic Instruments customize the gauge faces in Anvil gray with orange needles and added a 23-inch Lokar shifter. The A/C venting was kept simple with two central vents on either side of the control panel and two more hidden on the sides. The audio system components are also tucked neatly out of sight.

The mods to the body were kept subtle. The hood was smoothed and custom stands were made for the taillights. A louvered tailgate and rolled pan bring up the rear, and they omitted the bulky tailgate chains. As stated, Lane’s Custom Paint and Body Shop slicked the panels smooth and topped the base coats with four coats of clear. Joe Buck finished things off with some hand-painted pinstriping.

James had these Billet Specialties Legacy wheels on his ’59 Apache but knew they would look better on the ’49. He plucked them off and had the centers powder coated gray. They are 17s and 18s and help set the stance, which has just the right amount of rake.

The overall package of Sweet and Low is another clear winner. Most people are drawn in by the color and stance, and then impressed with the pop of orange in the engine bay and interior. James says he gets a kick out of watching people go back for a second look when walking by it at show.

They say practice makes, perfect, and the consistent line of cars emerging from James’s garage are evidence. They are well-thought out, rock-steady reliable, and tastefully timeless. We can’t wait to see what he’s working on next.

Photos by Steven Bunker

Brandon Flannery has a thirst for all things automotive, mechanical, and unique. He’s spent nearly two-decades in automotive journalism and ten years shooting and writing for the Goodguys Gazette. His early years learning about cars involved building hundreds of models as a kid and writing fan letters to his favorite car magazines, which they usually printed. Currently a Memphis resident, Brandon keeps it real with two VWs, a rail buggy, a 1946 Ford 2N tractor, and the legendary road-tripping Blue Goose, which has pulled a U-Haul trailer coast-to-coast twice.