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Trad Ronfeldt has a wealth of experience building vehicles for “go” more than “show.” As the owner of Team Racing And Development, he’s the crew chief of Kyle LeDuc’s championship winning #99 Pro-4 truck and the Chip Ganassi #99 Extreme E truck. But with an eye for old cars and the skill to make it happen, Trad was ready to switch it up with a street build. The side of that #99 truck is where you’ll find the first step in the story of how he went from working on race winning off-road trucks to building a SEMA-star restomod that wears a WD-40 logo.
WD-40’s sponsorship of the #99 put Trad’s skills on their radar. When they asked him what he would build he sent them a rendering of a 1947-1951 Chevy truck and the concept won them over. The premise of the build was a vehicle that could have been in the WD-40 fleet since the formula was developed in the early ‘50s.
The WD-40 Chevy was built to look like an old survivor work truck with the occasional hotrod upgrade, like many old shop trucks of the day have seen.
Trad started the search for a suitable truck and turned up an old Bell telephone service truck with a utility body. Even though rust prevented it from being a good candidate he sent it to the WD-40 team and they fell in love with the utility box; a unique look and a perfect platform to showcase and sell their product. He soon found the right truck just a few hours away - a clean 1951 - and the direction of the build was coming together.
Like so many timeless builds, Trad had to work doubly hard to make the Chevy look like a simple survivor. There was no utility box that fit the narrow and vintage lines of the truck so he framed one out from scratch with box tube. The stock stepside fenders were remounted to the wider body, leaving room for dually wheels and tires. Even the factory running boards found their way back home but now on opposite sides to match the extra width at the rear end. The truck was beginning to look like it spent the ‘50s and ‘60s hauling loads of WD-40 around to parts stores and garages!
A former Bell utility truck provided the inspiration for the WD-40 Chevy's custom-built utility bed. The dually fenders are the original Stepside fenders mounted to the box walls, and the running boards are on opposite ends, allowing for a from-the-factory look.
The Champ Off Road series spends most of its schedule in Wisconsin, taking both Trad and the Chevy to the Midwest for a few months of the year. While he was racing, Trad enlisted his cousin Jesse Lewis at Christy Road Customs to help finish the metal work on the box, wrapping the frame in sheet metal panels with tool boxes and hardware. WD-40 got a neat little touch when they dimple dyed the inside of the tool box doors to make them perfect spray can shelves.
Paint was handled in Wisconsin as well. Recreating patina is top tier artistry but that’s exactly what Rocky at Airhead Designs does. Not only did he create the look of single stage paint that was first laid in the 1950s but even the texture feels rusty.
The interior got the same detailed paint motif but Trad didn't stop there. A bench seat and crank windows were period correct but a little updating was appropriate. While browsing for upholstery inspiration he stumbled upon the Etsy page for B62 Interiors, a shop out of Arizona that specializes in truck bench seats of the era. He set them off in the right direction with some pictures of distressed brown leather jackets and they ran with it, delivering a diamond-stitched bench seat with matching door cards and headliner. In front of the driver sits a Dakota Digital dash designed to bolt right into a Chevy Advanced-Design truck and look at home, backed by their RetroTech control box to modernize the rest of the truck’s wiring. On the slim chance that anyone could get tired of listening to side exit exhaust pipes Trad installed an MTX Audio system with a hidden controller in the ashtray.
The Chevrolet's paint scheme was inspired by the real scars, dents and scuffs that work trucks will inevitably gain over a lifetime of use. Rocky at Airhead Designs deserves the credit for the patina look. The cabin of the Chevrolet features distressed brown leather courtesy of B62 Upholstery of Tucson, Arizona.
Trad showed both restraint and real commitment to the vintage theme when he decided what would go underneath the sheet metal. While an autocross-slaying street machine might have been at home in a race shop and a laid-out air-bagged lowrider would have been a good showcase of Trad’s fabricating skills, the truck was supposed to be a 70-year-old survivor that’s seen some upgrades over the years.
The factory chassis is mostly unmodified, save for rear axle C-notches. Currie Enterprises provided the Dana 60 rear axle, complete from flange to flange with era-appropriate drum brakes. Trad used his background in off-road racing to get it mounted with custom four link suspension and coilovers. The front suspension still sports the solid axle, though now a Nostalgia Sid’s 4” drop mounted on their lowering springs and all of their modified steering linkages and disc brakes. The brakes get the squeeze from a master cylinder that can still be found in the stock underfloor location but with a power booster upgrade.
The Chevrolet is just as tidy underneath as it is above, with hammertone powder coating everywhere. The rear axle is a Dana 60.
Trad was very keen on wrangling some oddball horsepower from a less common engine. His eye was on a GM W motor but with a time running low and SEMA looming it wasn’t a risk worth taking. An LS would be the antithesis of vintage charm so they turned to the venerable small block. Their 383 stroker came back from the engine shop built to a healthy 520-525 horsepower but it stubbornly wouldn’t run right with the carbureted setup. Trad turned to Holley’s expertise and they got onboard with an intake manifold, a Sniper EFI system, HyperSpark distributor and coil, control box, fuel system kit, and even beautified the engine with valve covers and an air filter! Trad got the parts installed, the car roared on the first start, and has purred ever since.
The Chevrolet is powered by a Sniper-equipped 383ci small-block Chevrolet stroker engine that has been dressed up with Holley Vintage parts.
Power is delivered to the four fat rear wheels through a Dynamic Racing Transmissions 4L60 and a Reel Drivelines driveshaft, the same shop that supports the Pro4 race truck. Just as importantly, sound is delivered through a pair of Magnaflow mufflers and kicks out right ahead of the rear tires. Trad assembled and fabricated the Magnaflow builder kit into a crossflow-less true dual system to get the raspy tone he was after.
The end result is a truck that’s simultaneously subtle and striking. Trad didn’t skip an upgrade or skimp on performance but stayed true to the survivor theme of the build while using all of his racing experience to execute excellent work. This is Team Racing And Development’s first restomod build but it won’t be their last. This truck will eventually be sold with proceeds donated to the Childhelp program through the SEMA Cares Foundation while Trad’s already coming up with ideas for the next build.