Vic Collins' 1955 Chevrolet
1955 Chevrolet truck owned by Victor "Vic" Collins of Rahway, New Jersey. Vic's truck is a clone of George Barris' 1955 Chevrolet truck, better known as the Kopper Kart. Vic has been fascinated by the Kopper Kart since he first saw it at age 11 in 1975. At the time he and his father were building model cars, and old custom car magazines were used for inspiration. George's wild truck made a huge impression on the young kid, and 24 years later, in 1999, he decided that he wanted to clone it. A 1955 GMC truck was bough at an estate sale. Vic's younger brother Ed helped Vic pick up the project. Back home, Vic called Barry Mazza, the owner of the Aztec, knowing he had Studebaker pans. At one point Barry was thinking of cloning the Aztec. He bought the real deal instead, and kept on to the pans. A deal was made and Barry agreed to sell the pans to Vic. With help from two friends, Vic and Ed cut the body apart with a Sawsall and began the sectioning job. Early 2000 Vic asked his buddy Mark Wojcik at Customs by Flash if he was interested in helping him with the Kopper Kart project. Mark told Vic to bring it down to his shop in Howell, New Jersey. During the build, Mark posted photos of the project on the HAMB. After the HAMB threads were published, Mark and Vic found out that John Maurice of Maine was also working on a clone of the Kopper Kart truck. This made Vic even more determined to complete his dream build. After working on and off the truck for some years, the project stalled several times due to other projects getting priority. As Marc and Vic felt that they were getting burned out working on the truck, they decided to buy a better project for their clone. A 1955 Chevrolet truck was purchased in 2004, and the build team started from scratch, cleaning up the rust and learning from past mistakes.
John Maurice started his build in the fall of 2000. The truck John started with was a Christmas gift from his wife Alyssa. John had first spotted the truck 8 years earlier at a used car dealership. Countless hours were spent researching the truck along with many years tracking down hard to find parts, such as two Studebaker wagon rear pans, and a 1950 Mercury accessory horn ring. When John started the build, nobody knew for sure what became of the original Kopper Kart. During his research, John was able to track down Paul Blasberg, the last known owner of the famous truck. Paul owned the truck in the early to mid 1960s. After having a lot of fun with it, the six-cylinder engine was pulled to make way for a 3/4 race Cadillac mill in preparation for running at the dragstrip. The truck was never reassembled again, and it was left outside to deteriorate. Paul's wife told John that it had really "gone to pot" from the rainwater getting through the exterior upholstery. A man came to the couple and offered to fix up the truck. Instead he ended up stripping it. As Mr. and Mrs. Paul Blasberg had already had their fun with the truck, they weren't too worried about the situation. Supposedly the bed and cab went separate ways.
John's truck had a rebuilt 235 engine that fired up without any effort. He lowered the truck by flipping the axles over the springs, and installed a 3-speed overdrive that he scored on eBay. He drove it like that in the summer of 2001. John had never welded sheet metal before he began on the truck. That winter he started installing patch panels in his unheated garage. By February of 2002 it was ready for the chop. In March, John and his father Bill chopped the top 4 inches. John used the Spotlite Custom Pickups magazine as a guide during the chop, since it had a feature on the chopping of the original Kopper Kart. Shortly after the top was chopped, John sectioned the truck for the first time. Most of the vintage magazines stated that the Kopper Kart was sectioned 5 1/2 inches. John learned trough trial and error that 5 1/2 would be too much. The rear fenders were sectioned as well, and extended to give the car a long look. From 2003 - 2005 several other priorities kept John from working on the truck. In 2005 he re-sectioned the cab with some valuable help from his friend Steve McCann. That change really brought the cab into the right proportion that John wanted. In 2006 John and his wife decided to move to New York City so she could pursue her dream of acting professionally. He realized that he was not able to complete the project living in the big city, so he decided to sell it off. He knew from the HAMB that Vic's project had stalled due to some problems with the cab, so he sent Vic an email asking if he was interested in buying what he had, parts or the complete project. After looking at photos of John's project, both Vic and Marc were so impressed that they decided to take over the whole project. They received the truck in October of 2006, and within few months the metal work was completed and the car was covered in plastic filler, primed and mocked up. This in-progress version was shown at the 2007 Lead East car show in Parsippany, New Jersey.
When Vic bought the truck, John had also acquired and installed a 1954 Chevrolet engine along with the correct Corvette intake. Just like the original Kopper Kart, the clone was fit with dual headlights. The custom grill was comprised by four highly modified 1955 Plymouth grill bars, expanded mesh sheet metal, and a 1955 Cadillac Autronic Eye. The Studebaker wagon pans were installed up front, while the two from a coupe were installed in the rear. 1956 Mercury wagon taillights were encased with modified 1949 Chevrolet license plate guards and chromed mesh. The hood and fenders were peaked. The drip rails were shaved, and the hood and door corners were rounded. Quad parking lights were installed in custom formed housings. Wheel covers from a 1957 Oldsmobile were installed with custom bullets and spinners. The side trim was made from copper plated 3/4 half oval stock with perforated metal inserts. Parts from both of the Kopper Karts were used in the final build, as Vic and Mark were pulling parts off of one of the rejected trucks to fill in the gaps. Once the bodywork was done, Mark gave the car it's signature paint job. 3 coats of white sealer was followed by 3 coats of base, 4 coats of pearl and 2 coats of intercoat clear. The clear was then scuffed before the scallops were taped and Mark shot 3 coats of base, 3 coats of Candy Copper and 4 coats of clear. After Marc and his crew got the truck from John, they put 3100 hours into it. Working only part time on the truck, it took 16 months to complete the build. In addition to John, Mark and Vic, Ron Blaudfeder, Daran Rumbaugh, John Maurice, Bill Sincox, Joe Siclari, and Ed Collins were also instrumental in the build. The clone was pinstriped by Alan Johnson, and the copper leaf lettering was done by Alan and Bill Riedel. The interior was stitched by Everlast Upholstery in Linden, New Jersey. The build was completed in 2008, making it's debut at the Detroit Autorama March 7. This was in fact on the 50th anniversary of the original Kopper Kart appearing at the show.
Magazine Features and Appearances
The HAMB Build Threads
CHOPPIN THE KART!!!
CHOPPING THE KART, PART 2
ANOTHER UPDATE...FUNNY LOOKING REAR END.
JUST PUSHED IT OUTSIDE.....
ONE GIANT STEP...PAINT!
KOPPER KART PROGRESS
THIS IS IT! LAST UPDATE!!!!!!!
FINISHED IT...ONTO THE TRAILER!
YOU'RE SICK OF THESE UPDATE, I KNOW!
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