Lou Calasibetta’s 1957 GMC Pickup is a Tastefully Executed Custom that Accentuates the Strength of the Original Design - Text and Photography by Don Keefe
Lou Calasibetta’s involvement in the Pontiac hobby goes back even farther than he would care to admit and his Old Stillwater Garage in Stillwater, New Jersey has turned out some strikingly beautiful cars along the way. His custom Pontiacs all have a signature look, clean, uncluttered lines, colorful paint, wood accents and a respect for the integrity of the original designs. Rather than morphing cars into something unrecognizable, he uses color, texture and stance in a way that brings out what was special in each design, while at the same time making it a one-of-a-kind interpretation. His previous customs, a 1958 Pontiac wagon known as “Bonnewood” and a 1957 Trans-continental Safari wagon named “Surfari,” also share those qualities. Both are also Glenn Kooyer Memorial Award winners.
When the time came to do a pickup truck, there really was no other choice for Lou than a GMC- and a special one at that. This 1957 Suburban Town and Country pickup was GMC’s version of the Chevrolet Cameo, a limited-edition machine which featured a steel stepside bed with fiberglass bed sides and unique Motorama-inspired taillamps, bumper and rear pan.
The GMC version had its own specific trim and features, including an available Pontiac V-8 engine. It was even rarer than the Cameo, with approximately 1,000 built. Lou actually found and purchased this vehicle in the early 1980s and had been sitting on it while other projects were being finished. Amazingly, it only took about eighteen months to transform the rust-free Arizona shell into the breathtaking hauler you see here.
The chassis was updated with a Fat Man Fabrications IRS setup, which features Mustang II-style control arms, coil-over shocks and GM front disc brakes. The rear suspension is also from Fat ?Man Fabrications. It uses coil-overs, four-bar suspension arms and a GM?10-bolt rearend. Since the original engine was long gone, a Pontiac V-8 had to replace it. Lou chose a 1970-vintage 350 and rebuilt it to stock specs, the only deviation internally was a set of over .030-inch TRW?9.5:1 compression pistons.
Externally, the 350 uses an Edelbrock Performer intake and carb, Pertronix ignition, Cal Custom valve covers and Ram Air exhaust manifolds. The air cleaner is a dual-snorkle unit, with the snorkles removed and replaced with screens. The 350 is backed by a GM?700R4 automatic overdrive transmission and 3.08 gears for smooth, economical operation.
Inside, the GMC is luxuriously outfitted. The stock dash panel was filled and fitted with Haneline lighted gauges in a Haneline engine-turned dash panel. A miniature ‘55 Chevy steering wheel sits atop an Ididit tilt steering column.
A Glide Engineering seat frame was covered in two-tone copper and cream pleated vinyl by Jerry Ambrosi of Master Upholstery. He also fabricated the custom door panels, headliner and custom tonneau cover.
Lou and his crew at the Old Stillwater Garage handled the beautifully-executed body and paint work. The grille emblem and fuel filler door were removed, the body seams filled and a custom tailgate was fabricated. Custom ash bed inlays were expertly handled by Bruce Horkey.
The firewall and inner fenders were also smoothed before the entire body was covered in PPG Pearlescent Copper Orange urethane enamel. The stock trim was then restored and re-applied. The smooth look was cemented with a set of chrome reverse wheels topped off with stock GMC hubcaps and wide whitewall radials.
Like the customs that rolled out of the Old Stillwater Garage before it, Lou Calasibetta’s 1957 GMC?pickup puts its own unique twist on a classic design. The unique integration of color, texture and wood accentuates its best attributes without taking anything away. That is a success in anyone’s book.
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