One of the first things Hunter Detrich said to me when we talked about his very cool 1945 Dodge Pickup was: “I eat, sleep, and breathe hot rods. It’s my passion.”
Exactly how passionate Hunter is soon became clear. Hunter will be 23 this year and he’s been at EVERY ONE of the Street Rod Nationals in Louisville since he was born. “I haven’t missed it once,” he told me. And his passion started early in life. “I think I was four months old and I was at my first car show,” he said.
Hunter’s just as passionate about the Dodge. He has been working on it since he was nine years old! Back then it was in his Dad’s garage and Hunter was helping out. Now it’s in his garage and he’s visualizing, designing, and implementing his idea of what a great hot rod should be.
Starting his hot rod journey at four months old, you know Hunter’s family was involved. His dad was a serious hot rodder. “He got big into it in his late teens,” Hunter said. “He’s had a couple of dozen cars.” Obviously, Hunter, and his two brothers who also enjoy the sport, had a great mentor.
The Dodge became part of the family in 2008. A friend has a similar truck and he bought this cab and dog house for parts. When the friend was moving, he was going to just scrap the parts truck. Hunter’s dad offered him a couple of hundred dollars for it, but the friend just let him have it for free. Then, another friend liked the Dodge and asked the Detrichs if they’d build it for him.
“Dad and I threw it together in a couple of weeks,” Hunter said, “and towed it out of the garage and were getting ready to take it over to him. He happened to show up that day and said he wasn’t interested anymore. Dad bought it. It sat in the corner because Dad had other projects. Sometimes life gets in the way.”
Hunter didn’t mind. “I tinkered with it through the years,” he said. “I was eager to do things. Realistically I don’t think there were many things on that car that I didn’t do – with dad’s help, or learning on my own, or messing up many times and fixing it until I figured it out right.”
Hunter bought the pickup from his dad right after he graduated high school. He had it on the road about a year later.
I was very surprised when Hunter told me the Dodge is now running on a Chevy S-10 short bed pickup chassis. When I said the Dodge looks a lot wider than an S-10, Hunter told me, “They are, but the frames fit perfectly.”
He said he had to weld 2″ square tubing on the sides of the frame, and two more pieces of 2″ standing 8” upright for the cab to sit on. Then Hunter welded on the factory 1945 braces for the front fenders, and it was done. “We’ve done three Dodge pickups that way,” Hunter said.
There are lots of hot rod goodies for S-10 chassis, and Hunter’s taken advantage of that. He’s added Belltech spindles and springs up front. The factory S-10 rear end with 3.08 gears is sitting on Chevy’s original leaf springs, although Hunter has added a 1” lowering block. The stock steering is still in place, and the factory brakes were also for a while, but Hunter’s going to change them out for Wilwood discs and a heavy bore master cylinder.
The Dodge used to run around on a set of American Racing Torq Thrust wheels. “When my dad bought the Torq Thrusts he thought that was the wheel for the truck,” Hunter said. “And I loved the Torq Thrusts. I think they looked amazing.”
But Hunter wanted something else. Black steelies. He found the exact wheels he needed, 10” for the rear, 7” for the front, on Facebook. He had a friend sandblast them, then he painted them and added the spider caps. “I put the steelies on it,” Hunter said, “and it gave it a whole different look.”
There are also lots of kits for putting a V8 in an S-10 and Hunter’s done that as well. At first, Hunter had a 307 and a 700R4 automatic in it, but when the 307 started burning oil, and Hunter got his hands on a T-5 five-speed manual, he knew it was time for some changes.
A 305 cubic inch small block Chevy took the place of the 307. It’s basically stock except for an Edelbrock carburetor and a slightly hotter RV valve train Hunter installed, including the cam, lifters, push rods, and rocker arms.
Sanderson headers were the only ones Hunter was able to find that cleared the suspension in the front with no modifications or engine relocation. They feed a true dual exhaust system with Flowmaster 40s mufflers. The exhaust system is the only part of the Dodge Hunter didn’t do himself. He had a very long to-do list one year to get the truck ready for the Street Rod Nationals, and he had to farm the exhaust work out to get everything done in time. “I was picking it from the exhaust shop on Wednesday,” he told me, “and was at the show Thursday.”
The transmission swap was completed at the same time as the engine swap, “My dream for that truck ever since I’ve owned it was for it to have a manual,” Hunter said. “I think it makes driving so much more fun and you feel connected to the vehicle.”
A buddy of Hunter’s came across the T-5 for a really great price and Hunter jumped at the chance to get it. The 700R4 came out, and the T-5 went in. The swap required just a slight modification to the transmission mount.
The end result of the chassis and drivetrain work is a 1945 pickup that drives and handles really well. “Amazing,” is how Hunter describes it. “It’s very drivable. It’s nothing fancy underneath. Basically if you put a V8 and a 5-speed in an S10 that’s what it is, with a hot rod body on top.” And one more advantage of the late model running gear is that when he needs a part, he can usually find it at the local auto parts store.
The Dodge didn’t have a pickup bed when the Detrichs got it, so… they built one. They had a local metal shop bend some mild rolled steel to the measurements and angles they specified. Then they put it all together, and mounted it on the S-10 factory bed mounts.
The bed has a fixed tailgate. Hunter felt that to put a hinge on it would change a lot of geometry. There’s a set of fiberglass fenders from DCM Classics (Dodge of Central Michigan) that are 2″ wider than the factory fenders. Hunter found a set of factory steel fenders a few years ago but he couldn’t make them work with the 10” wheels he wanted to run.
Soon Hunter’s attention will be turned to the Dodge’s cab and body work. He’s going for a smooth look on the truck. He added suicide doors a couple of years ago and got rid of the door handles. He took the Dodge script from a 1954 tailgate and welded it into his tailgate. Future work includes peaking the headlight buckets and trim to match the peaks on the truck’s fenders and frenching in the rear tail lights so they fit flush with the roll pan.
After the body work is done, the Dodge will be painted, but Hunter’s not sure what color it will be yet. “It depends on when I get to painting it and what’s hot at that time,” he said.
The primary project on the interior right now is extending the dash down about 3 inches. Hunter’s installing Vintage Air air conditioning and he didn’t have a good place to install the controls. “The extension has the same roll of the original dash so it doesn’t look added,” Hunter said. “The AC controls and vents will go there.”
He’s also ordered a 1936 Dodge gauge cluster that he’s going to fit into his dashboard. The cluster has five gauges in it, and Hunter’s planning to send it to Dakota Digital to have them digitize the gauges. He said his goal is “modern but still old school.” One more modern feature will be the touch screen audio system that he’s going to add.
The Dodge’s current bench seat is from the third row of a Chevy Tahoe. But that’s coming out soon. Hunter’s got a friend who has started his own upholstery shop and Hunter’s going to have him build a custom bench seat for the Dodge. That’ll make the Dodge’s interior look great, and be a good promotion for his friend’s shop.
Since the Dodge has been a part of Hunter’s life for, well… most of his life, you can imagine how much it means to him. “Everyone has that one car that they could never get rid of,” Hunter said. “I think that would be my one because I literally have learned everything I know about hot rods on that car. It’s grown my knowledge, and grown my love for the hobby.”
Hunter says if something came up in life, and he had to get rid of his ‘67 Nova, he could. But not the Dodge.
Oh, have I not mentioned the Nova?
The absolutely stunning 1967 Nova was given away at the 2021 Goodguys Rod and Custom Show in Columbus and Hunter won it. He. Won. It.
It’s kind of your normal run of the mill ‘67 Nova except that it was built by Designer Street Rods in Cleveland and equipped with an Edelbrock supercharged LS motor, Tremec 6 speed, Detroit Speed suspension, TMI interior with Dakota Digital gauges, and, as Hunter says, “lots of little cool details. I’m still finding them.”
As much as I loved talking to Hunter about his hot rods, what I enjoyed even more was talking with him about his love for hot rodding.
Hot rodding has been a bond with his dad literally all of Hunter’s life. Go to his Instagram account and find the video of when Hunter won the Nova. You can tell from that video and the picture below that it’s possible his dad is happier than Hunter is.
Of course, it’s easy to love hot rodding when everything is going right. But what about when they don’t go right? How about this weekend Hunter had a few years ago:
He headed for a car show he’d never been to before. Booked a hotel last minute that he said was “the worst hotel I’ve ever stepped foot in, never mind stayed in.” On the way to the show, his newly installed passenger side suicide door flew open. On the way home, rust from inside the fuel tank clogged up the fuel system and left Hunter on the side of a deserted highway at 2 am and he had to be towed home.
You know what Hunter says about THAT weekend?
“It was an absolutely great weekend. I met some of my greatest friends that weekend. It’s all about who you meet along the way. I enjoy the cars, but I enjoy the fellowship I can have with everybody that I meet along the way even more. I’ve met some great people. And I’ve introduced many people to the hobby. We enjoy the cars and enjoy working on them together.”
Now that’s someone who loves hot rodding.
Hunter likes to drive his Dodge, and he’s got a great attitude about the possibility that it might break down during a trip. “You know what? If it breaks down it breaks down. It’s going to break down whether I’m at home or on the road.”
And Hunter’s been on both sides of the ‘broken down hot rod on the side of the road’ scenario.
“I’ve been on the side of the road too many times,” Hunter said. “I’ve had people blow past me, but when some stranger has stopped to help me, it’s been a hot rodder. I feel like it’s hot rodder code – an unspoken rule – because you never know if you’re going to be that guy.”
Earlier this year he was asked to be the ‘follow car’ for the Hot Rod of the Year Tour that was part of the Goodguys Nashville show. Of course he said yes. And just a few miles down the road one of the drivers was on the side of the road. Hunter pulled over to try to help.
Another time there was a hot rodder pulled over and Hunter stopped again. Turns out it was a blown motor so there wasn’t much they could do to fix it on the road. But Hunter waited with him for over an hour until the tow truck came. And since then, the two of them have kept in touch.
Hot rodding is much more than just a hobby for Hunter. He’s actually got a few goals for his involvement in the sport.
He wants to bring new people into the sport. “I’m a young kid,” he said, “but you don’t see many young kids in the hobby, let alone building hot rods by themselves in their own backyard.”
And one of those people he’s introduced to the sport is his fiancé Aron. “She fell in love with it,” Hunter told me. “She enjoys going to the shows. I opened up a whole new world for her.” And Aron has already let Hunter know that when he’s done with the Dodge, she’d like for him to build her a Model A roadster.
Another goal is to win Hot Rod of the Year with the Dodge. “I’d like to show that you can build a backyard hot rod and be capable of doing anything that some of these $100,000 cars are capable of doing,” Hunter said. “I’m finally starting to understand that you can find good deals and do a whole lot of work and not spend all your money.” You want some proof of that? Hunter said he has spent less than $12,000 on the Dodge so far.
But Hunter’s ultimate goal is to have his own hot rod shop. “I like going to car shows, I like driving them, but my passion is building them,” he said. “I want to build hot rods for folks. I’d like for my style to be a stepping stone in the hot rod industry. I want to be able to fit in with the hot rod group, but I also want to fit in with the street rod group, and I want to fit in if I want to go to a custom show.”
“If I do that, I won’t ever retire because that’s my plan for when I retire anyway – build hot rods. If I can do that and support myself, it would be a great life.”
A life long hot rodder who shares his love for the sport with his dad, brothers, fiancé, and a wide network of fellow hot rodders that are his friends. A home built, very unique, and very cool ‘45 Dodge Pickup. And a state-of-the-art ‘67 Nova as well.
I’d say Hunter has already built himself a pretty good life.
Photos courtesy of Hunter Detrich and Mack Buchanan
Click here to see more photos of Hunter’s ’45
You can follow Hunter and his Dodge and his Nova on Instagram via @hunterdetrich