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New Truck Age Old Appeal
By Larry Edsall

Southern Truck New truck designed to have age-old appeal
A few years ago, Jim Kaplan went shopping for a pickup truck, but he couldn't find anything that really caught his eye. To his eye, all of the new pickup trucks looked pretty much the same, and Kaplan wanted something that would stand out.

Unable to find what he wanted – something that combined an eye-catching, perhaps even classic appearance with modern automotive technology – Kaplan is building his own truck, and a few more for good measure. Thus, sometime in the second half of 2008, the Southern Motor Company planned to launch its first product, the Southern 358.

The truck would combine classic looks inspired by the late-1940s/early-1950s Chevrolet pickups with mechanical components from the new Ford Mustang GT. Because Southern is based in Liberty, S.C., and because the truck's engine will produce some 350 horsepower from eight cylinders, the truck will be called the 358, says Southern's Rick Conte

Like Kaplan, chief executive of electronics capacitor producer Cornell Dubilier, Conte's an experienced manufacturing engineer. They're in the process of hiring a veteran automotive engineer with Big Three truck-development experience, and are using Panoz Auto Development, the Georgia-based motorsports and specialty car company, to do design, prototype development and to guide the federal certification process.

Industrial Tooling Solution of Grand Rapids, Michigan, does the body panels and most of the hardware will come from Ford's Component Sales division.

Southern established a target price of $55,000 for its trucks, which will be assembled in South Carolina.

Specs call for four-wheel disc brakes, Cragar S/S wheels, air conditioning, power windows, dual front airbags and leather seats – but don't expect a heated steering wheel, power mirrors or other such touches. This truck is about basics and beauty, blended with modern technology.

Do, however, expect an epoxy-coated teak pickup bed and stunning paint colors for the truck's stamped steel body panels. "Art Meets Asphalt" is the credo for this truck program.

For more information, visit the website.

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