1955 Chevy Snub Nose Cameo, “Tug Boat” Is A Breath Of Fresh Air

In the hot rod scene, ain’t nothing new under the sun, so it’s nice to see something different and off the wall.

We’ve all spent plenty of time at car shows, standing in the sun, staring at another customized ’55 Chevy 210 Sedan. Don’t get us wrong, 210s are cool. But, how many times have you been at show-and-shine and stood next to a customized 1955 Chevy Snub Nose Cab Over Cameo? Never? Well, if you happen to be in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, you might find yourself standing in front of Darren Hoffman’s “Tug Boat” or (“Lil’ Tug” depending on the day,) an insane 1955 Chevy Snub Nose pickup. Every inch of this truck has been modified.

The Tug Boat’s journey morphing from a commercial truck into a serious hot rod has been a long one spanning different owners, half-completed projects, and two different countries. The Tug Boat began its road trip in New Jersey. Before Darren purchased the car the ’55 snub nose had already been partially customized but uncompleted.

The cab had been modified from a 2-ton to a half-ton to fit a cameo truck bed. Custom tubs were fabricated in the truck bed to house massive 33 x 22.5 Hoosier Tires mounted on old school ET wheels. Custom suicide doors were installed but the truck was far from complete.

The image on the left is what a stock 1955 Chevrolet Snub Nose Cab Over looks like. The image on the right is a project started but unfinished. Every hot rod has to start somewhere; the Tug Boat started its custom life just like Bon Jovi, in New Jersey. Careful inspection of the two photos shows just how much customization took place to create this project.

Darren had a vision for what this old snub nose truck could be. He started by importing his dream project from the United States to British Columbia, Canada, and began to pour blood, sweat, and tears into the Tug Boat. Thousands of hours were put into the build and every detail was considered as decisions were made on what the Tug Boat would look like. The end result is the beauty you see before you.

The rear suspension, handling the massive Hoosier tires, is all Art Morrison. Power and torque transfers through a Ford 9” Strange center section and Strange axles. The front suspension is standard hot rod issue Mustang II with RideTech StrongARM tubular front A-arms. All this rolls on RideTech Shockwave dampeners at all four corners, with Wilwood disc brakes, providing the “whoa.”

Motivation for the truck is provided ba a Chevrolet 409 built by Jack Gibbs at 409 Chevy Performance in California. Gibbs stroked the 409 to 472 cubic inches. The Edelbrock dual carbs help feed the air and fuel to a stout 510 horsepower. The custom firewall and engine compartment were smoothed to help the fitment of the 409. The paint and fabrication inside the engine compartment are clean and minimalistic. The big-block engine is bolted to a TCI Turbo 400 transmission with a 2800 stall torque converter.

Inside, the interior is something never dreamed of by anyone flogging one of these trucks down the road in 1955. Geoff Horsfall, from Duncan, British Columbia did the extremely clean detail work on the interior using cinnamon Italian leather over a custom bench seat. A Flaming River tilt column with a ‘56 Chevy 15” reproduction steering wheel helps Tug Boat navigate the turns. Painless wiring harness connected the electrical bits, including LED lights.

The beautiful custom interior by Geoff Horsfall from Duncan, British Columbia, Canada, provides a stunningly simple and warm feel using cinnamon Italian leather with perforation accents. Suicide doors are a killer tweak.

To be a truck, you have to have a truck bed, and Tug Boat’s cargo area is something you don’t want to miss. Using African mahogany wood, sixteen coats of Custom House of Kolor clear was laid onto the wood panels to create a deep richness in the wood. The tailgate doesn’t have any chains or latches to help with the smooth look of the truck.

With this insanely gorgeous woodwork, chances are nobody is going to haul a load of gravel in the back of the Tug Boat. I could stare at the bed of this truck for hours.

The inner fender flares to cover the massive rear tires painted Rootbeer Tangerine, gleam in the sun and swim into the mahogany wood bed seamlessly. The polished runners between the wood bed pieces create an incredible canvass. No truck bed liner required here.

What really separates the Tug Boat from other builds is the custom bodywork. There are so many details a lot of them can be easily missed. First, there is the customizing of the cameo bed walls to fit snug into the cab. There is a custom made visor to follow the contour of the cab near the windshield. There were many custom fabrications made to the bed for a sleeker look.

All of these body modifications are credited to Nolan Hoffman and Mark Hoffman. Additionally, custom touches to the door jams and the engine compartment contributed to the hours of bodywork and sanding. Realizing the cab lights were removed and filled in you can see the mods are endless. The paint was done by Procraft Restoration out of Duncan, British Columbia, using Custom House of Kolors, Rootbeer Tangerine. The multiple coats of paint and endless sanding gives this truck a show quality and finish that is so deep it looks like you can dip your fingers into it.

Darren Hoffman said that his dream of building a 1955 snub nose cab-over truck took nearly two years of hard work including over 4,000 hours of assistance from family and friends. He is extremely grateful to his father, Nolan Hoffman, who did tons of fabrication, and his brother Mark Hoffman who did a lot of bodywork. Lester Baranuik at Procraft Restoration did the paint and Geoff Horsfall did the upholstery.

Darren credits his father, Nolan, for creating so many custom fabricated handmade parts to finalize Tug Boat and also to assure the truck functional. Nolan created aluminum power steering and alternator brackets, internal fender reinforcements, tin panels under the hood, a suicide glove box, and a very iconic custom three-dimensional aluminum Chevrolet bowtie on the rear tailgate.

For Darren Hoffman, the Tug Boat is a dream that came to life. What was once a 1955 snub nose cab over 2-ton workhorse has now been transformed into a unique and radical ride that he is immensely proud to cruise around British Columbia. The project was an enormous amount of effort to complete and took thousands of hours and assistance from many people.

Kudos to the Hoffman family! All of that hard work paid off and this 1955 Chevy is certainly one of a kind.

A Note From Rod Authority Editor Dave CruikshankThis thing was a killer in person. Truly a one-of-a-kind build that was a big crowd favorite at the 2019 Goodguys Puyallup show last summer. Sadly, the truck was overlooked when it came time to handing out awards. We say to hell with judges and car show politics and shine the spotlight on this fresh take on a Chevy Snub Nose pickup. We loved it, and award “Tug Boat” Rod Authority’s Favorite Truck of 2019. 

Exterior photography – Cindy Henning / Interior and engine photography – Martina Mangion

About the author

Rob Krider

Rob Krider will race absolutely anything. He is a multi-national champion racing driver and is also the author of the novel, Cadet Blues.
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