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11 April 2009
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From Dave :
The Story of my '58
My truck was hauled from behind a red barn near Gettysburg, South Dakota. This circumstance was set into motion as I closed out my first summer of Missouri River fieldwork in the summer of 2002. I ended the effort at West Whitlock State Park, after paddling my kayak more than 1200 miles down the Missouri.
While drinking a beer and eating deep-fried chicken gizzards at the local hangout with a group of walleye fishing guides and park staff, we somehow got on the topic of old trucks. I probably mentioned some of the old metal I had seen while paddling. In any event, we were talking about our favorite trucks. I volunteered that my favorites were the '58 and '59 quad headlight Chevy Apaches. Jerry, one of the guys sitting at the table, said he knew where there was one for sale.
After our meal, Jerry asked me if I'd be interested in going with him in the next couple days to see a 1958 Chevy Apache that he'd made the deal to buy for $1200. Then he added, "I really don't need another old truck. If you want her, I'll sell her to you for what I'm paying."
Two days later, Jerry picked me up and we went out to see the '58. This Chevy Task Force truck had been sitting for two years but the owner's Dad said she "ran when she was parked." Most recently, she had been used to haul water in a large plastic tank to wet down the dust at the local drive-in.
My first impression, as I walked up to her, was that she was pretty rough. I could see that she was the 3/4-ton model, not the more desirable 1/2-ton. However, as I looked her over more closely, I could see that she was actually pretty solid. She had a nice patina along with the wear you'd expect on a well used farm truck – mostly surface rust, dings, dents, and a few small tears. Her driver's bedside "rocket" was flattened at the back, bed wood was totally gone, windshield shot through, and the remaining windows cracked badly or busted out. A large bullet hole in the floor graced the passenger floorboard. The bench seat hardly had any fabric or padding. Chicken manure covered the floor and most of the dash. She was beautiful.
Fast forward a good bit. We got her back to upstate New York, and on the road after a year of refitting. Finally, we decided to make her a highway cruiser. We completely replaced her running gear: TCI 4 link, Currie 9" 3.25 rear, MII front suspension, 5.3 Vortec/4L60e from a 2005 Chevy Avalanche [VinZ which is flex fuel capable], Rock Valley tank, Painless generic harness, Autometer gauges, cruise and Hot Rod Air. Photos at:
So Okay! Carving away on a historic truck can be viewed as a violation of some sort -- an irreverent act. But I'd essentially decided to create a new truck under an old skin. My hope was that she and I would evolve the karmic understanding necessary to complete the transformation, and that the replaced drive train and suspension parts would yield a capable union of old metal and new technology. She would return to the road transformed, capable of making previously unimaginable distances with grace. She would be able to run all day at the highest posted speed limits, and would purr like a kitten down the highways and back roads of America.
There is a method to this madness. I am working on a book about hot rodding and my truck is my calling card for conversations and interviews. See my web site !
Finally, I am happy to answer any questions about my home build. It took me five years of on-and-off work. It was pretty daunting at the start. But she is a fine driving truck, getting 22-26 mpg.
Last summer I put 4K miles on her - out to Colorado and back. This summer (2009), I'll be driving to and interviewing folks at Nashville Goodguys, Columbus Goodguys, and Syracuse Nationals. In between, I'll be doing some interviews of builders at custom shops. Next summer, it'll be cruising the West coast.
Look for a mint green '58 Fleetside longbed ... I'll buy the beer!
My best regards,
On your return trip, maybe you can stop by the 2009 Stovebolt reunion in KC this September. We'll be on the lookout for a mint green '58 with a big cooler in the back. ~