Midyear in 1958, Chevrolet Motor Division replaced the stylish Cameo pickup with the all metal Fleetside model. By the time of this changeover, a scant 1,405 Cameos had rolled off the GM assembly line. The new Fleetside, with an all-metal bed, made the Cameo somewhat redundant, likely because the stylish Cameo was a combination of metal and 'glass, making it less desirable. However, over the decades to follow, all the Cameo models of '55-'58 became very collectable vintage pickups.
Denise and Rick Spillman of Olympia, Washington, had been searching for a Cameo over a four-year period. Once in awhile, they stumbled across a '55-'57, but never a '58. They preferred the quad headlight nose of the '58 model. When they eventually learned about the low production figures for the '58, the search was on.
One sunny spring day in May of 2002, an eBay web surf expedition proved fruitful. They discovered a bright-red, four-eyed Cameo residing in Texas. After an abundance of long-distance phone calls to the Lonestar State and pouring over numerous mailed photos of the Cameo, the Spillmans bought the truck without seeing it in person.
Though the Chevy was a solid driver, the new caretakers wanted both a show and a go machine. Hence, they sliced off the stock Chevy front end and welded in a '78 Camaro Z28 front clip with power steering. Rick's brothers, Don and Kent, own Big Boys Toys, a street rod shop in Yucaipa, California. They installed a chrome '69 Jaguar IRS. Sized 16x8 inches at each corner and covered with Goodyear radials, Rick replaced the factory rolling stock with American Racing Wheels Torq-Thrust IIs. Camaro Z28 front ventilated disc brakes and Jaguar rear discs now slow down the 3,600-pound hauler much better than the original hydraulic drums. Rick constructed a stainless steel 24-gallon fuel tank, then located it behind the Jaguar IRS.
Without a shiny new engine, the Bow Tie would be sentenced to a life of street duty only. Fortunately for the Spillmans, friend Rick Boyd, of Olympia, Washington, had recently built a 355ci Chevy motor for drag racing that he was willing to part with. Through the careful construction of the proper components, such as World angle-plug 202 heads, forged TRW pistons, Speed Pro rings, a Crower camshaft bumping solid lifters, an Edelbrock Victor Jr. aluminum intake manifold, a Holley 750-cfm carburetor, and a K&N air filter element, dyno'd horsepower is 425 at a 10.5:1 compression. With the addition of a K&N billet aluminum air filter housing and GM cast-aluminum valve covers, the engine looks as good as it performs.
Sure, the need for speed and power is important, but so is a resonant exhaust note. Rick entrusted Vick at Quality Muffler, in Olympia, Washington, to install a set of Dynomax mufflers, tips, and a exhaust system with a set of Doug's headers. B&M Racing & Performance Products enhanced the TH 350 transmission by installing a 3,200-stall converter, as well as a Hayden Automotive tranny cooler.
Upon installation of the stout drag racing engine, the red exterior was less than perfect. As the owners desired a show-worthy driver, they decided to have the entire exterior repainted in bright red and bright white. Rick selected Bernie's Custom Paint, in Olympia, Washington, for the job. Bernie's stripped the finish, shaved the hood and fenders, and laid down a Bernie's custom blend of '03 Corvette Torch Red and White paint. The Cameo spent a total of eight weeks at the painters, before Rick installed a stainless steel bed floor, separated by red-painted stringers.
Despite the fact that the interior had all been redone to factory-new condition, Rick removed the original bench seat and replaced it with '78 Mercury Grand Marquis power bucket seats. Another friend, Dennis Goetz of Dennis Goetz Upholstery, of Olympia, Washington, trimmed the buckets and interior with gray and charcoal tweed fabric. Dennis also replaced the factory rubber mat with charcoal wool carpet. The steering wheel and dashboard instruments were left stock. Climactic cabin comfort was enhanced via a Hot Rod Air in-dash HVAC system.
After 11 months of effort by the Spillmans, their friends, and several craftsmen, the four-eyed Cameo had a new lease on life. One of the Cameo's first appearances came at the 2004 55th Annual Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS), held this year for the first time at the Los Angeles County Fairplex, in Pomona, California. The prestigious America's Most Beautiful Roadster trophy is presented at the GNRS each year. Magnificent American roadsters play the leading roles at this historic event, while the Spillmans brought their pickup simply to make a rare Cameo appearance. Bravo.
Chevrolet Cameos were produced from 1955 through mid-1958. Always considered rare, well-st
With speed shop components such as Edelbrock, Crower Cams, World Manufacturing, and Holley
Bucket seats from a '78 Mercury Marquis were trimmed in charcoal and gray tweed fabric.
The only two elements that aren't stock in this '58 dash are the aftermarket AM/FM radio a
Per the caretakers' wishes, friend and upholsterer Dennis Goetz trimmed the Cameo's door p
Owner Rick Spillman used polished stainless steel panels, separated by Torch Red-painted s
Despite the newly applied bright-red paintjob upon its 2002 purchase, the Spillmans hired
If you owned a Cameo pickup in the '50s, you arguably had the most stylish pickup that Am