Apparently there's a trip-switch mechanism in our brains that goes off at around 14 years of age-and we begin to experience severe car/ truck lust. Remember when the idea of driving your very own vehicle with the freedom to go anywhere you wanted was your favorite fantasy? It's an intoxicating pastime-especially for boys who dream of building a custom ride.
About eight years ago, a teenage Ryan Heckman spotted an affordable '69 Chevy short-bed Stepside near his Granada Hills, California, home. Thoughts of buying it had him lying awake at night wondering if it might be for sale. He'd have his license soon and he'd need wheels to drive to high school.
As it turned out, Ryan did purchase the '69 Chevy. Over the next seven years it provided transportation to school, but it didn't stop at being a clean daily driver. One modification after the next kept the Stepside evolving to an ever-nicer level. It helped that Ryan's dad was a well-known professional painter, one who had worked for several hot rod shops in the San Fernando Valley, including Magoo's when Dick Megugorac was the owner (see "Artistic Expression," page 14).
When the suspension and body modifications were finally completed, it came time to paint the cab and bed. The color choice was a constant debate between Ryan and his dad. They couldn't decide, let alone agree, on what color to apply. As any dad might do, Don asked Ryan's mom Anne, a professional dancer and dance teacher, what colors she liked; Anne's favorites were mainly lavender and purple. With that in mind, Don promised Ryan that whatever the precise color mix, it would be something extra special.
Life's most painful experience often comes with the loss of a cherished loved one. Ryan's mom passed away from cancer last November. But because his truck was painted with the two colors that his mom preferred, Ryan says, "When certain lights hit my truck, it glows and reminds me of my mom's glowing smile. My truck's lavender pearl and purple-painted flames are an everlasting memory of my mom."
Through the years, Ryan's dad wasn't particularly keen on Ryan painting cars for a living. He was well aware of how much hard work must be done before the color and clear coats can be sprayed. However, Ryan has discovered he shares his dad's love of hot rods and custom cars and has learned much about custom paint jobs. As a result, Ryan currently applies his knowledge to vehicles of a smaller scale- lately his model cars and trucks have been earning Best Paint and Best of Show awards.
Painting and the love of vintage cars of all kinds and sizes are things Ryan and his dad can share. You can see the pride in Don's face as he talks about his award-winning son. Somehow we believe Anne Heckman is also smiling down on her family as they share their lives with her glowing memory always in their hearts. Perhaps one day in the not too distant future, 22-year-old Ryan will tackle a full-size paint project of his own-with his dad's support and blessing. We're certain Don will feel a father's pride in a son who shares his love of custom painting and craftsmanship.