Custom classic trucks are never really done. They may be done for us, if we sell one and build another, but they're never finished. Once the pickups come out of upholstery, we have to show 'em. So we either drive or trailer them to events. If we put miles on them, we'll be replacing worn parts and making drivability improvements. If we're strictly showing them, our competitive nature may get the best of us. In an effort to win more awards, we'll be customizing them further.
While being awestruck at the amount of wonderful vintage custom pickups that participated in the 2005 Goodguys Lone Star Nationals, we met '58 Chevy Cameo caretaker Larry Cockerham of Norman, Oklahoma. Since 1973, Larry's been a faithful steward to the Chevy. Although he drove the truck daily until the early '80s, he had the wisdom to remove the rare Cameo's trim pieces shortly after he purchased the pickup, stowing them safely in his house. Through the duration of the '80s and '90s, Larry dreamed and planned how he'd bring the truck back to roadworthy, while raising a family and saving money for the Chevy's renovation.
Once the Cockerhams' two kids had married and moved out of the house, Larry realized it was time to get to work. He consulted his archives of vintage truck publications, including issues of CCT, which provided a treasure trove of information for rebuilding the Cameo. He found a pro shop in Oklahoma City-American Street Rods (ASR)-that he entrusted to help him fulfill his Cameo- customizing aspirations. To get the Chevy riding low, ASR owner Terry Harris C-notched the original framerails in the rear. He installed airbags and a '77 Monte Carlo differential, and the Monte Carlo's IFS for the front suspension. After fabricating a 15-gallon stainless steel fuel tank, ASR located the tank between the rear framerails and plumbed the chassis with stainless lines for the fuel and brake systems.
Since Larry wanted a reliable custom street truck, he opted for a GM ZZ4 crate engine. Phoenix Transmissions of Weatherford, Texas, rebuilt a 700-R4 and improved it with a 2,500-stall converter, and a B&M floor shifter to back the engine. ASR installed the engine/trans and plumbed the lines to the frame-mounted B&M trans cooler.
All the years of driving and storage had taken their toll on the Cameo's exterior. Curtis Hutton, owner of Hutton Auto Body in Marlow, Oklahoma, used body-panel pieces from three donor cabs to create one solid body. He fabricated the floorboads and toeboards from virgin sheetmetal and performed extensive body surgery to the front metal fenders and hood. Curtis sprayed the separate body components '99 Pontiac Trans Am Bright Red and reassembled the metal panels onto the chassis. The owner and Curtis installed an all-new greenhouse before American Street Rods wired the truck with a Ron Francis wiring harness.
Unlike most pickup projects, the last stage in the Chevy's rebirth wasn't the upholstery shop. Dan Kirkpatrick trimmed the bucket seats in tan leather, in addition to enhancing the headliner and door panels with the same-hued hides. Hutton Auto Body received the Cameo from Dan so Curtis and Larry could fit the Cameo's fiberglass bed. They reinstalled the long-missing Cameo exclusive trim pieces and the front and rear bumpers, which had been rechromed/renewed by Superior Chrome in Houston, Texas. Larry temporarily put the project to bed by installing the Mar-K bed floor kit.
When we asked Larry how long his Cameo took to complete, he gave us the familiar line, "She'll never be done." We've said our rejoinder many times as well: "What would you like to add?" Larry's response was something all custom vintage truck fans/owners could relate to-"more miles." We can't think of doing anything more appealing than that.