We're hoping this '61 Chevy Apache will have the same impact on you that it had on photographer Joe Greeves when he first saw it at Slamfest in Tampa-and that it had on us when he showed us his photos. The out-of-the-ordinary choice of raw material and unusual selection and application of paint tend to draw attention to Russell and Eva Griffin's two-tone pickup.
You've got to go back to the early '60s to get to Russell's earliest interest in iron. He's been building and driving cool cars and trucks since his teenage years and the decades between then and now have been filled with a variety of vehicles. This Chevy has been his since 1992. It had belonged to an elderly neighbor. Russell would help him with household maintenance and yard chores. Eventually the old man agreed to sell the truck, knowing it would be in good hands.
At the time, the Chevy was in excellent condition with 48,000 original miles on the odometer-a good buy for $1,000. Another part of the appeal for Russell was the fact that he doesn't see many '60s and '61s around, and he'd always liked the "two-hump hoods" of those years.
Chevrolet was making an effort, it seems, to usher in the '60s with styling and engineering that would make its updated pickup appeal to car lovers too. Starting with the '60 models, the rectangular profile, transplanted headlights, and redesigned grille contributed to that, as did the '60-62 independent front torsion bar suspension, promoted to provide a car-like ride quality.
Russell's first mods were mild-a pair of single-barrel carbs at one end of the stovebolt and a pair of Fenton headers at the other. The next phase included rebuilding the engine and replacing the column-shifted three-speed with a '60 Chevy three-speed overdrive, "so I could keep up with my friends on the interstate," he told us.
In 1997, the truck was torn apart and painted. Russell spotted the colors on a '34 Ford sedan at an NSRA event in Tampa, and tried to convince the car owner to reveal the colors. After resisting, the sedan owner directed Russell to the PPG paint chip chart, commenting, "if you want 'em, you go hunt 'em."
The resulting paint scheme was a collaboration between Russell and painter Jim Mack from Plant City, Florida, (his last paintjob before he passed away). The roof is Celery Stalk green, with Vanilla Shake on the cab. The hood and upper portion of the body panels are Celery Stalk again; the lower portions go back to Vanilla Shake. The color difference is subtle and Jim Mack added pearl to both tones, so as the light shifts you have to look twice to make sure you're seeing it right. Apple-green pinstriping was later added by Fine Arts By Rene.
The exterior colors continue on the dash and door panels, complemented by Eucalyptus Green and Kilimanjaro White Ultraleather covering the Rod Doors' seat and removable armrest. Russell maintained the factory instruments, adding aftermarket oil and temp gauges plus a big ol' race tach below the dash. A carbon-fiber banjo wheel mounts to a tilt column. A Panasonic sound system provides entertainment.
The bed floor is finished in oak, protected by a 'glass tonneau cover from Gaylord's. A year after the paint was shot, the truck got a Vintage Air A/C system and power steering using a '74 Chevy pickup box.
"In 2002, the need for speed got the best of me," Russell admitted. That's when he added the Chevy 350 small-block with Fast Burn 385 heads, a GM Hot Cam, and a big Holley 770-cfm carb under a K&N spoked-lid air cleaner. Sanderson shorty headers feed 2 1/2-inch exhaust pipes with SS Specialities mufflers. Belts wrap around Vintage Air Front Runner pulleys. Russell lists horsepower and torque both at 430. Fourth Gear in Apopka, Florida, built the 700-R4 trans. At the rear, a Chevy 12-bolt with an Auburn Posi spins 3.73:1 gears.
The wheels were swapped around the same time as the running gear. The slotted dish mags were replaced with 15x7 and 15x8 Cragars with 245- and 275-series BFG hides. Eleven-inch disc brakes are fed by an SSBC Power Master cylinder. Russell's thinking about airbags, but right now a pair of 2 1/2-inch dropped spindles and 3 1/2-inch dropped rear springs from McGaughy's set the '61 "right where I want it."
Hiding the underhood wiring and freshening the paint are other plans for the future. Until then, Russell and Eva are having a blast taking road trips, attending shows, and adding to their collection of trophies.