The previous owner, Kerry Johnson, gave this '58 Apache Fleetside to current owner Tom Kirchner Jr. for free on the condition that he put a Chevy engine and transmission in it. That's a hard deal to turn down and an easy one to keep. Most Bow Tie custom trucks (and a whole lot of Fords, we hear) are powered by small-blocks anyway, typically tied to TH350s or 700s. It's a reliable and popular combo. But Kerry knew Tom, and was familiar with his lifelong passion for Mopar muscle. Tom's collection of classic iron includes Superbees, Satellites, and a '70 Duster, to name of a few, and Tom was actually planning to drop a Chrysler 340 into the engine bay, but the $0 price tag compelled him to agree to Kerry's request.
Tom, who lives in Clay Center, Kansas, was already familiar with the Apache. His father, Tom Sr., was into '58-59 shortbed Fleetsides and had bought this one 30 years ago, right around the time Tom Jr. was old enough to start driving. At that time, the factory 235-inch, six-cylinder had been replaced by a 265ci V-8 with a three-speed overdrive. Eventually Tom Sr. sold the '58 to buy something newer. When Tom Jr. got it back, minus the drivetrain, it was in sad shape. The seats were shot, the sheetmetal was in the process of rotting away, and it was rolling on a pair of big stock steelies with snow tires in the rear.
Like most projects, this one started with a suspension rebuild. Tom lowered the front 6 inches, using a Heidt's Superide II IFS system with Aldan coilovers, and 2-inch lowered spindles along with a power rack to improve steering. The rear was lowered 4 inches and rebuilt with a Ford 9-inch 2.75:1 rearend out of a '75 LTD, with limited-slip, plus Pete & Jake's shocks and TCI springs. GM 11-inch discs in front and factory Ford discs out back slow it down.
He must have inherited his dad's love for these Fleetsides. He told us he didn't want to change the lines he liked so much-just repair the damage, clean it up, and modernize it a bit. He achieved that by welding the bed seams, losing the bumper bolts, replacing the side glass with one-piece windows and adding halogen headlights and LED taillights. Wilder Auto Body in Clay Center and Gary Gurney helped turn the truck into what you see here.
Tom Sr. (who was involved in 95 percent of the buildup, according to Tom Jr.) and Doug Reboul installed the new glass and the white ash bed floor. A Total Cost Involved 19-gallon gas tank was mounted under the bed. The truck was painted at Wilder; the PPG 2006 Dodge Viper GTS Blue Pearl is a nice choice and probably appeals to Tom's affection for Mopars. Tom said he looked at a mountain of different wheel books trying to decide on the right rolling stock, but kept coming back to these polished aluminum American Racing Torq Thrust IIs. The sizes are 18s and 20s, and carry the styling back to the '60s.
Old and new combine inside the cab, where the stock dash has been updated with Dakota Digital instruments and an Isotta steering wheel on an ididit tilt column, and some billet details. The factory cranks operate the power windows. The 60/40 split bench seat from a '90 Buick also features power controls, as well as two-tone velour upholstery by Gary "The Criminal" Williams. Other amenities include cruise control (mounted in the ashtray), A/C from Old Air Products, and a Custom Autosound sound system with Infinity speakers and amp.
Tom kept his word and kept the Chevy pickup Chevy- powered. The semi-glossy inner wheelwells and custom firewall make the dressed-up engine compartment really pop. Tom's teenage son Quinton built the '73 350 for his high school power mechanics class project. It's been bored 0.030-over to 355 ci, and loaded with 8.5:1 TRW pistons with Sealed Power rings, along with a pair of World Products heads. The intake, cam, four-barrel carb, air cleaner, and valve covers are all Edelbrock items. The ignition is PerTronix. The TH350 was modified with a shift-improvement kit and was built at Certified Transmission in Omaha, and runs an 18-inch Hayden tranny cooler.
Since the Chevy was finished in 2007, Tom has clocked over 8,800 miles on the truck, which has never been trailered. "This truck was built for driving, and not having to watch for every little rock," Tom said, although he does show it off at shows around the central states, including the Midwest All-Truck Nationals, in Riverside, Missouri, where John Gilbert shot these photos.