If you're into immediate gratification, then reading magazines like this one is a great hobby, but building the type of trucks that fill these pages is probably not. Joe Horisk, the owner of this beautiful '55 Cameo could tell you that. He's loved vintage iron since he was a teenager, and he knows that owning a great car or truck can sometimes require years, maybe even decades, of patience.
Joe had his share of hot rod and custom cars in his younger days and-this part of the story is familiar-put aside his hobby during his family raising years, only to return to it later in life. In the last several years, he's owned a whole bunch of cars, and won a bunch of awards with them. But until now, his trucks have been for transportation or work purposes only. Although this is the first custom-built truck in Joe's collection, his interest goes back 55 years to 1955 in northern Delaware, and a local guy who drove around in one of these brand-new Cameos.
Chevrolet was thinking ahead 55 years ago, when they realized that customers might be buying trucks at least partially based on looks, and put their pickups through a mid-year redesign. The Cameo was designed as something more than just a piece of heavy machinery. With new wraparound glass, headlight eyebrows, egg-crate grille, and wraparound front bumper, these new trucks more closely resembled the passenger cars of that same model year than they did the fat, round pickups of the previous year.
Joe's hunt for the right raw material ended when he flipped open a copy of the Goodguys Gazette and saw a photo of this truck in the classified ad section. Mesa, Arizona, is a long way from Delaware, but Joe called a friend from Phoenix who checked out the truck and reported back that it was a good one-nice looking, and partially built, with a '79 Camaro front clip and a TCI back half with a Winters quick-change.
Once the Cameo arrived on the East Coast, the Camaro clip, which was too wide for the truck, was replaced with Heidts tubular control arms and 2-inch drop Superior spindles, as well as a stock Camaro sway bar and a GM power steering box.
In the back, the quick-change was swapped for a more streetable 9-inch rearend from John's Industries packed with 3.50:1 gears with a limited-slip and 31-spline axles. The four-link and Panhard bar are from TCI. Joe runs QA1 shocks and springs and Wilwood disc brakes at all four corners.
The centerpiece of the sanitary engine compartment is a 540ci Chevy big-block crate motor, built by Smeding Performance. The satin-black Cadillac air cleaner feeds a Holley 820-cfm carburetor on an Edelbrock intake manifold. Sanderson headers draw the exhaust, with Flowmaster mufflers on 2 1/2-inch exhaust tubing. Spark is provided by MSD. The aluminum accessory brackets are from Billet Specialties. The Rat motor is tied to a Turbo 400 automatic put together by Pro-Trans Transmission Specialists.
Bright red is the theme inside the cab, where Dean Alexander in Middletown, Delaware, covered the Glide bench seat with that solid-tone Ultraleather, and carried the color over to the plush wool carpet, custom headliner, and custom-built door panels. The '55-56 Chevy-style steering wheel is a smaller-diameter 15-inch replacement from American Retro. The full-tilt column with shifter is from Flaming River. The truck dash was replaced by a double-hump dash from a '55-56 Chevy passenger car. United Speedometer Services supplied the stock appearing, but upgraded gauges, including oil, amp, temp, and fuel, as well as a 140-mph speedometer. Climate control is provided by a Vintage Air air-conditioning system. A Ron Francis wiring kit was installed to get juice going where it's needed.
It's a luxury to be able to build a project vehicle from intact sheetmetal, and the truck came to Delaware rust free after its years in the desert of the Southwest. Even the factory fiberglass was where it was supposed to be on the rear fender skins and outer tailgate.
During the build, the area between the tailgate and rear quarters was boxed in, the rear bumper was reshaped to to fit flush with the lower rear quarters, and most of the decorative chrome trim and emblems were eliminated. The chrome that remained was redone at N.E.L. Metal Restorations in Philadelphia. When the truck was ready for paint, Dwayne Snyder shot the DuPont white, with red on the inside of the bed and on the rear pillars, characteristic of Cameos.
By the time the project was finished, two years had gone by and Joe's Cameo had evolved way beyond the everyday driver he had originally planned-this part of the story is familiar too-into a top shelf-show truck. Of course, "better than expected" is always preferable to the alternative and even if Joe's Cameo doesn't get driven daily, it does get regular exercise, especially if there's a truck show to go to.