The Kid Who Drives That Truck
David Chacon was searching Craigslist for old trucks when he saw a tiny photo of this '54 Dodge Job-Rated. It belonged to the neighbor of the old farmer who had owned it for decades. When David showed up to buy it, the bed was loaded with parts-oil filters, fuel filters, and belts-unused and unusable, in addition to old bottles, empty gasoline cans, and beat-up street signs. The body was covered with tree sap, but except for matching cab-length horizontal scratches on both sides and a tailgate that obviously took the brunt of some serious cargo, the 56-year-old sheetmetal was straight, with only one small rust hole. The truck hadn't been driven in 20 years, but had been taken care of during its life on the farm. There were only 51,000 miles on the odometer and the six-cylinder flathead was ready to run.
Before agreeing to sell the Dodge to David, who turns 20 this year, the owner insisted on interviewing him. "He didn't want some punk kid taking his truck and putting a V-8 in it or painting it some funky color. He wanted someone who would take care of it. Someone who would keep it and drive it and enjoy it."
David passed the interview and trailered the truck home. "I bought a 6-volt battery, started it, and drove it around the block." He cleaned out the dirt and debris, changed the oil, rebuilt the generator, rebuilt and replumbed the brakes, replaced the headlights, added brake lights, then drove it for a couple of months before rebuilding the Carter one-barrel and replacing all the wiring.
The Job-Rated came equipped with a commercial towing package that included a higher bed with bed hooks along the side, bigger tires, commercial plates, and a 230 Flathead Six, the larger of two six-cylinder engines offered. The four-speed transmission has a low "granny" First gear.
David painted the dash and door panels, and rewired the instruments. The seat bottom had developed a substantial sinkhole. A blanket and fabric seat cover are the temporary remedy as David continues to work on the truck. Further improvements will come paycheck by paycheck. David can't start any projects that would take the truck out of commission, since he depends on it to get to school and to work every day-and for driving around with his girlfriend, Irene. "She loves it. She understands why I spend so much time working on it. If something breaks, she's right there saying, 'let's fix it.' And her family likes it; my family jokes about it." His family also provides encouragement, and David says his father has helped him appreciate old cars and trucks.
For all he's learned about his truck, there are questions that David will never get an answer to. "I wonder how things happened to it. Why is the front emblem missing? How did the bumper get bent? What was the farmer doing to get that big scratch down the side? What was he hauling to bend the tailgate out of shape? When I bought it, there were a bunch of dates written in pencil on the roof-the earliest was from 1959, going all the way to 1970. What did those mean?
"This comes from a time when people cherished what they worked for. It means something to me to work at it and have it come out the way I want it." Since the truck has been on the street, people around his neighborhood have started to recognize it-and recognize David. "They say, 'you're the kid who drives that truck'. It's not fast and I get annoyed when people cut me off, but I'm doing my thing. I used to drive fast. This slowed me down. I enjoy the drive."
Editor's Note: Getting your truck into Readers' Trucks is a snap, of the camera, that is. All it takes are a few good-quality photos of your ride that are in focus and well lit. High-resolution digital photos can be sent in via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Traditional prints are also acceptable and should be sent to: CCT, c/o Readers' Trucks, 1733 Alton Parkway, Irvine, CA 92606. It is important that you include a detailed description of the modifications you have made to your truck, including any interesting stories behind it. Due to the volume of mail we receive, we regret that we cannot return photographs.