There are a million obstacles that can stand in the way of completing a truck project in a timely manner. Ron Haffner can tell you all about that. There must have been years on end that he thought he'd never finish building his '61 Chevy. Actually, there were probably years on end that he thought he'd never get started.
Ron bought this Apache 10 Fleetside pickup from his brother-in-law in 1992. The truck had been in the family for almost 25 years, but, as Ron put it "he didn't want to fool with it anymore, and I did." It was located 1,000 miles away from Ron's house in Illinois, but at $300 it was a deal he couldn't pass up. "When I the hauled it home, my wife's comment about its condition was not a sign that I had made a good decision." The Chevy soon had an affectionate nickname: PSIG, or "Piece of #%&! In the Garage."
"My first thought was just to clean it up a bit and use it for a daily driver," Ron said. "Put some carbs and a sweet split manifold on it and hear the sound of that Six in heat with those Smitty glasspacks just a-poppin' and snappin'." But cleaning led to dismantling which led to a complete teardown. After the Haffners relocated to Houston, Ron had no time and no place to work on the truck, so all the disassembled pieces went into storage. After a year, he started back at it, but without much progress. Another relocation took them back to Illinois, where the truck went into storage again. Just as Ron was getting started on the project, the family was sent back to Texas.
He'd now had the truck for eight years with not much to show except for damage done by the salt and snow from a bad Midwest snowstorm and a bunch of rent receipts from all the years in storage. When he was finally able to get busy on the long-awaited project, the condition of the PSIG was worse than he imagined. So he stripped the frame, again, and started from scratch.
"Magazine articles I'd read over the years persuaded me that it would be a snap to upgrade the torsion bar suspension to a more modern A-arm setup," Ron said. It wasn't quite that easy, but with a lot of tech articles, questions, and trial and error, he got it set up. The frontend is out of a '79 GM 1/2-ton. A pair of 21/2-inch dropped spindles improve the stance and heavy-duty springs and Monroe shocks improve the ride. Ron relocated the shock brackets and added a 11/4-inch anti-roll bar and power steering. At the rear, the stock trailing arms were retained and the stock Panhard bar was cut and modified to be adjustable. The '72 GM 12-bolt runs 3.73s with an Eaton limited slip. Front discs and rear drums provide plenty of stopping power and a 19-gallon aluminum fuel tank was located in the rear of the truck.
The plan of keeping the six-cylinder with the two single-barrel carbs, Fenton exhaust manifold, and four-speed had long been abandoned. Instead, Ron opted for a 383ci stroker. In 2004, the truck moved under its own power for the first time in 12 years. After a couple years of small-block power, Ron decided to step up to a first-generation W-head big-block. "My son Jason found a 409 in a central Texas salvage yard and two years later the engine was finished and installed. I was familiar with the Stovebolt and the small-block, but this was another matter. Without the help of the knowledgeable people at www.348-409.com, the 409 would still be in pieces. Ronnie Russell, in particular, was instrumental in the rebuild."