Maybe you're one of those people with a knack for finding cool, old classic cars and trucks. You know where to look and how to stay alert so that if something special shows up, you're the first one to see it. We know a lot of people like that and we hear a lot of stories about other people like that; we're impressed by those people.
Or maybe you're one of those people with a knack for cool, old classic cars and trucks finding you. Even with little or no effort on your part, cool old stuff seems to be pulled toward you, like iron shavings toward a magnet. We know a few people like that; we're amazed by them.
Something tells us that Melvin Champagne is one of those people in the second category. Listen to his story and judge for yourself. Melvin has been into this stuff since he was a kid and inherited the interest from his dad who "always purchased old cars" as he told us. As he grew up, that interest turned into a vocation, which turned into a business known around Harlingen, Texas, as Champagne Auto Service. Working on other people's projects for a living hasn't prevented Melvin from working on his own projects for a hobby, it's just delayed him sometimes. As more and more friends saw the progress Melvin was making on his "work in progress" '59 Chevy Apache, their own projects started drifting toward his shop in search of a little professional help. "I decided to start restoring other people's vehicles just to fill in my income," he explained. "Before I knew it, my shop was overloaded with all makes and years of vintage cars."
The Apache is just one of a few '50s era Chevys that have found Melvin over the years. His wife, Sharon, owns a '58 Nomad that he displayed at the Goodguys Lone Star Nationals a few years ago when he saw the Apache truck. It was just a shell, and he wasn't really looking for another project at the time (since he had already started working on his '55 Chevy 210), but knew it would be fun to put it together. As he explained, "Good parts and good bodies are only available a long way from South Texas."
The Apache bumped the '55 to "on hold" status as Melvin started tearing into the truck. He put a ton of work into the pickup buildup, but kept the overall look clean and basic. That's the simple way of saying that this one will never go out of style.
The bodywork, like virtually everything else on the truck, was performed at the shop in Harlingen. Melvin said he likes the shape of the truck, so he preserved the factory body lines and stock bumpers, mirrors, door handles, and chrome trim pieces. The headlights are stock and the taillights were upgraded with modern LED bulbs. Oak was used to replace the bed floor.
Believe it or not, the decision to paint the '59 basic black was one of the biggest challenges of the build. "Black's a tricky color for older model vehicles," Melvin said. Black paint hides nothing. In fact, it's an amplifier for any bad bodywork. But he made the call, and George Cordero at Champagne Auto Service shot the Sherwin Williams paint. The end result is a knockout.
Stance is as important as shape and color, and the Apache has it just right, thanks partly to a notch in the stock 'rails at the rear axle. Melvin pulled the 3.42:1 rearend from a Camaro and took two leafs out of the springs. The Camaro antiroll bar and a Panhard bar stiffen the ride. The independent front suspension system is from Heidts. Chrome Torq Thrust D five-spokes from American racing adds brightness to the wheelwells. Those are 15x7s with 3 3/4 inches of backspacing-the same in all four corners. BFGoodrich T/A radials are 225/70R15s and 235/70R15s. Front discs and rear drums bring them to a halt.