We know some guys who sell their truck and buy a different one with the frequency of an oil change. And we know some who hang onto their prized pickups for life. But the reality of long-term ownership is that eventually it will be time for some freshening up.
That was the case with this ’55 Chevy Apache, owned for the past 26 years by Patrick Jenkins of Hawthorne, California. Patrick’s first truck was the ’59 he drove as a high school student in the ’70s. He’s loved mid-’50s Chevy stepsides ever since. In 1985, he started looking around for another one. This second-series ’55 Big-Window turned up in the pages of Truck Trader magazine. It was copper orange and in beautiful shape.
Patrick drove the truck for three years. By then the 327 small-block was getting tired, so Patrick contacted his friend Ted Frye, an old engine builder and salt flats racer, who put together a newer, stouter 327, bored 0.030 over, and blueprinted with a forged steel crank and a Corvette six-quart oil pan with a windage tray.
With the engine out of the truck, Patrick decided to add a Plymouth Volare torsion bar suspension, and took the ’55 toTerry Berzenye at Specialized Auto Repair in Huntington Beach. The Volare clip included shocks, springs antisway bar, steering, and 11-inch disc brakes. Two-inch drop spindles from Fatman Fabrications add to the truck’s raring-to-go rake. That took car of the frontend; at the rear a Currie Ford 9-inch is stuffed with a set of 3.25:1 gears and a Posi, hanging on Total Cost Involved shocks and ’55-’59 leaf springs.
A 30-gallon custom gas tank was added in the rear and the stock steering column was replaced with a late-model Chevy tilt version. The rebuilt engine was backed up with a Turbo 400 transmission (replacing the stock three-on-the-tree) and a Currie Ford 9-inch Posi rearend.
Patrick drove the refreshed ’55 on sunny Southern California weekends until 1992, when his company transferred him to Portland, Oregon. He continued to drive the truck on far-less-frequent sunny Pac Northwest weekends, until parking it in his barn for a several-year hibernation.
The truck stayed in storage until 2004, when Patrick decided to treat it to a frame-off restoration. His friend Pete Nielsen helped him pull it apart, and the body panels were sent out to be media blasted. From there, it was sent to Creative Metalworks & Engineering in North Plains, Oregon, where Carl Morton performed all the needed metalwork. No major modifications were called for—just cosmetic improvements such as shaved panels, replaced cab corners, a rebuilt tailgate, and some filled firewall holes. Fresh paint was sprayed by Kevin Bischoff at Roger’s Auto Body in Vancouver, Washington. The color is Prowler Orange from PPG.
The Ted Frye-built 327 still had low mileage and was running strong. A Carter AFB four-barrel and Edelbrock Performer intake manage induction chores, with Sanderson headers and MagnaFlow mufflers to handle the exhaust. A Billet Specialities air cleaner and valve covers dress up the small-block. Patrick wanted overdrive, so the Turbo 400 transmission was replaced by a Phoenix Transmission Products 700-R4. Patrick’s choice for tires and wheels was a combination of 15-inch Vintec Series rims from Billet Specialties (replacing the Center Lines he added in the ’80s) and BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires.
The paint and bodywork was still underway when Patrick’s job moved him back to Southern California, and before long, the Chevy migrated back too. There was still work to be done, including rewiring. A retired electrician named George Rackstraw referred Patrick to Wayne Rogan at Wayne’s Hot Rod Garage in Shingle Springs, California. Impressed with the shop, Patrick decided to have Wayne finish the build on the truck. Wayne’s upholstery source Patterson Upholstery in Placerville, California. Shawn Patterson got a hold of saddle-colored leather to skin the Wise Guys bench seat and door panels. The Billet Specialties steering wheel is wrapped in matching leather, and mounted on a polished aluminum ididit tilt column. Speed, fuel, water temperature and oil pressure are monitored by VDO gauges mounted in a custom bezel from Boise Engineering, installed by Jim Helton and Wayne Rogan. Pedals and cables are from Lokar. Cool air comes from a Gen IV air conditioner from Vintage Air. A Custom Autosound 10-disc CD stereo system is mounted in the stock dash, feeding music through JBL speakers.
Now that the second build is finished on Patrick’s ’55, he should be able to enjoy a bunch of years of driving before tearing it apart again. And that’s just what he’s doing. He drives the truck every weekend, picking up trophies at area car and truck shows on a regular basis. He says that, with those rear gears and the overdrive transmission, the ’55 flies down the highway—and gets decent gas mileage along the way. Look for the ’55 in Redondo Beach at Ruby’s Diner or with the Caffeine Cruisers at Starbucks on Saturday mornings—or out on the street in the Southern California sunshine. CCT
The ’55 taillights were swapped for two pairs of ’41 Chevy taillights, mounted below the t
The bed floor, combining red oak and polished stainless steel rails from Mar-K Quality Par
The grille and stock bumpers went to Oregon Plating Company in Portland for fresh chrome.