Blame it on Reno. Andy Ochoa and his wife Bunny are faithful attendants at the Hot August Nights car show held there. After seeing several COE trucks built in different configurations at the show, they were eager to build one of their own. “I wanted a flatbed truck and Bunny wanted a pickup truck, so a pickup it is,” Andy said.
They found this ’52 Chevy in a pasture in Eastern Washington, where it had spent several years waiting to be rescued. It was in nice shape and had no missing parts. It had never been wrecked and the only rust was in the bottom corners of the cab. The owner was ready to sell and accepted their $2,500 offer. With the flatbed and hoist removed, it was trailered back to the Ochoa’s shop in Ferndale, Washington.
”I started on it immediately,” Andy told us. “The engine and transmission came out, and the fenders, hood, doors, and steps came off to be sandblasted and primered. I then went to see John Barbero at Pyramid Street Rods in Bellingham to discuss what I wanted to do with the truck.”
John suggested keeping the original frame, and adding a new Art Morrison front clip with brand-new components. John mounted the Morrison IFS unit, which has 2-inch dropped spindles and Strange coilovers. Power steering is provided by a Mustang II rack. The frame was lowered by a C-notch in the rear, setting the rearend on the original truck leaf springs. In order to avoid a hump in the cab, John figured out how to mount the engine underneath the seat, and shortened the ‘rails a full four feet to match the distance from the back of the transmission to the rearend. The ’77 Chevy B-body (full-size) rearend runs 3.08 gears with limited slip. Stock pickup shocks and factory leaf springs were retained.
The truck is powered by a Chevy ZZ4 crate engine, fed by an Edelbrock 650cfm four-barrel on an aluminum dual-plane intake manifold. Exhaust runs through a stock manifold on its way to the Flowmaster mufflers. The column-shifted Turbo 350 transmission was assembled by Richard Hyde of Bellingham. A ’55 Chevy drivehaft was cut down to three feet to fit.
The new bed turned out to be too short on the modified frame, so new side panels were ordered to extend the bed to fit the frame. At Affordable Auto Works in Bellingham, Lam Phan and Felix Villareal did the bodywork and prep work on the truck prior to paint. Andy disassembled it at his shop and delivered the separate pieces to Everson, Washington, where painter Bruce Sorenson shot the Cabernet Candy Apple Red, a Sherwin-Williams color. Steve Hernandez buffed and polished the paint, which glows. When the parts were finished, Andy and his son James put them all back together.
A pair of ’41-46 Chevy truck mirrors were added, along with a chromed pickup front bumper. Chroming was done at Show Quality Metal Finishing in Seattle. A couple of LED slot taillights from Hagan Street Rods were flush-mounted in the custom roll pan from Mar-K Quality Parts. Sheetmetal man Kenny Gilmore in Bellingham did a great job building the running boards and rocker panels.
What’s the right rolling stock for a custom cab-over? The same as for any ’50s custom, apparently. The ’52 rides on 15x5-inch ’55 Chevy rims, painted and dressed up with Lancer caps. The wide-white radials are P205/75R15American Classics from Coker. Brakes are 11-inch Wilwood discs in front with standard 10-inch drums in the back, with a Corvette master cylinder and 9-inch booster.
With the truck painted and reassembled, the last stop was Lynden, Washington. There, Frank Marino covered the original bench seat with gray Naugahyde. The floor was covered with matching Porsche carpet. A ’55 Chevy Bel Air steering wheel was mounted atop a tilt column from Flaming River. Reproduction gauges replace the original instruments. John Barbero wired the truck with a harness from American Autowire.
Andy and Bunny trailer the COE for the 800-mile trip to Reno for Hot August Nights, but drive it to events within 100 miles or so—weather permitting. “Up here in the Northwest we get a lot of rain and we have lots of car shows in the summer,” Andy said. “So I drive to as many as allowed between showers.” Wherever the show is, heads turn when the big COE rolls through the gate. CCT