Most people might think Cuba is the only place hiding a huge cache of old cars, and that may be true to an extent, but good luck on importing one. South of the border can be an underrated place for turning up classics. After all, Ed Roth’s Orbitron was discovered a few years ago in front of an adult bookstore in Mexico, which is just the place you’d expect to find an automotive legend, right? So when Steve Willmoth set his sights on purchasing a classic truck project to add to the list of hot rods he’s owned over the years, he never thought he’d be the first American to own this 1955 Chevy Cameo.
Steve came across this truck on the Internet and it piqued his interest enough to make the 650-mile trip from Burleson, Texas, to El Paso to see it in person. Internet buys have a tendency to be good from far, but far from good. As luck would have it, Steve’s prospective Cameo was in great shape for its age. It’d been built in St. Louis and shipped to Mexico in July 1955 where the “Cameo Nuevo” (as the paperwork stated) resided till it ended up on the lot where Steve found it. The paperwork was all in Spanish, but Steve knew that the language barrier wasn’t going to stop him from giving it a proper Americanization. After paying the purchase price and coughing up $800 to change the title, Steve returned home with his four-wheeled immigrant and got the ball rolling on a new look.
For chassis duties, the truck now sits on an ’81 Firebird front clip and rearend with 2.52 gears, all with associated brakes. In addition to the cool stance the updated suspension gives it, the 17x9 Eagle Alloys it sits on with Sumitomo rubber give it that perfect hot rod flair. Out came the original 235 and in went a crate 350 dressed up with a Holley Street Dominator intake, Holley 600 carb, Lunati cam, and Hooker headers. It’s all backed by a ’71 GMC pickup 350 trans.
Steve’s approach to the body was pretty straightforward. During the teardown process, Steve discovered the truck had been converted to a big rear window at some point in its life. After being sodablasted, he had both bumpers tucked in and the three-piece rear bumper welded together. The gel-coated fiberglass bed panels give the truck a smoother appearance from its previously dinged-up condition and the floor was fitted with Bruce Horkey pine bed wood. The Euro-style headlights are a nice addition as well as the classic blue dots fitted to the stock rear taillights. As a fan of bright colors, Steve had the truck shod in ’08 Corvette Velocity Yellow with ’82 GM Almond accents on the inside. From tip to tail it looks fast standing still.
On the inside, ’01 Buick LeSabre seats were stitched up with “55 Cameo” monikers. Both seats and door panels were recovered in tan Ultraleather with peanut brittle-colored faux ostrich inserts. A Lecarra wheel sits on a ’78 Buick Regal column just below the Dolphin cluster. Steve can battle the muggy Texas summers with a Vintage A/C unit plumbed into the dash and crank his favorite tunes courtesy of an Alpine stereo, Xterminator amps, and a Pioneer subwoofer.
Steve’s now racking up plenty of miles on his bright-yellow Cameo. So what’s the moral of this story? When you’re searching for a new project, don’t write off the possibility of finding something in awesome shape being parted with by our Southern neighbors. Who knows, maybe James Dean’s missing ill-fated Porsche Spyder is rusting away in front of a topless bar in Tijuana at this very moment with passersby being none the wiser. Stranger things have happened.