I think the most boring editorial a magazine editor can write is what is known as a TOC format. The three capital letters stand for Table Of Contents, and if this style of editorial is executed properly it will be a big burst of aerated popcorn flatulence from beginning to end. The most unimaginative of editors always seem to find a way to take even the most exciting collection of features and turn them into a mundane shopping list. By the time it's all been said and done the reader has discovered a good reason not to turn another page.
In this month's edition of Custom Classic Trucks we have a Jet Black '56 Chevy featured on page 18 with a history I thought readers might find interesting. The story unraveled when one of the guys here at the office showed me a picture of a mild custom pickup a relative of his had just finished restoring. Right off the bat the Chevy really struck a chord in my heart. Fred Steiner's Big Window Chevrolet was equipped almost exactly like the '58 Chevy pickup my dad bought brand-new in September of 1957 and drove to his union plumbing job five days a week.
I took a quick look at the CCT information sheet Fred filled out and discovered not only was he a retired union plumber, but his dad, who bought the '56 Chevy brand-new, was a retired union plumber as well. I looked to see where Fred lived and it was in Upland, California, a town not too far away from where I grew up in West Covina, California. The similarity between Fred's life and mine were beginning to parallel quite closely, and I had a feeling there was more to come. I called Fred up, and left a message on his answering machine asking him if he retired out of Local 398, the same union hall my dad did. Fred called me back, and it wasn't a few minutes before he and I concurred our fathers probably knew each other and had worked together, meaning at one time or another both Chevrolet Big Window longbeds had been parked on the same job site.
The story of these two old pickups is just one of many I've heard from readers, and feature truck owners that offer an insight into why customizing classic trucks in spite of a bad economy is more popular than ever. There's no doubt sentimental attachment plays a large part, but beyond that the fact classic trucks are the most affordable vehicles to customize and enjoy can't be denied. Try finding a '55 Chevy Bel Air two-door hardtop to build on the cheap and you'll see what I'm talking about. The '55 Chevy isn't an isolated example, take any GM, Ford, or Mopar automobile worth building and the buy-in will be big dough. Deciding to customize a classic truck instead of a car doesn't mean one has to give up high performance either. Any engine and transmission combination that can be dropped into a car will easily fit under the hood of an old truck, and because trucks weigh less than cars the horsepower-to-weight ratio will be higher.
Getting back to the low buy-in brings me to the Omaha Orange '68 GMC pictured above. It was bought brand-new and then spent over 30 years as workhorse hauling large rolls of carpet out of Los Angeles back to Riverside, California, where its owner was the proprietor of a carpeting business. By the time I came across the old Jimmy it had been sitting in a Riverside orange grove for several years with a dead battery and tank full of rancid smelling gasoline. I'll run out of room if I get into the details, but long story short, the owner was a generous person and let me have the truck for free. The odds of finding a great old truck like this for free aren't high, but it can happen. Add $500 to $1,000 to the mix and I know it can be done. It will take an issue or two before the '68 GMC starts appearing in here again, but the first thing I have planned for it is to chop its longbed tail off and turn it into a shortbed. We'll be covering the transformation of the Omaha Orange Jimmy I drug out of an orange grove in what will likely end up becoming an extended series known as "Agent Orange."John Gilbert