It’s been a while since we’ve touched upon the actual theme of this blog, that being the drawing of hot rods and all…
That in mind, I thought that you may enjoy a peek at a current project, which is nearing completion after a few years on the board and in the shop. It’s a full-custom 1970 ‘Cuda, and I literally threw everything I had at this one, working with a very skilled builder who shared my vision, and really made it a fun and collaborative project to play a part on.
Almost 30 years after the service body was installed on this very truck, I took a job working for Auto Safety House in Phoenix, a work truck and bus outfitter with a long history in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona. It was during my employment there where I met Sam, the owner of the truck featured here. We hit it off immediately, sharing the old car hobby and many other interests, and have remained friends since, through changing jobs, raising children, relocation and more. This friendship, and the place we met would tie in more times over the years than either of us can count, but one of the coolest stories to come from it involves this 1968 C-20, named “Angelo”.
While attending the Goodguys Southwest Nationals a year-and-a-half ago, Sam stumbled across this green and ivory truck in the swap meet, and sent me a picture, asking my thoughts.
I was interested immediately.
After all, here was a solid truck with some obvious local history, and it presented a great foundation for another project. A deal was struck, and Sam was the proud owner of a truck that had done some hard-working days, helping to build the East Valley. We were going to go to work on a work truck.
The unique truck was originally purchased as a two-tone cab and chassis (now here was a work truck with some style!) from Chapman Chevrolet, and outfitted with the McCabe Powers “Service Master” utility body by Auto Safety House. It would work daily in the desert sun for the next twenty years as the main work vehicle for Angelo as he crafted sheetmetal for ductwork and other construction projects, playing a role in expanding the East Valley area of Phoenix. Truly, this truck has some tales to tell, and represents the entrepreneurial and hard-working American spirit. We were slowly crafting a plan to give this hard-working ride a fun second life as a cool cruiser. “Angelo” had paid its dues, and it was time to give back.
We threw some ideas around during free moments, and plotted a course for the truck as Sam finished updating his ’58 Apache. Originally, the plan was to swap the work body for a short bed, and create a clean cruiser with a historical theme… Yet, the more we talked, the more we couldn’t get past the truck’s history, and the unique, well-preserved nature of the truck as a whole. As Sam specializes in insuring contractors, the pieces kept falling into the “wouldn’t it be neat if we left it alone” category. Besides, we had a number of connections with the truck, and where else would we find something with such perfect patina? There was no faking it, this truck had some soul, and all signs were pointing to a resto-mod work truck. That’s pretty unique indeed.
The logical choice for performing the hard work was Del Uschenko, as he had built the ’65 short bed that Sam owned for a while, and the man’s skill and attention to detail were the ideal fit. Besides, it doesn’t get any better than having a builder who “gets it” and strives for perfection, and is a guy you just genuinely enjoy working with! The plan was set, and the truck left its hard-working days, and headed for the glamor of Burbank. If you’re keeping score, add a few “coolness” points to the column, as Angelo wasn’t heading to just any shop… This was the fabled Old Crow Speed Shop, a place that has a ton of history between the walls. Hard-working history and hot rod history were about to meet in grand fashion. Consider, too, that the Old Crow Speed Shop is loaded with historical items from the post-war, early days of hot rodding. Military and racing relics are displayed everywhere, and it represents a time when men returning home from war were eager to start their new lives. A part of the American Dream lives on there. And here we had Angelo, a truck purchased to help build another mans dream of owning a business, from an era when we were deep into another conflict. The history and coincidence surrounding this truck were beginning to unfold like legend.
Coolest. Project. Ever.
At this point, there were still ideas floating around, from wheels to interior, to even possibly replacing the door lettering… Yet, the truck kept speaking to us. Focus shifted to making it sit and drive properly, so Del crafted a plan to utilize CPP components up front, including tubular A-arms, 5-on-5 bolt pattern spindles, upgraded braking in the way of 13-inch rotors, and a healthy drop to give the truck the attitude of “I’m off the clock”. Adding to the plan, Del opted to C-notch the rear to provide ample room for travel, again, utilizing CPP components, and crafting a sound foundation and smooth, modern ride. Setting the truck on a set o0f 20×9-inch Centerline Smoothies was a given to get that “Delmo look”, and we wrestled with wheel finishes to complement the truck. We considered full polish to juxtapose the raw, work truck look, but thought that almost too easy… White centers? Cool, but just not quite “there”. I had suggested a gray center to bring in the interior color, as well as add some industrial flair, and Del knocked it out of the park with some light texture and those beautifully simple ‘49/’50 passenger car hubcaps. The look is modern, and the comment most often heard has been “is that a one-off wheel?” Brilliant. The stock engine and transmission had seen better days, and were replaced with a fresh 350/TH-350, backed with a C-10 rear. The name of this game was reliable cruising, and, as the work days are over, Angelo needed just enough power to be fun, but the old truck isn’t rushing anywhere, so the specs are fairly stock. It’s in the engine bay where more of Del’s supreme attention to detail can be seen, with surfaces cleaned and smoothed, and everything subtly painted and detailed for a near-factory, but still-custom feel. The paint is still the original green and ivory, and the temptation to touch anything up (even on the work body) has been avoided. A light buff and polish brought the paint back from chalky, and provided that just-right gloss. Interior-wise, it’s all stock, save for the original owner-shortened shift lever. It’s a mystery as to why he shortened it, and is one of those cool features that make Angelo such a unique find.
And there you have it… A hard-working truck with some great history in building the Phoenix area, brought together by some friends who met, oddly enough at the very place where the truck was outfitted before either was born (after each grew up a few towns over back in NY state, no less), and given new life in a shop loaded with some history of its’ own. If that doesn’t have “American Dream” written all over it, then I’m not sure what does.
1968 Chevy C-20
Front Suspension: CPP Tubular Control Arms, Lower 63-72 Control Arms w/new Ball Joints, CPP Adjustable Trac 24 Bar
CPP C10, 5-Lug Spindles
Steering: CPP 18” Steering shaft, nickel-plated
Front Brakes: CPP Modular ‘Big Brake’ Disc 13-inch rotors
Rear Suspension: CPP 4” Drop Heavy C-Notch Kit, CPP Shock Relocation Kit
Leaf spring w/lowering blocks
Positraction rear end
Rear Brakes: CPP Modular ‘Big Brake’ Disc 13-inch rotors
Wheels: 20 x 9 Centerline Smoothies
Tires: 225/35/ZR20 and 225/40/ZR20
Engine/Trans: 350ci Chevy, TH-350
Body: Stock, McCabe Powers ‘Service Master’ Utility Body Installed by Auto Safety House in 1968
Door lettering by unknown sign painter in 1968