You know the old adage about one man's trash, right? Well, sometimes it's a long road to go down before someone turns his nose up at another man's tarnished treasure and that gets him to thinking.
Frank Cortez's father bought a '55 Dodge truck when it was a year old for the princely sum of $800. He relied on it daily over the next 10 years until he finally handed over the keys of his first vehicle to a wide-eyed young Frank. He used it for decade as well, just like his father had. It carried Frank throughout his youth and on into his adult education. After finishing college, he parked the old Dodge in his dad's backyard, where it deteriorated since 1980. While the truck was rotting away, the next-door neighbors had given birth and raised a son who was now old enough to drive. In his youthful exuberance, he inquired about the truck's fate and if it might be for sale. Both Frank and his dad had given up at this point, and agreed to offer it to its prospective fourth owner. After they pulled it out of an almost permanent hibernation and cleared the 20 years of sleep off of it, it was a little worse for the wear and appeared to be too much of an undertaking for the young lad, so he decided to pass. As a result of all of this, it was agreed to "put a bullet in 'er," and junk the once trusty old truck.
Three days after the decision was made, Frank's dad called to let him know that he tried to start the old Dodge just for grins, and it ran. They were shocked! If it would do that after 20 years, Frank thought he had better restore it and welcome it back into the family.
The first order of business was to sort out the drivetrain. The old 259ci V-8 had certainly shown signs of life again, but was voted out in favor of a Mopar Magnum 360ci crate motor. The new mill boasts flat-top pistons, a hydraulic roller cam with 0.501-inch/0.513-inch ex. lift, and Magnum R/T heads with 1.9-inch/1.6-inch SS valves and heavy-duty springs. On the outside, we find a 750-cfm Holley perched on the polished M1 intake, a Mopar Performance electronic ignition setup with Moroso Blue Max solid-core wires, and a K&N air filter between the two Mopar cast-aluminum valve covers. Don Grass at A-1 Automotive in South Gate, California, was picked to tackle the motor swap. To coincide with the Mopar motor, a 904 Torque Flite was put out back, stuffed with a shift kit by Kim's Trans Shop in Paramount, California, and topped with a Lokar shifter.In case you couldn't see where this was going, they hung a 8-3/4-inch rearend out of a '72 Plymouth Satellite under the '55, but updated it with later Mopar discs. The rest of the suspension was kept mostly stock, retaining the leaf springs front and rear, but installing new Rancho shocks all the way around. At the ends of the stock I-beam axle, '67 Mustang disc brakes were adapted and are now controlled by a dual-reservoir master cylinder. Since Frank wanted to go for a more hot-rod look, he picked a cool set of Billet Specialties SLX-137 wheels in pairs of 17x8 and 18x10 rolling on Goodyear F1 rubber.
Frank said the most challenging part of the build was the rust removal and repair, but you'd never know now. On top of straightening everything out, Jack Papazian at South-Lyn Collision Center frenched the headlights, made a rear roll pan, and molded the front end tin together. The stock grille was sent out and dipped, along with the stock dash inserts. Jack also sprayed the smooth-as-glass PPG Guards Red on the old Dodge.
All that was left now was to get the comfy stuff handled on the inside. The church pew-style stock seat was ditched and a Glide Engineering split-bench put in its place. Desert tan leather covers the new seat, as well as the door panels and a tan tweed carpet rounds out the floor. The Auto Meter gauges tell Frank what's up while he's behind the Grant wheel that sits on top of the shortened stock column. Apparently, Frank is so happy with his truck that he says now he wouldn't change a thing! That seems to be the opinion of many others, too, evidenced by all the awards that grace the Cortez's house. The Dodge is driven every weekend and can often be found at Frisco's Cruise Night in Downey, California. It's a good thing the '55 wasn't this nice back when Frank was driving it to school. He might not have gotten much studying done.