Like most people with custom cars, I grew up in the garage. You could say it was in my blood because my grandpa was a mechanic for Chrysler and my dad was an automotive painter by trade. As a kid, I was always trying to help my dad with all his projects. The most memorable was his '62 Bel Air bubbletop, but when I got old enough to drive I went through many phases, like lowered two-wheel-drive Blazers and smaller late-model custom pickups.
About the time I turned 21, my taste turned to a '62 Chevy truck my dad had basically saved from the scrapper years ago. After a little persuasion he agreed to let me bring the old truck up to the garage and start working on it. At the same time I was accepted into the Denver Fire Department Fire Academy and now had two big projects on my hands! Dad had already taught me how to do body and paintwork, and though he still wanted to give his approval when I finished any particular task, it became good stress relief from my time at the academy.
After most of the bodywork was done I turned to my grandfather for the rebuild of the engine. We started off building a fairly stock 350 small-block and I was soon amazed at how much information my grandpa kept in his head! He knew the torque specs for most everything without looking it up. Dad was insistent that if we built the engine up, the truck would have to stop well too. This is when I installed power disc brakes up front from Classic Performance Products along with a master cylinder from an '87 Chevy truck. After the 350 was running, Dad found the rearend from a '61 Impala that was in good shape with the big drum brakes. I bought a posi unit online and also a 3.73:1 ring-and-pinion from Richmond Gear for the stout rearend.
During the build, Dad was also teaching me the history of local hot rodding and helped me make decisions to make the truck more early '60s era correct. But one of the few things we disagreed on was the paint. I knew I wanted it to be flat black and how could the son of a successful body and paint business owner drive around a flat black anything? He finally gave in, but also created what he calls Crab Apple Green as an accent color, which was like the paints I used to use on model cars as a kid. So after finishing all the rust repair and bodywork, I sprayed it in DuPont Hot Rod Black followed by the Crab Apple Green on the little stuff.
The truck was wrapped up around the same time I finished the Fire Academy, which was strange to start and finish both over the same period, but a relief nonetheless. I had put a 3x2 intake and carb setup on the small-block, but couldn't keep it tuned, so an early '70s Chevy 402 big-block that Grandpa had built years ago and sat unused was about to find a new home. I spent some time making all the necessary mounts for the swap and a few months later it was on the road again and I couldn't be happier. Like any project though, it's never done. I want to install a factory in-dash tach amongst other things. We lost Grandpa in the fall of 2007 and I'm thankful for hobbies like old cars and trucks that can be valuable time spent with family members and hope I can share the same with my kids as well.