For citizens living in other states when California is mentioned it’s likely that the images conjured by their imagination include sunny beaches, big ugly cities, and a bunch of politics that just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Beyond the bright lights of Los Angeles, and its whacked-out reputation, however, lies a heartland that is as much a part of Americana as anywhere else in the nation. We’re talking about the Central Valley, or in this particular instance the focus is on the city of Atwater. The local folks are an agrarian society, where owning a pickup truck is an essential part of everyday life.
The first time Kevin Malone saw his ’72 C10 it was 1987, and he was helping his cousin stuff a good transmission into it so that they could drive it away from the weed patch next to Lima Dairy’s barn. "After about six months it wasn’t reliable enough for my cousin’s daily commute so he convinced me to trade my reliable four-cylinder transportation car for it," Kevin says. Unlike a typical base-model farm truck the ’72 was loaded with some desirable options including tilt power steering, power brakes, and a 350 V-8. "It took me a few months to figure out the electrical nightmares," Kevin says. "I got it fairly reliable and used it as a daily driver/fishing truck/dog hauler for a few years, and all was fine until I stumbled onto a better bed. It was a cherry Fleetside that had never been used. It was at a local irrigation pump contractor’s yard; they bought a ’72 Chevy brand new, pulled the bed off, installed a service body, and never used the short Fleetside box. They even kept it standing up so nothing got stored in it or collected water. I paid $150, and that started a snowball. The bed was just too nice for the rest of the truck."
"Over the next couple of years I spent nights and weekends doing a driveway rebuild because I didn’t have a garage. It was my daily driver so anything I did to it I had to make sure it would get me to work the next day. I installed a Classic Performance Parts aluminum gas tank between the framerails. Next, I stripped the woodgrain off the tailgate and punched louvers into the bare aluminum trim. Before installing the taillights I stripped the buckets and painted them reflective silver, and polished all the trim at home using a buffing wheel on a bench grinder or an electric drill with a Mothers Powerball."
Once the rear half of the truck was how Kevin wanted it, he moved onto the cab--not the cab that came with the truck, but a better example. Utilizing a cab Kevin bought six years prior, along with his friend Joe Santo, they replaced the kick panels, rocker panels, filled the dash speaker hole, made patterns from a factory A/C cab, cut out all the holes for the GM A/C equipment in the cab, and fixed some cancer in the doors. Inside the cab Kevin completely disassembled and painted his original tilt-steering column and topped it with a ’67 Chevelle SS steering wheel. The seat is a pair of ’67-68 Chevy "buddy buckets" that were upholstered by Castillo’s in Modesto. "I finished the interior with a new dashpad, door handles, and miscellaneous trim, but used the original door panels with the scrollwork and stainless trim along with the original sunvisors, which were still in great shape," Kevin says.