It was back in 1987, during the coldest season of the year, when Jon-Mark Horta of Atwater, California, decided he’d like to find an old truck to fix up as a winter project. For folks living in our nation’s Rust Belt the plan would have meant looking in the fields, trying to find something that still resembled a truck. But living in central California is a different story. The arid region is the state’s breadbasket, and it’s never been that hard to locate a rust-free old farm truck to restore.
Jon-Mark combed the area and soon found a ’52 Chevy pickup for $1,200, and drove it home. When he rolled up the wife and kids went absolutely wild, they loved it. Jon-Mark said the entire family, including their Basset Hound, enjoyed cruising around in the classic hauler. The original 216-inch Stovebolt motor was good for about two years of fun before its dipper-rods started to sound like they wanted to stop dipping. In fact, there wasn’t much about the ’52’s drivetrain that didn’t need to be attended to. Jon-Mark had heard about grafting a late-model front clip on an old truck to gain modern features, so the search was on for a good candidate to be the donor. In early 1990 Jon-Mark found a ’73 Chevy Monte Carlo for $300, and it was time to rock and roll.
He found a guy at a shop in Atwater that had done a few clips, and in no time the Monte had lost its Carlo. After spending all day working on the ranch Jon-Mark would swing by the shop and lend the guy a hand. Back at the ranch, Jon-Mark had sandblasted and prepped the ’52’s body panels, and then sprayed the truck Malibu Yellow. For its first time around, Jon-Mark ran the wheels off the ’52 for roughly 12 years before he got a hankering to ride Harley-Davidsons again, and parked the yellow beast. Jon-Mark’s Hog riding buddies would swing by to go for a putt or play pool and ask why he wasn’t driving the truck. “I told them the bodywork just wasn’t right,” Jon-Mark said. “They didn’t agree, but nevertheless I didn’t want to drive it as it was.” As luck would have it Jon-Mark’s daughter Stephanie married a guy that’s one helluva body man and painter. “A high-quality hot rod builder, Robby inspired me to tear it down again, and so with the help and encouragement of my wife, Terry, I tore it down to the frame and started buying all of the high-dollar parts I couldn’t afford the first time I built it,” tells Jon-Mark. “I narrowed and boxed the framerails, and cut down the Ford 9-inch rearend then installed Currie axles. The gearing is 3.55:1 with a limited slip to help the Nitto NT450 tires stuffed into Centerline 17-inch wheels hook up. QA1 coilovers handle the rear suspension, while up front I used Fatman Fabrications’ narrowed control arms, and bolted on a sway bar. Next, I adapted power disc brakes to all four corners.”
The 350-inch small-block commandeered from the ’73 Monte Carlo got a set of 10.5:1 JE pistons fitted with Total Seal rings. Jon-Mark installed a Comp cam, and ported and polished the heads. An Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold is topped with a Holley four-barrel carb, and Hooker headers, ceramic coated by Caps in nearby Fresno, dump into Flowmaster mufflers. The TH350 automatic transmission was built by Jay Walker, and received a B&M high-stall converter along with a polished-aluminum high-capacity pan from PML.
Inside the cab is viewed through a V-butted windshield revealing a black leather Cadillac CTS power seat, with a cut-down CTS console. Castillo Upholstery in Merced, California, surrounded the Caddy combo with black and gray vinyl with green piping. Larry King installed the healthy custom stereo capable of playing music via a thumb drive or an MP3 player. A big amp backs two 6s, two 8s, and a 10-inch subwoofer. The Central Valley’s extreme heat is tamed with an Old Air air-conditioning system, and Ron Francis wiring strung by Jon-Mark handles all of the ’52’s electrical needs.