Every vintage truck needs mechanical help. Often a frame-off restoration includes engine, transmission, steering system, brake, suspension, axle, and electrical work. Subletting these chores, a time-and-materials proposition, can be costly. Moreover, what's the point to a classic truck project if you can't perform the work or maintain the finished product yourself?

CLASSIC TRUCKS devotes extensive coverage to hands-on restoration and upgrade work. Whether your goal is a collectible truck headed back to factory condition or a build up of the ultimate street truck, CLASSIC TRUCKS is your go-to source for information. Safe to say, each of us started our hobby or professional work without a wit of mechanical, welding, or fabrication sense. In addition to the skills, space, and tools needed for a frame-off restoration, builders rely on professional manuals and quality "how-to" articles for guidance.

Up The Learning Curve
My teachers and mentors were professionals who shared their wisdom generously. Today, school boards argue whether to cut physical education, the music program, or shop classes. Four decades ago, when I attended high school, Mr. Gray's quality shop classes were a requirement. In what was then a manufacturing-based American society, he imparted skills that led to entry-level welding jobs, including field and off-road equipment repairs. Years later, after professionalizing my mechanical and welding skills, I taught and wrote curriculum at the adult education level, frequently paraphrasing Mr. Gray's pearls.

During my high school years, I worked after school at a full-service gas station. In the heyday of muscle cars, we routinely serviced and tuned today's "classics." A Chevron-trained, lube room tech was well versed in chassis and powertrain requirements. Such a ground school led to adult careers at professional mechanics, automotive parts sales, and machine shop work.

As a journey-level truck mechanic, I maintained a fleet that included '47-64 Chevrolet and GMC trucks, '48-64 Ford F-series models, plus a few vintage Dodge and International Harvester trucks. During off hours, I tuned muscle cars and built Jeep 4x4s. My daily driver and powertrain test bed, a '55 Ford F-100 pickup, started with its original V-8. I replaced the Y-block with a potent Pontiac V-8 before eventually lightening the front end with the installation of a high-performance small-block Chevy.

Who would have guessed that rugged utility trucks could one day become collectibles or slick-handling street trucks? From preventive care and tuning to unit repair and overhaul, I knew these models inside and out. Later, that exposure reflected in my magazine tech columns and books like the Jeep Owner's Bible, Ford F-Series Pickup Owner's Bible, Chevrolet & GMC Light Truck Owner's Bible and a pair of in-depth Jeep rebuilders' manuals.

Night School
For automotive work, the outcome is always predictable: Done right, the machine works properly; done wrong, the machine fails to perform. While quality metalwork and paint produce eye candy, dependable and safe performance is far less visible. Professional level mechanical work begins with understanding service fundamentals. Hands-on skill will follow.

Raising a family, pursuing a career, or surviving a recession takes a lot of energy. So, when do we find time for learning? There's a wealth of "stuff" online--some is valuable, some not. By comparison, trade schools and colleges, the traditional resources for training, take time, flexible schedules, and funding.

Night schools serve working, busy folks. For years, adult ed and community college courses like welding, engine rebuilding, tuning, and chassis work have been popular. Yet most of us have limited time, scarcely enough for the project in the garage! Scheduling a semester of school seems all but impossible.