I call it “My Uncle’s Truck.” My Uncle Joe bought this forest green work truck from his uncle in 1986 when Joe lived in an apartment in White Plains, NY, and worked for the county highway department. Joe drove to work with it every day and parked it on the street every night. The cold northeast and salted roads did quite a number on the body over the years but each time a spot would rust through, Joe would climb under it (working outside, on the street), and rivet or bolt some sheet metal on and “bondo” it, then apply some spray paint. At one point he even replaced the bed with part of a retired highway sign (that “marine plywood” is strong stuff!). Dented and patched together, he used it for over a decade before retiring it to his garage where it sat for another decade or so gathering dust.
During a family gathering, I happened to see the old truck in my uncle’s garage and I suddenly felt like I needed to rescue it. I offered to buy it and Joe agreed. What price you ask? Neither of us had any idea what an old rust bucket would be worth but I settled on $3K. A couple of weekends after that I went down and we tried to start it. Squirted Marvel Mystery Oil in the spark plug holes, got a new battery, and it turned over! It needed new wires, points, rotors, and distributor cap, and when we hooked up a temporary fuel line it started up! At that point I had also decided to get a car trailer for storage, so a couple weeks later I drove the trailer down to White Plains and brought it home to Patterson.
Uncle Joe was a mechanic in his early career so he came up to my house on weekends and helped me replace the brakes, radiator (it was overheating), and I registered it for the road. But it really was a rusty, dilapidated “old lady.” People would smile when they saw it and ask me about it but I was a little embarrassed to drive it around town! The first time I took it on the highway, rust started flying around inside the cab. I found out later that the bolts securing the cab to the frame had rusted and it was not securely fasted to the frame!
A friend of mine, John, who is a body shop mechanic, happened to be visiting and saw it in my driveway. He then offered to restore it in his spare time. We agreed to a budget and he began cutting and removing body parts in my garage. Several weeks later he almost started to cry because neither of us had realized how far gone the body really was until we had taken it apart enough to where it was no longer a “driveable” vehicle. John would not, however, abandon the project because as a man of it great integrity, he wouldn’t have felt right taking a usable truck and leaving me with a pile of junk. So, he persisted.
We began ordering parts from LMC Truck. After ordering boxes and boxes of body parts, you could hear the loud noise of metal cutting, grinding, and welding from my garage most evenings. Six months later, my truck had a solid pieced-together cab and was ready for the next stage. I ordered even more body parts, salvaging any original parts that we could, but luckily LMC had the replacement parts available that were too rotted to patch.
Three years and hundreds of hours later, the truck was back together. A full off-frame restoration had taken place and it was painted a bright red. New tires, new chrome, a repaired and reupholstered bench seat (in black leather). New carpeting, painted the engine and the interior, and now this C-20 is better than new! Yes, it was a long and expensive job, but boy was my Uncle Joe proud to see what had become of his old work truck. It now wins trophies at local car shows!