My First Vehicle
I fell in love with the square body truck style back in my early teens while working on my uncle’s farm. When I got my license there was only one choice for my first car. Having negotiated a suitable price for a barely running rust bucket I limped it to a junk yard to purchase a used distributor, and instantly the engine came back to life. That was way back in 1989. I drove my truck throughout high school until graduation, and then joined the Marines. It followed me to duty stations in California, Kansas, and Kentucky, and was my daily driver for over ten years. I drove it coast to coast twice and I easily put over 100K additional miles on the odometer.
When I was young, I knew I was the greatest at auto body repair, so in under six months of ownership I had stripped the paint off in an attempt to perfect the look. After quickly realizing that bodywork was much harder than it appeared, I covered it in primer, the only paint it would have for the next 25 years. Over the years I had rebuilt the engine, transmission, and complete suspension with poly-graphite components, and replaced the front fenders and doors with GM parts. It was always dependable and was used as a work truck for many years.
After finally getting to the point in my life where I could do the truck justice, I completed a full frame off restoration, replacing the bed sides, tailgate, hood, and performing some cab surgery to repair the cab corners, rockers and cab supports. I removed all the brackets and cross members from the frame before sanding, needle scaling and pickling the frame, all before priming and repainting it. I then turned my attention back to the body work. With the replacement parts already mentioned, I was in fairly good shape, but working only weekends on the truck it still took about two years to have it ready for paint. My daughter volunteered her time to help me spray the primer/sealer and base/clear paint.
Reassembly, of course, shows how many small parts make up our trucks, and individually restoring them took a lot of time. I installed a new wiring harness, new aftermarket gauges, all new glass all around, and all interior parts/upholstery. All brake components on the truck were replaced except for the proportioning valve. And a fuel injection system now controls the fueling of the engine. When it came time to decide upon what to do with the original trim, I decided to partner up with a local decal shop and have trim elements created using brushed stainless decals, rather than drill all those holes into the freshly massaged steel to install the factory correct pieces. I think it turned out well. One thing which I could not find, was a reproduction of the correct ’73-74 grill, so after locating one online I have just recently been able to get it restored and installed as well.
After rebuilding a 4L60 transmission to make the highway trips more enjoyable I am driving it every chance I get. I am still wanting to replace the wheels with some rally style wheels when I get a chance. But in the meantime, I am enjoying the looks and thumbs-up it received every time I have taken it out.