THE CHEVROLET SAVIOR
Rescue Tales From the Wrecking Yard
SOMETIMES A PROJECT TRUCK CAN BE FOUND IN ONE PIECE, AND OTHER TIMES IT WILL HAVE TO BE PIECED TOGETHER IN ORDER FOR IT TO TAKE THE SHAPE OF A COMPLETE AND DRIVABLE VEHICLE AGAIN. But what if the required parts needed to make the truck whole aren’t all available from the same source? It’s a problem that all too many aspiring truck builders run up against. The never-ending hunt for the right parts and body panels can become tiresome over the long haul (not to mention expensive), and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel might not be realistically reachable. It’s not the ideal way to do things for most, that’s for sure, but there are some guys who live for the hunt. These are the dudes who are savvy enough to know just how to play this kind of hand and have learned how to stack the odds in their favor.
This knack for building piece by piece isn’t some kind of gift that appears out of nowhere, though. Guys like Pat Cheatley have been raised around men who are expert wrenchers, and they’ve always had a project or two on the burner. “I have been into working on cars and trucks since I was a kid,” Pat says. “My dad is a GM mechanic by trade, so I used to watch him work on cars as far back as I can remember. Also, my grandfather bought a brand-new Corvette the year before I was born, so I got to take many rides in it with him. Now, 35 years later, I get to wrench on it with him.”
Naturally, Pat took to the whole car thing at an early age and now has years of experience and a list complete builds on his résumé. Pat recently opened his own shop, which bears a nickname that has stuck with him throughout his life, Chee-chee’s Choppers & Rods. The humble workspace is located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, which is where the remainder of the story of his ’49 Chevy pickup played out.
“I purchased the cab for $250 bucks,” Pat says. “That was the first and only piece I had when I started.” Even with whatever the Canadian-to-u.s. currency conversion would be on that price, it still worked out to be a great deal on what would soon serve as the motiving force for a build spanning five years. Having only the cab meant that Pat had the daunting task of seeking matching original components, which is a tall order since the parts would’ve had to survive 60-plus harsh northern winters. Realizing that sticking exclusively to this option was borderline impossible, Pat decided to work with whatever original parts he could find locally while checking into alternative methods and parts that would be compatible with the truck, like the chassis, rearend and braking system. “I scored an S-10 frame for $100 from a high school auto shop
WE’D DRIVE HOURS JUST TO PICK UP ONE SMALL PART, BUT IT BECAME ABOUT MUCH MORE THAN JUST THE PARTS. I’VE MET MANY FELLOW BUILDERS AND ENTHUSIASTS WHO ALL SHARE THIS COMMON BOND OF BUILDING CUSTOM VEHICLES.”
class, which was a huge find since I was able to start building and modifying around it as soon as I brought it into the shop.” The cab required a ton of sheet-metal work from the floor to the cab corners, rockers, firewall and cowls, but Pat wasn’t in a rush. He was into the ride that this truck was taking him on, and it wasn’t even a quarter of the way toward being complete.
The hunt for parts was such a huge part of the process because of the simple fact that Pat had very little to work with at the time. He’d spend a fair amount of time sorting through online classifieds and getting leads from his network of friends stretching across Canada and into the States.
“All the searching around lead to many road trips, both relatively short and quite long, which made for a good excuse to plan outings with friends.
We’d drive hours just to pick up one small part, but it became about much more than just the parts. I’ve met many fellow builders and enthusiasts who all share this common bond of building custom vehicles.” It was these trips and meet-ups that beefed up his contact list and allowed him to collect bits of information, as well as tips and tricks that helped him with his pickup project.
One of the driving forces that kept Pat focused and in-tune with keeping progress rolling was quality time spent in the garage with some of his favorite people. “I got a lot of good quality time in with my father, who would come over to offer a helping hand at the shop. I also had the opportunity to work alongside one of my mentors, Jim Wildgoose of Wildgoose Performance, who would offer up as much advice as I needed to complete certain stages of the build. I had the opportunity to create a lasting friendship with Scott Miller, who was quick to teach and coach me along the way.” Pat came into his own as a builder during this project and took advantage of the opportunity to soak up inspiration from all sources.
A real sense of community developed as the truck started taking shape, which not only established a strong foundation for the project itself, but also led to the formation of a core set of standards that Pat hoped would manifest in the services offered at his new shop.
With heroes like Gene
Winfield, George Barris and Boyd Coddington, it’s no wonder why the truck has a certain modernclassic sensibility. “I’ve always appreciated the talent and oldschool style these guys brought to life. I also admire guys like Jesse James and Chip Foose who brought a new-school touch to classic designs.” Just like the collective works of these icons, who have made a lasting global impact on hot rod and custom builders, Pat applied a personal spin to the same aesthetic principles while building his 3100 pickup and all other projects he’s worked on since.
Even though this build proved to be one of the more difficult
he’s undertaken, Pat looks back on the experience with nothing but positivity. “When you are passionate about building, any roadblock or hiccup just becomes a challenge that will result in a sense of accomplishment that makes all the long days and nights worth it. This is why we bought a ’55 Chevy truck to build for my wife, Leslie, as soon as we finished with the ’49.”
The details about Pat’s upcoming family project are unknown to us at this point, but one thing is certain: It will be yet another old POS truck saved from the scrap yard. Even if all he has to start with is a tailgate, Pat will track down everything needed to assemble the project to his exact specifications, bolt by bolt.
ABOVE. AMERICAN RACING TORQUE THRUST WHEELS ARE AS TIMELESS AS A WHEEL CAN GET.
LEFT. PAT TAKES THE TIME TO DRIVE HIS CHEVY ANY CHANCE HE GETS.
WHITE GAUGES FROM OMEGA KUSTOM INSTRUMENT CO. HELP PAT KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THE CHEVY’S VITALS.
BRENT WOODS TRANSFORMED THE ONCE RUST-RIDDEN CAB INTO AN INTERIOR SPACE FEATURING PLUSH UPHOLSTERY AND CARPETING. MATCHING PAINT HAS SUCCESSFULLY BROUGHT THE TRUCK’S OUTSIDE INSIDE.
RED OAK PLANKS DO THEIR PART IN CREATING A TIMELESS, TIDY APPEARANCE INSIDE THE TRUCK’S BED.
RIGHT. THE CHEVY’S ENGINE COMPARTMENT IS AS CLEAN AS CAN BE. THE 355-CID MILL HAS CERTAINLY BEEN DRESSED TO IMPRESS.