THE CHEVRO­LET SAV­IOR

Res­cue Tales From the Wreck­ing Yard

Street Trucks - - CONTENTS - TEXT AND PHOTOS BY JOHN MATA JR.

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.

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