Vehicle: 1971 Chevy C-20
I grew up driving a 1990 Jeep Cherokee that I bought off of my dad’s friend. It was a stick shift and took me a while to learn to drive. In Ventura, the right of passage for anyone learning to drive a manual transmission was Palm Street (the town’s steepest public street). You would have to get some speed, drive halfway up the steepest section of the hill and park. Then from there you would have to pop it into first gear and get up the hill from a dead stop (e-brake optional). I remember the feeling when I first accomplished it, after dozens of failed attempts. Such a thrill. It felt like I could do anything. Ever since then I have loved old, clunky cars and have always kind of steered away from new ones.
Years later I found this 1971 Chevy C-20 pickup on cragislist. It had belonged to a farm in San Ysidro, and had a simple past of hauling wood around for projects. It was a bit dinged up but in much better condition than an the overpriced driveway-dwelling rust-buckets that were usually for sale online. I’ve been working on semi-restoring it, mostly with the help of my friend Louie, who owns an auto-shop in Barrio Logan, San Diego. The aim of it isn’t really to strip it down and rebuild it from scratch, but to find that fine line between worthwhile repair, and too much.
The restoration process started with motor and carb work. Then it moved to hoses, some minor electrical repairs, new battery, door locks, window regulators, side mirrors, suspension, louder exhaust (because why not), new alternator, all terrain tires, simple audio system, and then on to addressing the most important thing with these old trucks: The rust. From what I have learned, if you can get the body to last, the rest of the truck will be good to go. Even if you end up replacing the motor or transmission, it ends up being worth it in the long run. The gutters on the front roof of the car are the first thing to go, and my truck was no exception. I had about 12 inches of the front gutter and roof cut away and rebuilt, as well as a stress fracture under the tailgate handle, and some fender rust. After those repairs it was just body work and getting new paint. I chose to go with the original frost-green/white combo that the interior reflected in its glory days. I took it to a friend in Mexico and he cranked out the body work, sanding, remaining rust issues, and 2-stage paint in 4 weeks. This being my daily driver, I was glad to get it back after borrowing cars, and bumming rides to work for a month.
The rest of the work I’ve done on the truck has just been adding fun customization elements here and there. I hand-stitched a veg-tanned leather cover over the steering wheel in one long evening, while watching 6 hours of tv. My friend Kurtis who works for Moniker Made, made a wooden center console to sit on the bench seat, and a removable wooden bed-frame to support and tent cover I made and my canoe over-top.
I’ve always been someone who wants to take what I have and make it better, without needing it to be the best. I know this might sound like a strange thing to admit, but it’s honest. I feel that a lot of times, those who want “the best” or “perfection” often end up waiting too long, or passing up grand opportunities because they can’t see the potential in old, rustly, seemingly dilapidated things. I do, however, feel like I have something to learn from others in terms of holding my life up to a higher standard. I’ve noticed that people who want a better life, often, if not, always, achieve it. I want to learn from those who have accomplished this with their lives. I think you can try and “make the most out of what you have” and also hold yourself to a higher standard of living at the same time.
When I first went to purchase the truck, the guy said that nobody else had inquired about it in a month of it being listed. And for the price, I thought that was crazy. Now, people offer to buy my truck all the time. I always want to be the person that sees the potential in something, and be a part of facilitating that along the way. I am not pretending to be one of those guys who can fix anything, or knows a lot about cars. I could not have done this without the help of friends. I’ve learned this from so many great people around me and I hope to pass that on to others. I think this is one of the greatest qualities we can fight for because it means that anything can happen with any amount of resources. The truck is just an old truck and I don’t want to overthink it, but I do think there is something cool about bringing new life to something that had been given up on and forgotten about.