Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Setting the Date

After reaching out to all the key figures over the weekend and receiving a unanimous favorable response, we have a date for the first drive. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, this truck will go down the road under its own power for the first time since 1984 on Saturday, May 30th. I wanted to set a date well ahead of time, since we'll have family and friends coming from near and far to be here.

Just a few things to wrap up in the meantime:

Rear brakes

Tail lights

New battery

A trailer trip to Steve's outdoor lift, to run the new brake lines and install the new master cylinder

Shift linkage repair (to keep it from jamming)

Registration and insurance

Really looking forward to what will be a huge day for this old boy, as well as sharing it here through pictures and video. Thanks to all for coming along for the ride!

- J


Friday, March 20, 2015

The Thank You Series, Part 7 of 7

Spring 2015 arrives today at 6:45pm, along with an inch to several inches of new snow, according to the forecast. Old Man Winter lookin' to get his last licks in, I guess. No biggie. We're gonna go right ahead and welcome in the new season with excitement and anticipation, as we look forward to this old beauty finally going down the road again for the first time since 1984.

The Thank You Series is the result of my desire to publicly show my heartfelt appreciation for some very special people, without whose help and inspiration this whole thing would still be nothing more than a fanciful dream. I've had a wonderful time putting the series together, and can't wait to get on the road and take y'all along for the ride! With that, it's time for our final installment...

Part 7 of 7: Peter, Daniel, Christopher
My three older brothers. It was Pete who brought this truck into our family in 1981. Powered by the sense of adventure we inherited from our mother, he set out that summer to live his own lifelong dream of riding his bicycle from coast to coast. It was during this epic ride that he discovered the truck in Missouri. He left a deposit and went back after completing his bike trip to finish the deal, then drove the truck home to Connecticut. For all the details from then to now, please see "John's Old Truck – The Whole Story."

Late 60's

Pete and Dan not only sparked my lifelong passion for music, but are also a key influence my wide ranging appreciation for classic vehicles. In addition to Dad's Ford wagon and '68 Cutlass, there was Pete's Corvair, the '66 Mustang he and Dan shared, the old Pontiac that Dan was finally convinced to buy from our friends up the street (I think he refused at first because it had four doors), Pete's '64 Chevy van, the Rambler that used to be a telephone company car (complete with a hole in the roof where the two way radio antenna used to be), Dan's Mustang II (Why, Danny? Why?!), and of course this 1949 Chevy truck. And with the earlier rides, I definitely heard a few good swear words for the first time as the older boys and Dad would be working on them in the driveway.

Mid to late 70's

Thank you, big brothers, not only for sparing Chris and me after we constantly disrupted your band practices in our basement "Jam Room," but also all the invaluable influence. And thanks to you, Chris, for cheering this project on from day one and holding the camera that captured that first start after all those years. Big thanks also to our pit crew, who were all here when she finally fired up again: Nephews Michael and Tim and niece Kelly.

September 2013, at nephew Michael's wedding

And one more for the first born: Thank you, Peter, not only for living the dream that created mine, but also for providing me with the opportunity to make it real.

Pete with the truck in '81-'82

When this old thing is finally ready to go down the road again later this spring, Peter will be the first driver. That's going to be a very special day, and I know without a doubt that Mom will be right there riding with us.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Thank You Series, Part 6 of 7

Spring is now less than a week away and the anticipation is building. Not yet sure exactly when it will happen, but at some point before spring turns to summer, the rubber will meet the road and Johnny will be a very happy boy. As I have said and will continue to say, it would not be possible without the help of some very special people, which is why I came up with the Thank You Series. Nobody gets where they're going with such endeavors by themselves, and I believe strongly that you never forget those who so graciously give of themselves to help you. With that in mind, here's our next installment...

Part 6 of 7: Alex
We met through his sister, a close friend of my better half Meg. Janice would come over to the house, see the truck and say "You have to meet my brother," who, as it turns out, does top notch restoration and custom work. He's got a gorgeous '68 Firebird, a very cool rat rod that looks like something you might have seen on The Munsters, and is currently working on a pair of classic Mustangs.

Alex at work, flanked by his Firebird and one of the Mustangs

It was Alex who cleaned up the truck's rough bed sides, welded on the new angle strips and rear stake pockets and repaired one of the original GM six lug wheels so I could get tires mounted. He'll also be our go to guy for any mechanical work that I can't handle. Thank you for your friendship, knowledge and expertise, Alex! Can't tell you how much I appreciate it, and can't wait to see those 'Stangs all done up!

The seventh and final installment of The Thank You Series will appear on Friday March 20th, the day Spring arrives. Stay tuned!


Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Thank You Series, Part 5 of 7

The clocks went ahead one hour this morning, a sure sign that Spring is around the corner. What's also sure is that at some point in the coming season of renewal, this 1949 Chevy truck will roll down the road under its own power for the first time in 31 years, with me driving it for the first time ever. If you're new here, please check out "John's Old Truck - The Whole Story" to learn exactly how much that means to me. And one more sure thing is the fact that it would absolutely not be happening without some special people who have so graciously contributed their time and talent to help this total restoration amateur live a lifelong dream. To recognize these key contributions, I came up with the "Thank You Series."

Part 5 of 7: Steve
When I set about cleaning up the rear part of the frame on the truck, I was pretty sure we couldn't ignore the daylight that was visible where it shouldn't be on the right frame rail. Not knowing whether I'd need a new frame or if the existing one was fixable, I posted a few pictures online. Steve responded, we talked a few times and he came by to check out the truck. Eventually he was over here with a borrowed trailer and we loaded 'er up for the ride over to his place, where he did the welding fix.

video documenting the frame fix

Steve has since also mounted the front disc brake kit I got from Speedway Motors, is fabricating a mount for the new dual feed master cylinder (these trucks came with a single feed mc from the factory) and will run the new brake lines for me. And like all the other key figures in this story, he doesn't want a thing in return. “Just paying it forward,” he says. “Let me come check out the radio station some day.” Pretty sure I can make that happen, Steve! Thanks again so much for all your help.

Steve and his '38 Chevy are a regular fixture on cruise night at the Sycamore Drive-In Restaurant in my hometown of Bethel, Connecticut. I can't think of a better place to make our first stop when we finally get on the road. Looking forward to those summer Saturday nights!


Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Thank You Series, Part 4 of 7

Today we continue the countdown to Spring 2015, the season during which I will drive this truck for the first time, after dreaming about it for 34 years. It would not be happening without the help of some very special people, and I wanted to recognize their contributions, so I came up with the Thank You Series.

Part 4 of 7: Dean
I've known Dean and his wonderful wife Sine since my karaoke hosting days many years ago. Sine would usually be singing something from the Rocky Horror Picture Show (with me sometimes joining in, although I refused to dress like Tim Curry), and Dean and I would always talk about my truck. "We'll have it on the road some day," I would always say. "Just bring me 20 grand!" He's got a killer red '67 Camaro that not only looks like it's doing 80 sitting still, but also does a serious burnout. I've seen it happen!

Dean's killer Camaro

After I had taken the truck's bed apart and needed welding help with the rear fenders, Dean was right there to say "Hey, bring 'em over. No problem." Thank you again, my friend! Can't wait to park this old thing next to you when we go cruisin'!


Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Thank You Series, Part 3 of 7

As I type, spring is about 19 and a half days away, due to arrive in the early evening of March 20th. I decided to mark the occasion this year with the Thank You Series, in recognition of those whose help along the way has been a critical part of making this amateur's dream happen. And happen it will this spring, as all that's left before we can go down the road is a finished brake job, a new battery and a visit or two to the DMV. These posts will go up on Sunday and Thursday until March 12th, with the seventh appearing Friday March 20th, the day spring arrives.

Part 3 of 7: Hilton
This is one of the things I love most about this adventure. Complete strangers who know what it's like and are willing to lend a hand. Just a few days after we got the truck running, I went out to see if it would start without help. As I pushed the floor button to engage the starter, it snapped off. It had obviously broken at least once previously and been quickly welded back together. Thinking that having it welded yet again wasn't the best idea, I set about trying to find the entire starter bracket.

I couldn't locate the part in any of my catalogs and didn't think to try ebay, probably because I wasn't even sure how to identify it. "Starter thingy?" "Foot doohickey?" Pretty sure that wasn't going to get me anywhere. I decided to post about it on a message board where I was a member, begging forgiveness for my ignorance and describing the part as well as I could. A wonderful gentleman from Canada named Hilton responded, and we ended up speaking on the phone. Turns out he's a custom/restoration guy with his own shop, who regularly turns out projects that go for six figures. He ended up pulling the part off one of the trucks outside his shop in Manitoba, boxed it up and shipped it to me, completely free of charge. It bolted on easily and has worked perfectly since.

Thank you again for your kindness and generosity, Hilton. I'll never forget it.