1967 Chevrolet Fleetside - Parking Lot Pimpin'? Not Really - On The Floor
A few months ago, we got this hairbrained idea to cruise all the way to Sport Truck's upcoming Havoc Show in Kentucky from SoCal. The show was six month's away and although it would be a 4,300-mile-long road trip, it seemed like a great opportunity to cruise the country in a classic sport truck. So, I searched the internet for our new project truck and found a clean '67 Chevy Fleetside in running condition in Northern California. Obtaining the truck from its previous owner who lived 9 hours away should have been a disaster, but it wasn't. Getting the truck from our garage to the body shop, which was only 5 minutes away, should have been a cakewalk, but that turned into a disaster.
After making the 18-hour road trip to buy the truck, it was stashed away while we made a plan of attack to get it road-worthy and presentable. We planned on stripping the truck down to the chassis and cab to get it off to the body shop pronto, because bodywork and paint always seem to the be the biggest hang-ups with any project and now we only had four months until our impending road trip. The day before the truck's appointment with Rock and Roll Custom Paint, I finally set about towing the truck to Gary's house to strip it. At least, that was the plan when Kevin and I went to the local U-haul establishment to rent a tow dolly that morning. We loaded the front wheels of the truck onto the dolly, and they admittedly didn't fit exactly how they were supposed to. OK, only half the tread of each tire was actually on the too-small dolly, but we were in a hurry so we hit the road anyway. We got about as far as the parking lot of Home Depot three blocks away before I pulled over because I knew the truck wasn't going to make it to Gary's house. Off the dolly it came and off I went to return it.
The kind folks at U-haul were nice enough to not give me my money back, even though I returned the dolly as fast as I had rented it. That was a $43 lesson in kindness. I had left Kevin at Home Depot with the truck because it had no door locks, and the day-laborers hanging in the parking lot were commenting aloud about what a great landscaping truck it would make. Next, I went to Auto Zone to buy a battery, some rubber fuel line, and a fuel pump to get the truck running under its own power. I figured if it ran, we could just drive it to Gary's house. I hurried through the 'Zone as images of Kevin fending off landscapers with only handtools dashed through my head.
When I got back, Kevin was half-asleep inside the cab, and the day-laborers were nowhere near the truck. Obviously, he was tired from doing battle, and the laborers had given up on taking our prize. We replaced all of the rubber fuel lines that were dry-rotted and removed the pickup from the in-cab fuel tank and cleaned it out. When the original fuel pump still wasn't pumping any fuel to the carb, we removed it from the engine block. Unfortunately, the new pump had different fittings than the old one, so back to the auto parts store we needed to go. This time, Kevin made the trip and I played security guard to our lame duck.
While he was gone, I started crawling under and in the truck to see exactly how much work we had ahead of us in order to make the truck road-worthy for our upcoming trip. The chassis looked good, but squirrels had apparently called the truck home at some point because every crevice of the engine compartment was filled with empty acorn shells and mice turds were everywhere inside the cab. There was even more hidden treasure in the form of several hammers stuffed inside the inner fenderwells that would have come in handy earlier as we worked on the truck. When Kevin returned with the right fuel pump fittings, we buttoned up the fuel system and the small-block fired right up. It needed a tuneup bad, but I jumped behind the wheel, intent on making some parking lot hot laps to test her might. When I stepped on the go-pedal though, nothing happened. Back under the hood, we discovered the throttle linkage was disconnected and missing a few parts.
Home Depot came to the rescue with tie wraps, which we used to connect the throttle linkage, and we even found a spring that worked as a throttle return spring. We now had a working gas pedal and the hot laps commenced in the parking lot. The four-speed worked well, but the four-wheel drum brakes did not, and neither did the taillights. By then, it was starting to get dark, so we scrapped the idea of taking the truck to Gary's house or even the body shop. Instead, I drove the '67 to the office, and Kevin followed me in the dualie, to run blocker and prevent any police car from getting behind me. It would be no fun to try and explain why I was driving a truck with expired registration in someone else's name, and with no taillights, so we took side streets until we reached the freeway.
Once on the freeway, I really started to notice the truck's true character. Until now, she was an old, vintage-looking ride that, although dusty, was neat to drive in a Norman Rockwell sort of way. On the freeway though, those nostalgic feelings turned to sheer terror. The wind blew right through the rust holes in the floor, spraying acorn chips and mice turds all over me. Since I already had a tough time seeing through the dirt-encrusted windshield-we forgot to clean it before hitting the road and I forgot my sunglasses!-the flying debris made it really tough to see the off-ramp for the office. I also discovered the three-quarter turn amount of play in the steering when I swerved to make the exit and when coasting down the ramp, the tranny popped out of Third gear. So there I was, steering madly to stay between the white lines, as I spied a tractor trailer at the bottom of the ramp. I said a quick prayer as I pushed the brake pedal all the way to the floor hoping there would be enough brake pad to keep the near perfect front sheetmetal intact.
The brakes squeaked and I jammed the tranny into Second gear and coasted to a stop, just inches from the truck in front of me. The light turned green and I piloted the truck around the corner and into the parking lot. I got out, dusted myself, and went back to the office. We had pretty much wasted an entire afternoon and nearly wrecked the '67 project before it even got rolling, but we did have a few laughs and got the truck running. At the end of the day, we were no closer to the body shop, but we had a good story to tell our friends. Maybe tomorrow will be different. I'll let you know next month.