On The Floor Editorial - January 2006 - Project Hell
Thy Name Is El Paradors
The other day I told my wife I'd be home late because Calin and I were going to be working on my old Chevy. "The dualie?" she asked. I told her no and that we were working on my other truck. I saw in her eyes the same puzzled look she'd given me the last time I came home with a project that "I just had to have!" Just then, it hit me. She'd never gone for a ride in my '69 Chevy. She'd never cruised in it, never put gas in it, and hell, she'd never even seen it. Sure, I'd talked about it from time to time, but she's never even laid eyes on it because it has been down in the bowels of project hell since way before I ever met her. You know where project hell is, don't you? It's that place where you rip apart a perfectly good pickup and never put it back together. I've been ignoring the fact that I put my truck into project hell for several years now, and when I finally took a moment to think about how long I've owned my '69 Chevy, how many different year, make, and model trucks I've bought and bartered for in an effort to put one good one together, and when the last time I actually drove it was, I got depressed. At this point, I don't even know if I should refer to my truck as a '69 anymore because there really isn't much left of the truck I started this project out with to even attach the original title to.
What started out as a beat-up, but presentable 'bagged and body-dropped '69 Chevy fleetside pickup, which at least ran and got me to and from work, has over the years disintegrated into nothing more than a pair of primered orange doors and a roof skin, which is why I gave it the pseudo Spanish name, El Paradors. El Pair Of Doors. Get it? It wasn't so much the rust that eliminated all of the parts that once qualified this thing as a pickup as much as it was my need to tinker, learn, and fabricate, and the lure of my other favorite sport in life-drag racing. Over the years, El Paradors has moved from my backyard to several rented and borrowed shop spaces, each short-term stop resulting in the truck looking less and less like its former self, while I improved my fabrication skills and acquired replacement parts.
For example, each time I completed a rust repair, I'd find a new reason to scrap the areas surrounding the repair until entire sections of the truck, such as the chassis, bed, and cab, were gone with the wind. A few years ago, during a stint at Devious Customs in Ontario, California, I replaced the rocker panels because I had practically dragged them off and the floor boards inside the cab because they had rotted. The cab was already body-dropped by the truck's original owner, my friend Chappy, so this was nothing more than repairing existing damage. The repairs went well, but later on after the truck was out of Jeff Davy's shop, I threw the truck's original chassis in the trash after deciding to build a tube chassis that would allow the truck to lay rocker on 22-inch wheels. Guess what? With the new chassis I didn't need a cab with a raised floor anymore. I'm 6-foot, 1-inch tall, so do the math and you'll immediately know why I cut up the original cab and threw it away as well. This is just one example of how this project has morphed into something very different every chance I learned something new or changed my mind about how I built, rebuilt, or fabricated something for it. By the way, I'm on cab numero tres now, and the Baer brake pads have yet to touch the surface of the rotors.
I used to think that I was the only guy on earth who got sidetracked from finishing long-term projects, but after talking with a few Sport Truck readers, I discovered that project hell is a fairly common place to live. It seems that lots of you have gotten in over your heads and had family commitments, financial constraints, or other hobbies take precedence over finishing that truck in the front yard. I've spent a good portion of the last few years and almost all of my cash on drag racing. Fabricating even small things for the truck, such as sway bar and shock mounts to finish off the custom tube chassis I began building so long ago, have taken a back seat to engine building and driving duties. At times, I felt like I was neglecting my poor "truck" or at least what was left of it, as it sat outside rusting away in the rain. It is tough to get motivated to work on a project of this magnitude, though, when you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel because the tunnel is blocked by a missing bed, interior, brake lines, wiring, and so on. The list goes on and on.
The good news is that I've given up on staring at the list of parts I don't have and work yet to be done and focused on tackling the jobs I do have control over. Calin found me the perfect $500 donor cab to get El Paradors started in the right direction, and we've pushed the foundation of the truck, such as the chassis, suspension, and new cab, into the shop. It's all downhill from here, I think. The plan is to rid the truck of the rust it accumulated while sitting outdoors and resume construction of the chassis and build the beast up from there. Eventually, El Paradors will evolve into a Pro Touring-style truck that still lays flat, handles the curves, and hauls butt. It's been a long, weird road back to the beginning of this project, but I think my truck actually has a shot at seeing the road sometime in the near future. How can I not make progress on it now? It's winter in California, and racing season is over, isn't it? Next month, I might have pictures of the truck worth printing. Stay tuned, and we'll see what turns up.
"You know where project hell is, don't you? It's that place where you rip apart a perfectly good pickup and never put it back together. I've been ignoring the fact that I put my truck into project hell for several years now, and when I finally took a moment to think about how long I've owned my '69 Chevy, how many different year, make, and model trucks I've bought and bartered for in an effort to put one good one together, and when the last time I actually drove it was, I got depressed."