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Payback Pickup

A one-owner workhorse receives some good lovin’

By Rotten Rodney



To those who remember it clearly, the year 1975 wasn’t so long ago. In perspective, however, it was long ago enough to necessitate an entire aftermarket of replacement sheet metal parts for pickup trucks of the era. And in fact, the salvaging of the Jennings family 4x4 was eased to some degree by the aforementioned aftermarket.


This 1975 Chevrolet, long-bed, half-ton, 4x4 was purchased new in St. Charles, Missouri by its current and original owner; Eldon Jennings. After the Jennings family’s move to Southern California in 1978, the pickup continued to function as a typical-for-the-times workhorse. As an active scout leader, Mr. Jennings used this truck for numerous desert trips throughout its years of duty. Through it all, the ol’ truck has earned its keep as a mechanical member of the Jennings family.


To simply say that this is a sentimental project would be an understatement. At Hot Rods & Custom Stuff we assist with such projects on a regular basis. Here while taking full advantage of available aftermarket sheet metal, it’s payback time—in a good way—for all the right reasons.


At this early stage of the restoration, HR&CS media blaster, Zach has already stripped the truck’s cab. As you’re all about to see, this is where we discover the depth of deterioration.


Here for the purpose of illustration, HR&CS multi-purpose metal man, Steve strikes a hand-modeling pose for the camera—right through what remains of the cab’s original floor.


For the time that the affected floor sections are being removed and replaced, overall structural integrity is weakened to some degree. For that reason, the cab is leveled, shimmed and firmly affixed to the cart.


With the floor sections now in place, Steve continues with the grafting of reproduction cab corners. For this phase, it’s imperative that the doors are hung and properly adjusted.  


In order to avoid warping while welding, Steve uses cool, clean, compressed air to quench as he goes.


Of course a multi-purpose metal man must be quick with the quenching. With this cleverly-improvised magnetic hose-hanger positioned just far enough away, welding is unaffected. With the blowgun ready and within reach, fumbling times are dramatically reduced.


In addition to the reproduction panels we’ve seen used so far, the truck will receive repro’ doors, fenders and all the individual panels to assemble a complete new bed, even including its floor and tailgate.


Today almost any part of this type of truck is available through aftermarket manufactures. However, this does not mean that they’ll automatically fit in with their surroundings.  


In fact, repro’ body panels require much massaging to achieve proper fit and fairness, and by this time HR&CS body man, Ricardo has worked long and hard for what we see here. With metalwork and initial filler work done, Ricardo applies a final “skimcoat” of premium quality filler to ensure uniform block sanding.


For the larger/flatter expanses, a long AFS (Adjust-Flex-Sand) brand fairing board is a versatile tool. The concave curvatures above and below require the use of long, cylindrically shaped blocks. This type of work takes a good selection of specific-purpose tools, as well as knowledge that can only come with experience.


Now that the bed assembly’s outer skins are in first-round California-compliant primer-surfacer from PPG, it’s about to be transported back to the fabrication department of HR&CS. Rumor ‘round the shop has it that there are some custom touches in-store.


While the bed is temporarily out of the picture, bodywork continues. This is another fine example of the amount of work and skill required to make repro’ panels actually fit. For those who’re thinkin’ OEM hoods didn’t come with a cowl-induction-style hump; you’re quite correct. However, it’s a great option today, and HR&CS can supply them.


So have we made our point by now? These reproduction panels leave much to be desired, and this fancy aftermarket hood is no exception. The tool in the background is a Hutchins Hustler straight-line, pneumatic air file. Depending upon the panel’s shape, such sanders can be time-savers. The trick is; knowing when to quit and resume with a manual longboard. For best results, final fairing should be done by hand—like this.


Meanwhile back in the fabrication department, the bed assembly is up on the lift. Shall we have us a look?


So our first custom clue was back in the body stall where we spied the humpy hood. Now there’s somethin’ about the bed’s floor that’s tellin’ us that this ol’ truck is in for a little more than a paint-by-numbers restoration.


Truth is; by this time HR&CS fabricator, Jeremy has already scratch-built a form-fitting aluminum fuel tank. This slick recess and door are custom as well, but they’ll blend right in as though the truck could have/should have come this way stock.


Back in the body stall again, Ricardo begins to prepare the bed for second-round primer-surfacer. The procedure to follow is similar to what we’ve seen during final bodywork. For the most part, the same blocks and boards will be used—only this time with finer-grit abrasives.


At the same time, the HR&CS paint shop crew is busy as the cab is now close to color. According to the slight bit of controlled overspray on the waterproof masking material, this ol’ truck will be very, very red.


Now let’s see if we can figure out what’s goin’ on here. See the seam-sealer? That's all about making things last.


I didn’t ask, but it sort of looks as though the dash is already in color. This makes sense as the area would be difficult to reach while the cab’s exterior is being painted.


In any paint shop, airborne impurities like this tiny speck of dust just go with the territory—even in a state-of-the-art Garmat, downdraft spraybooth. Here HR&CS painter, Andy employs the ol’ masking tape trick as he must from time to time—with success.


Here under urethane clear; are the Chevrolet block letters masked ‘n’ sprayed or hand-painted with a sign-painter’s quill? Once again, I didn’t ask, but I can tell y’all that painter, Andy is an artist and quite proficient at either technique.


So here’s our first good look at the unmasked cab in color and clear. The black, textured coating on the floor is Lizard Skin—a HR&CS staple, which functions as a sound-deadener as well as a corrosion deterrent. Although the clearcoat sprayed-out slick, it’s not finished yet.


Have y’all met DJ? If not, he’s an important part of the paint shop crew, as he currently handles a good deal of the colorsanding and buffing chores.


These steps are of paramount importance and absolutely necessary to achieve the texture-free mirror finish that HR&CS customers routinely demand.


Now we wouldn’t really risk scratching by rubbin’ a finger ‘cross these perfectly flush paint edges, but it’s certainly tempting.


It suddenly occurs to yours truly that with all the in-depth focus on this project’s body ‘n’ paintwork, I’ve neglected to include a shot of the now-rolling chassis. I do have such a shot, but wouldn’t you know it, I’ve left it in my other computer. If y’all will bear with me, I’ll come back around to this—maybe.    


As the project nears completion, so does Part 1 of our story with only one caption (this one) remaining to be written. Mr. Jennings? How about a quote from you?