GROUNDHOG!

Comparing this tattered and torn ’59 Apache with a top-of-the-line modern day Toyota is totally ludicrous right? Well in eyes of its owner you’d be wrong, for that’s what inspired sales manager for the giant Japanese manufacturer, Tony Eisner when he considered upgrading his out of vogue daily driver for the company’s latest locally produced offering.   

“I had a top of the range Toyota Aurion with leather heated seats, Sat-Nav, climate control and all the bells and whistles,” Tony informs, “about 55K worth when new!”

But rather than plonk his hard earned cash down on another whiz bang grocery grabber that starts depreciating as soon as you take procession of the keys, he hatched an alternative plan.

“I saw a pic of a bitchin’ Chevy pickup online that was finished in bare metal with late model V8 running gear and thought; ‘that’s it! That’s my new car!”’

With revitalised interest in owning a new ‘old’ set of wheels, Tony was further stimulated eyeballing a suitable candidate on offer outside the 2013 Victorian Hot Rod show, compelling him purchase the retired Texas commercial the next day. Although his mind was filled with innovative upgrades for the weathered Apache, a duration of almost 12 months would pass while Tony accumulated all necessary parts and coin to put his plan in motion.

While the pickup retains the majority of its ‘as purchased’ patina, rust repairs were necessary as denoted by the red oxide patches. Tony explains that while the 350 equipped pickup still fired and ran, it drove like a pig! Adhering to his self-set plan, he enlisted the help of Tony Anastasio at TNA Engineering to install an eBay purchased drivetrain and modify the chassis to attack the pavement like Indians on cowboys.

To achieve the desired stance, a Jaguar front end positioned between notched front frame rails replaces the worn-out original and upgrades the brakes in one installation. Residing under the modified tray and notched rear rails is a 10 bolt Salisbury third member, located by four bars and rotated by a split tail shaft. Tony tugged and turfed the 350 small block Chevy mill and manual box filling the void with an LS-series 6 litre and 6 speed that came with an original wiring harness.

While the engine swap would have been a snap at a 100mm off the prairie, Tony’s pursuit for a frame to floor finish required many more modifications, along with Air-Ride bags now installed on all corners.

“The motor had to go down, back and then up, so we had to recess the firewall, trans tunnel and the entire pickup tray. I reckon that if I’d kept it kept four inches higher I could have save myself about ten grand,” he explains with eyebrows raised.

While firewall modifications were imminent, so were driving positions with an Aussie Chevy C10 steering column thrown into the mix and positioned on the opposite side of the cab with a RHD dash conversion. Before the cut and shut original dash was re-installed, Tony rattle can coated it in Rat Fink candy apple red to spice up the rather drab interior. Now Dakota Digital instrumentation monitors the modern mill with precise accuracy and old school good looks. An extended Lokar swan neck shifter guides gear selection in style.

Fond of both upholstery styles of rolls ‘n pleats and diamond tuft, Tony had local trimmer Mark Grant at Dynamic Trimming combine both into one unique bench seat that will be complemented with matching door cards once the Dynamat underlay is completed. The cool collective of desirable decals are owner applied.

With the interior done (almost), Tony unfurled his wish list of creature comforts that transforms this wicked weekend workhorse into a daily ride. Air-conditioning…tick, power windows…yep, power steering…yes, normal stuff right? Sat-Nav, central locking, heated seats, smart start, smart entry, auto diming rear view mirror, dual reversing cameras and Bluetooth stereo, oh and don’t forget the on board fridge, flat screen TV and bed mounted stripp—- err umbrella stand. Yep, if you can think of it, Tony’s Chevy has probably got it.

Harnessing the miles of electrical cable was also a blood brother bargain deal swapped for a ’36 Ford pickup cab that was no longer needed. Additional help by good mate, Paul Irvine was also very appreciated by Tony when he was scalped for ideas or skills with certain parts of the build.   

Now with the slightest of air gaps between brand new front and rear bumpers when fully deflated, Tony’s commuter depreciation days are over. Rolling on chromed original steelies shod with Coker classic white walls from his current employer, Antique Tyres, the Fleetside farm hauler is destined to become a chief city slicker.

BY DALE HABERFIELD, PHOTOS BY MILLBROOK STUDIO
AS SEEN IN CRUZIN #190

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