SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There were a few more than 2,900 cars on display at the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association’s 15th annual Southwest Nationals at the WestWorld show grounds. Each of them drove into the site carrying not only a driver and perhaps a passenger or two, but a story as well. Here’s just one of those stories:
In 1960, Craig Weldon’s father, Cal, bought a 1959 GMC pickup truck and used it to move rocks, haul horses and to explore real estate for potential development out in the red rock geography near the family ranch in Sedona.
Cal and a 9-year-old Craig were on just such an exploration one day, parked atop a hill, when a storm rolled in an a bolt of lightning electrified the truck.
“Bam!” Craig says as he tells the story.
“We had just gotten in and let go of the door handles. Lightning hit the right-rear fender and there was St. Elmo’s fire inside the cab. Ball of fire ran up the gear shift lever. My hair stood on end. It was pretty exciting.”
Except for some overstimulated nerves and a burnt spot on that right-rear fender, neither the occupants nor the truck was otherwise damaged.
Indeed, it was in that truck that Craig learned to drive, in the process bending one of the front rims during an unintended off-road excursion.
Craig loved that old truck, and wanted his father to give it to him, but that didn’t happen until after Cal died in 2007 and the truck “was passed to me,” Craig said.
After inheriting the truck, Craig would drive it from time to time — fond and sometimes frightful memories of riding along with his father. His first inclination was to have the truck restored to the way it was when his father first brought it home, but then he realized he likely wouldn’t be spending much time behind the wheel of a vehicle that lacked power steering and power brakes.
So instead of a simple restoration, Weldon turned to CAM Auto Creations of Phoenix for what it called a “restomod” of the truck. That’s “resto” as in restoration and “mod” as in modification and modernization.
CAM is owned by Alan and Cheryl Mitchell, although their son, Brady, led the work effort on Weldon’s truck.
Alan Mitchell retired five years ago after a career with the U.S. Dept. of Energy. He’d always worked on cars and wasn’t really ready to retire so he opened his own shop which, as noted on its website, serves as “custom fabricators of personal automotive dreams.”
Alan Mitchell said that except for that burnt spot on the right-rear fender and a small area of rust that had to be fixed, the original sheetmetal was retained for the project.
But to undergird that bodywork, a new Art Morrison frame was obtained and outfitted with Morrison upper and lower control arms and adjustable coil-over shocks in front and triangulated four-link rear suspension, also with adjustable coil-over shocks. A 3:50 rear gear was installed, as were four-piston Wilwood brakes and offset and painted American Racing Tru-spoke wheels with Nitto high-performance tires.
A blueprinted and Holley carbureted 430-horsepower crate engine was installed with a 700R transmission. So were Vintage Air air conditioning, and a leather interior by Galvan’s Custom Auto Upholstery, another Phoenix shop.
The truck’s body color is a special PPG blend named St. Elmo’s Sapphire Blue. Even the frame got a custom-blended paint covering, in Phoenix Purple Mist.
From start to finish, the restomod took 14 months.
Although the truck was parked for all to see at the Goodguys show, it’s far from being any sort of trailer queen. There’s a trailer hitch hidden behind the rear license plate holder, and Weldon plans to put that hitch to good use — though perhaps not during lightning storms — towing his 1974 De Tomaso Pantera to various auto events.
To paraphrase the 1958-63 television series “Naked City,” there were nearly 3,000 stories on the Goodguys show field; this has been one of them.”