With so many crazy builds and modifications going on with vehicles in the industry these days, it’s getting more difficult to find classic Chevys that are factory-correct. Sure, these vehicles may be “stock” but their importance to the hobby is undying-They are where the industry branched from and the basis of each and every project vehicle out there. But for John Davis of Grand Junction Colorado, his numbers-matching ‘59 Apache 3100 pickup is more than just a factory-correct Chevy; it’s a family heirloom and a dream come true all wrapped into one sleek package. Obviously, we had to know more, so we caught up with Davis in Steamboat Springs, Colorado a couple weeks back for a bit of scenery, reminiscing, and of course, to check out his finer than factory pickup.
A Story Laced with History
While many people acquire vehicles over the years of their adult life from trades or buying something knew, Davis came in posession of his ‘59 Apache in a more meaningful way.
“My dad bought the truck new in 1959 at a dealership in Victor, California and drove it every day until he passed away,” Davis told us. “The truck got shuffled around to family members which put the truck in Oklahoma, Arizona and then I got it on my birthday March 27th, 2007. I started the restoration in 2009 and drove it for the first time on my birthday March 27, 2012. The truck has never been outside of the family and will stay in the family for years to come.” The truck will eventually be passed on to Davis’ son who Davis says is just as proud of the truck as he is.
Recently turning 71 years old, Davis told us that he’s been into classic trucks for about 60 years now, starting out working on them for extra money back in the day. He was about 18 when his dad bought the truck. His dad, who Davis said preferred GMCs rather than the Chevy model at the time, drove the truck out to Grand Junction, Colorado just a couple years later, allowing Davis to see the truck for the first time.
“The first time I saw it, I wanted it,” Davis said. From then on, he was hooked and bought himself a similar truck. “ I bought a GMC, painted it the same way and was going to trade my dad for his truck, but the Chevy was just too nice,” Davis told us.
From the time that Davis first laid eyes on his dad’s Apache to the time he received it for his birthday after it sat for 20-some years at his brother’s house, Davis told us that he had about a dozen of the ’50s Task Force trucks, always moving on to something better when the opportunity arose. But with this truck, there is no trading it in-there is just too much work, too much pride, and way too much history to even consider letting it go.
Change of Plans
After Davis received the truck, it was his original intention to do a mild restoration. That, however, changed into taking on a full frame-off restoration to bring the truck back to its original glory.
The three-year project started off with the frame, which received nothing but a good cleanup and coat of black paint with the help of Davis’ son Willie of Big Willie’s Garage and daughter-in-law Kaylie. The chassis still retains it’s stock straight axle in the front and original drop-out rearend as well as leaf springs all the way around. The manual steering gearbox and drum brakes on all four corners are also original. The only thing that’s not original about the chassis is the OEM replacement gas shocks.
Giving the chassis firm ground to stand on are Pontiac Artillary wheels with chrome beauty rings and the truck’s original hubcaps adorned with Chevy bowties. These are wrapped in P225/75/R15 Starfire radials that give the truck a nice rubber to asphalt ratio for cruising around town or going to local car shows.
From the chassis, the build progressed to the drivetrain. Like any stellar restoration, the original 235ci straight-six engine was retained right down to the original intake manifold, cylinder heads and carburetor. With a mild 0.030-inch over bore by Top End Performance Machinework, RV camshaft, Offenhauser split header and custom dual exhaust system built by Big Willie’s Garage, the truck hums a traditional tone and performs the way Chevy intended originally with just a little bit of extra oomph to keep it interesting.
The original, numbers-matching four-speed manual transmission was also retained in the truck, giving those gear slapping, speed-shifting types something to marvel at. Although the engine and transmission are now 53 years old, they work just as good as new, if not better.
Keeping with the Times
Also original to the truck is the body, which has had no modifications. A true tribute to Davis’ dad, the truck was even repainted with PPG single stage urethane paint in the same blue and white paint scheme it came with originally by Brian Phelps, who believe it or not, painted it in his garage. The only addition to the paint scheme is the white stripe that goes around the back of the cab.
Minor details like side tracker lights off a sport bike and a new light wood bed add to the overall aesthetics of the truck, as do the tell-tale signs of what the truck was used for.
Davis pointed out holes along the side of the truck bed that used to hold a topper in place when his dad and mom would camp in the back of the truck. Although these aren’t “factory correct,” they hold memories and will remain a part of the truck forever.
For the interior of the truck, Davis branched out a bit, reupholstering the bench seat from a 1988 Chevy 1500 to match the truck’s blue and white paint scheme.
This flows nicely with the body-matched door panels, headliner and original dash of the truck, which still maintains the original 1959 gauges. Belting out oldies or rock-n-roll, whichever mood strikes at the moment, is a Retro Sound Apache stereo.
With everything on the truck virtually right in line with the factory specifications, we figured Davis would have at least one thing he’d change about his truck, but we were wrong. When we asked what he would’ve done differently, Davis replied, “Nothing, I built it the way I wanted.” He also told us that he doesn’t have a favorite part of the truck, he likes it all.
Since the truck was finished this spring, Davis has taken the truck to eight car shows, winning six different awards along the way. Among the awards he’s won, Davis has picked up Best of Trucks awards at shows in Moab, Utah, Gunnison, Colorado and the Allen Unique Autos show in Grand Junction, CO, as well as the Best of Marque designation at a show in Gateway, CO.
In Moab, Davis got a particularly telling comment about his truck from one of the judges, telling him that his truck was too perfect to be original. If that doesn’t show the caliber of Davis’ Apache restoration, we don’t know what does.
“I have enjoyed showing the truck, meeting new people and seeing the enjoyment of others who can appreciate the truck as much as I do,” Davis told us.
Retro In the Future
In the future, Davis plans to continue to take the truck to shows and just enjoy it. He’s also thinking of building a sister truck that would look exactly the same but be more of a pro-touring style truck with a built LS under the hood. That truck could be shown alongside the Apache as well as get beat on a little more than it’s twin. Whether one or two of them, Davis’ Apache will continue to turn heads and tell a story every where it goes.
We deal with a lot of resto-mods, pro-touring vehicles and intense builds around here, finding everything from the mild to the wild in our searches for feature vehicles. While this truck is different in the sense that it’s a tribute to yesteryear, it by far carries with it one of our favorite stories and a respect that can only be seen in vehicles that don’t change what the factory did, but compliment it by keeping it intact. Thank you Mr. Davis for sharing it with us.