“At night before I put my two sons (Zaiah & Cohen J) to bed, we would say our prayers and then roll their toy Chevy trucks around before lights out”, says Josh Gonzales about his family’s nightly rituals. “We would talk about the paint, color, wheels, tires, style, etc. Trucks were an interest that we all shared together, even though we didn’t own a real truck like the ones we imagined having.”
While Josh and his boys went to bed with trucks on their minds, they also daydreamed about one day rolling around town in the truck they have collectively imagined together. They talked about new ideas about what their truck could look like, and even started spotting trucks on the road that fit the description of how they would want theirs to look. “A few years back in 2013, I was driving the boys to grammar school when they saw a red and black ’51 Chevy pickup for sale”, Josh remembers. “They wanted to stop and see it, but they were already late for school, so I told them I would go back and check it out after I dropped them off, which I made a point to do.”
Since Josh had wanted a cool truck just as much as his sons did, he followed the lead on the ’51 and gave the old Chevy a closer look on his own. “While walking around it, I realized a buddy of mine had a very similar truck that he once took me for a ride in just years before.” The flyer on the truck did have some additional info, as well as a price tag too – $17,900! While the truck was in good condition, and it was the make and model the Gonzales men would be interested in, it was just priced a little higher than what their budget would allow for. “I messaged my friend to ask if this truck was in fact his, and sure enough he confirmed that it was”, Josh says. “I thought maybe he would give us a break on the price, so we talked things over to see what could work for both of us.”
After throwing some numbers back and forth at each other, Josh and his pal landed on a win/win price – $9k. “I couldn’t spend too much more on the truck, since the boys and I would want to do a complete restoration to make the Chevy look exactly like we wanted it. I was just thankful my friend understood that and was able to give us such a great deal.” Even though the truck came in way less than the advertised price, Josh was going to have to let his savings account recharge for a bit before doing anything else to it. He spent the next 5 years driving the Chevy completely as-is, which really wasn’t as bad as it sounds. It had a classic two-tone ranch style look to it and was fun to take the boys for a cruise every now and then.” But they knew what they really wanted to do with the truck, but it was going to require more money – lots more money.
When the time was right, Josh began researching shops that could turn the family Chevy truck into something like the one they spent years dreaming up. Now, wrangling up with right team to handle all aspects of the truck’s redesign sounds like fun, the process can be rather time consuming and stress inducing. Luckily, Josh had his cousin John Ortiz who was ready to join the project. “I call him the mechanic whisperer”, Josh says jokingly. “I knew I could trust him to perfect the details of the build, so he managed the project, as well as performing some of the mechanical work himself.”
To get started, Josh placed an order for a full chassis from Total Cost Involved that featured coil-overs at each corner, a rear 4-link, as well as a long list of suspension components that would make the Chevy ride like a dream. To up the ante, the entire chassis was test fit then broken back down to be fully powdercoated for cosmetic and protective purposes. With things starting to cook on the Chevy, Josh and his cousin John turned up the heat to get other facets of the truck progressing as well.
Since Josh was sticking to a “cut no corners” mentality going forward, he was easily sold on the idea of scrapping the truck’s old engine and planting a much more modern replacement. Brian Sedillo of Empire Engines was recruited to build up a ‘04 LS3 for the ’51. A medley of stock and aftermarket parts were assembled to bring the horsepower count to just about 550 with an impressive rumble that makes that count impossible to forget. Agility and power were both now within the Chevy’s reach, with much more improvements slated to hit in the very near future.
While the red and black paint did have its own throwback charm, Josh and his boys had something much different in mind for the truck. A single color was more their speed, but they didn’t want something that could be easily mimicked from a color swatch. To assist in this matter, along with handling a large amount of intricate bodywork, Phoenix Rod & Custom joined the team of talent to whip the truck’s exterior into shape. A respectable list of parts and pieces were shaved clean from its surface, and the custom mixed Royal Blue paint proved to be the perfect finishing touch to give the truck a much more updated aesthetic to the truck’s overall curb appeal.
The interior was next to be addressed, as the bench seat and door panels were recovered in a diamond stitched hybrid leather/Alcantara upholstery combination that boosts the vintage looks and feel within the cab. A customized dash, as well as a complete audio system featuring nothing less than Alpine components, makes for some serious upgrades from the interior’s previous condition. The old farm truck vibe has been transformed into something that is more commonly seen in the street rod scene, which blends so well with what has been done to the truck’s outer landscape.
The rebuild phase lasted just about 2-1/2 years- not too terribly long, but long enough to test Josh’s patience to jump back in the truck for a drive. While the cost to get everything done did cost quite a bit more than the original price of the truck itself, it was money well spent for the Gonzales family. “Simply just cruising in it is a dream come true”, Josh admits. “It rides so smooth, the engine sounds so tough, and the sound system is so clear and crisp. For some reason, it gives me an emotional connection to my Bampo (grandpa) who also loved classic cars and trucks, when the boys and I take a ride in it.”