You might not guess that Chris and Anthony Middendorf are brothers. They were born seven years apart and Chris is the older, thinner brother, clean-shaven and talkative. Anthony is a big Grizzly Adams-looking guy, with long hair and a bushy beard, but very soft-spoken.
Both harbor a passion for custom Chevy pickups that confirms their kinship, though.
Chris is more old-school, driving a Kandy Apple Red '67 Chevy half-ton that sports vintage crushed red velvet interior appointments and a no-holds-barred entertainment area in the wood-trimmed, upholstered cargo area.
Anthony opts for the pro-street look with his wildly flamed '89 pickup that boasts a 4-link, tubbed rear suspension and a nitrous-boosted V-8.
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For simplicity's sake, we'll take their stories one after the other, giving big brother his say first.
"This was my very first vehicle. My dad bought it for me from McConnell in 1977. It was an Air Force truck... with about 30,000 miles on it," Chris said. The truck was a little rough in its military blue form, with a few rust spots and dings, but the first thing Chris did was install a new wooden floor in the bed.
"I drove it like it was from 1977-1980 and then decided to fix it up," he said. That was the era of conversion vans and custom trucks with plush furniture-like upholstery and that was the route Chris Middendorf chose.
He had a set of Ford van seats reupholstered by Delmar Campbell in crushed red velvet, with the same treatment lavished upon the door panels and headliner. "You don't see much of that anymore," Chris said, grinning. A center console was crafted out of wood, and oak veneer was applied to the dash.
The behind-the-seat gas tank was removed and a Pinto (yes, Pinto) gas tank installed between the frame rails. The fuel filler on the rear of the cab was transformed into a recessed home for the radio antenna. A set of Dodge Lil Red Express cab stacks purchased as a Christmas gift from the boys' parents, Burl and Beth Middendorf, replaced the stock exhaust system.
The pickup's original round headlights were replaced with a molded-in, stacked set of Monte Carlo headlights, contrasting neatly with the horizontal grille bars. For taillights, Chris chose a set of Vega taillights, but again stacked them one on top of the other.
Walt Curry of Mulvane painted the truck in 1981, applying House of Kolor Kandy Apple Red over a bright silver base coat. Curry would also be tasked with replicating the interior's red crushed velvet theme for inner bed panels.
The old Chevy 6 expired in 1984 and was replaced with a 283 Chevy small block V-8, which blew up during a nostalgia drag racing session. It was replaced by the current 350 V-8.
"We used to hit two or three shows a weekend in it. But I don't drive it a lot anymore," Chris said. "The truck has about 100,000 miles on it. I brought it back out for the 50th anniversary Starbird show. It is really holding up pretty good," he said.
Younger brother Anthony's pickup project began when he bought his Chevy in 1997 or 1998 — he can't remember exactly when. The short-box truck was pretty much stock, aside from being lowered in the front.
Anthony chose a GMC grille for the front of his ride and added an all-steel cowl-induction hood to the setup before calling painter/pinstriper Ron Pinkston in to spray a fresh factory silver color over the truck.
"I just always wanted something with flames on it," he said. So Pinkston was turned loose to apply flames across the nose and down the side of the truck. The flames begin as a teal color, fading into dark blue and a purple that is nearly black, each flame lick outlined in alternating hues of green, blue, purple and orange.
Unfortunately, Anthony can't fully appreciate the finished product. "I'm color-blind," he says. But no matter, Pinkston finished the project off with smaller multi-colored flames running down the side. A Rat Fink cartoon figure is seen showering another shot of flames across the tailgate. The hard tonneau cover amplifies the Rat Fink theme, with the rodent at the wheel of a flamed-out replica of the truck itself.
In 2003, Anthony dispensed with the stock power plant, replacing it with a bored-out 355 cubic inch V-8 running a Holley throttle-body injection setup with a 100 horsepower boost of nitrous, aluminum heads and Edelbrock headers. "It's mainly for show, though," he said, admitting he's never yet flipped the dash-mounted nitrous toggle switch.
To achieve the full pro-street persona, the truck was taken to Holzman Race Cars in 2006, where it received a 4-link rear racing suspension, a 9-inch Ford rear end, a set of wheel tubs widened by 5 inches, and a pair of extra-wide 15-inch Center Line wheels carrying 31"x16.5" Mickey Thompson tires.
Skinny MT tires complete the look up front, with disc at all four corners.
Inside, aftermarket bucket seats, with another custom wooden console, set the theme. Embossed flames lick along the lower door panels and span the headliner above, again the work of Walt Curry. Even the steering wheel, a billet piece, is carved in flames and reflective see-through flames roll along the outside door glass.
"I've had it in two (Hot Rod Magazine) Power Tours," Anthony said. "I was real worried about fuel because it's got such a small fuel cell. But I got about 19 miles to the gallon with it."
Chris Middendorf's wife is named Sherrie, and Anthony Middendorf's wife is named Sherry. Both families get involved with the brothers' other passion, the Mulvane Old Settlers Rod Run, this time of year.
They helped found the show, now in its 29th year, and run it each year. Both trucks will be displayed on Mulvane's Main Street next Saturday, Aug. 21.