Van Williams is the first to admit that he was never much of a “car guy” growing up.
“My stepbrother John (Bush) has always loved cars. I was always a sports junkie,” he explains. “Give me a basketball or a baseball and a court or a field, and I was there.”
But during his undergraduate days at Wichita State University, he spotted something that caught his eye.
“I saw a classic old truck and I told John, `If you find one, let me know.’ ”
As so often happens, life got in the way: finishing college, getting a job, raising a family, going back to school for graduate degrees with his wife, Kristi. But, aided and abetted by cousin David Williams and a Tennessee cousin, Michael Logan, Bush continued the quest for an old pickup.
They thought they had found it in Manhattan about a year ago, a silver 1950’s Chevy pickup.
“It was a nice truck, but it needed some work. And it still had the old 6-cylinder stick shift in it,” Bush said.
Finally, the threesome plus one located what they were looking for on Craigslist.
“We found it near Olathe. It was deep out in the sticks,” Bush said.
“But that’s where you find them,” said David Williams.
The truck was in a barn, where the owner had been working on it for several years. An impending move to Texas meant the bright yellow 1950 Chevrolet 3100 pickup was for sale.
“The day we pulled up was a little nerve-racking,” said Van Williams. “But he was a nice dude and we talked for a while and made the deal.”
Many people would probably be put off by a screaming yellow truck, but Williams found the connection with Shocker colors a plus. And the truck already had a 350 cubic inch Chevy V-8 installed under the hood, complete with tubular headers and Cherry Bomb glass pack mufflers. The crate motor was mated to a TH350 automatic transmission shifted by a tall Lokar shifter in the cab, which had been upgraded with new seat upholstery and door panels, as well as custom gauges and an aftermarket radio.
The original straight axle had been replaced with a Mustang II lowered front suspension, complete with disc brakes.
The truck was brought to Wichita, where it got a new fuel pump, fuel line and gas tank.
It came outfitted with oversized 15-inch General tires mounted on steel wheels with Chevrolet-logo button hubcaps and trim rings. Williams thought he could heighten the Shocker image by installing a set of black spoke wheels. But a mix-up at the tire shop resulted in a set of silver spoke American Racing Limited Edition 18-inch wheels being ordered in.
When he saw the wheels, after consulting with the car guys in the family, he was sold on them.
“The cool thing is, the truck has allowed us to slow down and catch up in our adult years … instead of just seeing each other a couple or three times a year. I really could not have done this without them,” Williams said.
He added a vanity plate, “WU U,” to the rear of the truck (”Shock U” was already taken) and he and his wife had their graduation pictures taken with their new truck.
There’s some fresh new carpeting and possibly some paint work in the future of the truck.
But what about those take-off wheels and tires? Williams says he probably should sell them, but he’s tempted to hang them on the wall of his garage, where the truck has now displaced his daily driver.
A car guy is born.
Mike Berry: firstname.lastname@example.org