The restoration, however, was anything but easy. The early wheels and their unique hand-spun caps went who knows where. Naturally, the Flathead was gone. The front nerf bars didn't survive the collision either. Though there, the paint sloughed off by the day. "You can still find little pieces of blue lyin' around my shop where it popped off," Hatfield says, chuckling.
Upon having the truck stripped, Hatfield, Dale, and a network of panel beaters, including Michael Stovall and Glenn Seeders, repeatedly mocked the pickup, each time making the panels fit better than the last. "The cab and the bed had never been off this frame 'til we pulled them off," Hatfield reveals. Working only from pictures they reproduced Bartoni and Lehfeldt's front nerfs.
From there Michael Stovall, Glenn Seeders, Mark Dunbar, Tanner Booth, and Zac Rabe finished the individual panels. Pete Rose, Stephen Tompkins, and Eugene Booth tended to the chassis, rebuilding it with a variety of Ford restoration parts and Pete & Jakes bushings and hardware. H&H Flatheads built the engine, which mates to the same '40 transmission the truck had since at least the late '50s. Hatfield did take liberties with the chassis by installing a set of Lincoln self-energizing backing plates from Wilson Welding.
Hatfield says without Dena Peel's research and Merrilee McLemore's parts cataloging, the project would've stalled. Part of that work included working with Mooneyes' Chico Kodama, who reproduced the spun-aluminum wheel rings and Advance Custom Chrome's Chris Waldemarson, who programmed his CNC to reproduce the long-lost bullets that fasten those caps. As for the center caps, "I happened to have a set of those," Gene says. "They put them back on so it's back exactly the way that it was when it was first done."
Naturally color sprayed by a pioneer painter presents problems. "We have our own mixing bank, and my painter's been with me 18 years," Hatfield says. "Michael's been able to match virtually everything we come across, but we worked for like three months and couldn't get that color to look right." The solution: Hatfield ultimately surrendered and sent a shock absorber coated with preserved overspray to PPG's Ohio labs. "It took them a little while to match it but when they were done it was a dead-on match for the rest of the paint that we found. You couldn't tell any difference at any line at all." Michael Stovall did the honors by spraying everything.
A team including Stephen Tompkins and Eugene Booth reassembled the pickup. Paul Shelton roped the pickup with a Painless Performance kit and Tony Chamberlain trimmed the cab with vinyl that Sunbelt Fabrics' Dean Boyd found to be from a '57 Olds. Chances are Jackie Peebles didn't get rich, but by the checks written to his North Texas Quality Chrome to apply the acres of plating might make some people wonder how he couldn't. Independent Glass replaced the delaminated panes. As it turned out, Gene still had the original plaques that bolted to the bed rails, which Tyler Tool re-skinned. Daniel Gay replicated the logo and stripes that The Greek applied decades earlier. "I have to tell you, the crew here stepped up," Hatfield effuses. "We keep 25 to 28 projects going at the shop at any given time here. They came in at 5 a.m., they stayed at night, they worked weekends. I have 15 employees and every one of 'em did their part."
It's for that reason that they restored the truck in eight months-or half the time most cars sit in paint jail. And within hours of turning the last wrench and burnishing the last piece of chrome, the truck rolled onto the show floor at the 61st Grand National Roadster Show. Gene was there.