Gene also swapped the disc-type wheels for wires. "I think they were Thunderbird ..." he ponders, adding, "... or Mopar that I bored out so a Thunderbird cap would fit. I did that on several cars; I'd use Mopar wires and put Ford centers in or use Ford wires and put Mopar centers in there. That was in 1963 when I redid it," he continues. "I put the Chevy in there and then I repainted it blue. I wanted to change it around a little bit," he says, recalling the color as blue dye and transparent toner over a pearl white base. It was in this configuration that Gene sold the truck.
The truck's details get a little fuzzy from then until Don Epling bought it in 1965. "Well, a fella by the name of Buddy-and I can't remember his last name, in fact none of us can-was in a tavern on 182nd in Portland," he began. "It was on a trailer and a brand-new Cadillac was pulling it. Anyhow I think he was off the Klamath Falls reservation and he said he picked it up in California. He was pretty under the weather. We negotiated a price because he said he didn't even have money to get back [home]."
Russ Meeks, one of Gene's longtime friends, shed a bit more light on Buddy: "Buddy's last name was Perazu," he notes, admitting he was at a loss as to its exact spelling. "He had a number of cars," Meeks adds, among them, the "Victorian", the '55 Ford that the Alexander Brothers built for Sy Gregorich. "We didn't really show it but I did take it to a few of the shows that they had here in Forest Grove," Epling continues. "In fact, there in Forest Grove a fella came up to me and said, 'That's a good-looking truck; I think I rebuilt that once.' His name was Dee Wescott. He said that Buddy hit a tree and had him fix the truck," which would explain why Buddy was in Portland (Wescott's shop was in the area). Despite his brush with the truck's past, Epling says he never knew the connection between it and Gene.
The truck's four decades in Epling's ownership were both good in the sense that he used the truck and bad that it sustained some significant damage later in life-albeit not by Epling's hand. "It went through the '96 flood-we got almost 3 feet in the barn it was stored in," Epling says. He said he aired the truck out and even drove it a few times before selling the engine to a friend. Though reports called the '96 flood a 500-year event, another one followed in 2007. Once again Epling wheeled the truck out of the barn to dry out, only this time it sat out long enough for its curious Candy Blue paint to catch the eye of an equally curious passerby. "My general manager, Dale Barnes, his brother, David, lives in Bend, Oregon," Gary Hatfield says. As it happens, Dale manages Hatfield's shop, Hatfield Restorations in Canton, Texas. By way of 15 employees, Hatfield's shop restores everything from muscle cars to Pebble Beach contenders to hot rods and custom cars just like this. According to Hatfield, Dave called Dale with the report: "I sure found a neat-lookin' little old Ford truck-I think the top's been chopped on it."
Pictures followed, and after a three-month negotiation, Hatfield bought the truck. David loaded the truck on his trailer and Hatfield flew Dale out to schlep it back-by way of Gene's Mojave shop. "At first I was unhappy that they found it because I'd been looking for it for 25 years," Gene lamented. "I knew it was in Oregon. Meeks saw it and stopped by there a couple times and tried to buy it but the guy wouldn't sell."
Hatfield said the truck was incredibly preserved, especially in light of the two floods that could've very easily destroyed it. "We replaced only the rockers and the front bed panel," Hatfield says. "Other than that every panel on it is original." After some contemplation, Hatfield says the decision to take the truck back to the way it was when Gene first built it came easy.