“When I got this truck, it was a rust bucket,” Vince Skidmore said about his 1960 Chevy Apache pickup. “I drove it into my garage, and seven years later I finished the restoration.”
The restoration started with completely tearing the truck down – and finished with Vince’s stunning and unique hot rod pickup.
Vince and his grandson Michael had the Apache at the Pistons for Paws Car Show in Madison, Georgia. Michael’s dad helped find the truck, which Vince purchased in 2000 for $600. And Michael has been helping his granddad with the build from the very beginning, when he was about 5 years old.
Vince had a specific goal in mind for the build: “I knew I was going to make it my old man truck,” he said, “as easy to work on as possible.”
But he also wanted something different. Not your standard muscle car. So Vince built what he calls his “muscle truck”.
That’s a great goal, but it has another side to it as well. The more unique a vehicle is, the harder it is to find parts for it. A 1960 Apache is very unique. And finding parts for it is very, very hard. Well, according to Vince it can be “very, very, very, very” (that’s 4 verys) hard. No one makes reproduction parts for a 1960 Apache.
Let’s start with the hood. It’s not the standard flat hood that were on most every 1960s and 70s pickup truck. Chevrolet only made this particular hood for the 1960 and ‘61 models. And Vince’s was pretty rusted out. Finding a complete hood wasn’t likely, so Vince went hunting for good hood sections. “It took forever to find the pieces,” he said. And then he had to cut out the good sections he’d find and weld them together to essentially create his hood. It was a lot of work and took a lot of time, but now he’s got a solid, all steel, rust-free hood.
That emblem on the front? An emblem with just the Chevy bow tie isn’t too difficult to find, but Vince wanted the correct emblem for his truck – one with the V under the bow tie to indicate a V8 engine. After extensive searching, he hunted one down on eBay. It wasn’t cheap. And it had to be rechromed. But he’s got the correct V8 emblem he wanted.
The grill came from Arizona. The eye-brows on top of the headlights came from the Midwest. They both had to be rechromed. Fortunately, it’s an aspect of hot rodding Vince enjoys. “That’s the fun part,” he said. “The hunt.”
And there was a lot of good fortune as well. “I’m a Christian,” Vince told me, “And as the truck was being built I was watching how God was blessing me.”
He got the front bumper from a guy who had it still in the OEM box. Vince’s brother is a pastor and a mechanic and would also come across parts for Vince’s build. The 327 small block, the 700R4 transmission, the rear end, the front clip, even the paint, came to Vince either free or inexpensively, and he’s grateful for them all.
Maybe the clearest sign of divine intervention came one afternoon when Vince was working on the truck at his home. A man drove up in a 1955 Buick and called out to Vince, “Hey! Come here! I see you’ve got an old truck there. I’ve got one of those in my barn. Are you interested in any parts?” Of course Vince said yes, and soon walked away with front fenders, doors, and a windshield for a grand total of $500.
With the truck completely disassembled in his garage – down to “every last bolt” Vince said – the work of building his old man muscle truck began.
Fortunately the frame only had minor surface rust and was easily cleaned up. The original front torsion bar suspension was replaced with an entire front clip from a 1972 Chevy pickup. This allowed Vince to have front disk brakes and a more standard coil spring suspension. The rear end came from a ‘98 Chevy Tahoe, also providing disk brakes.
The truck, which was originally built in GM’s Doraville, Georgia assembly plant, came with a straight 6 engine. When Vince purchased it, it had a V8, but not the one he wanted so he installed the current 327 small block and 700R4 overdrive automatic transmission . The SBC is from a 1998 Chevy 1500 truck. It features Vortec heads with a 650 carb, a mid-rise intake manifold, and shorty headers.
In 1960, Chevrolet installed the gas tank immediately behind the rear seats, which provided an endless source of gasoline odor to the passenger compartment, and let’s face it, is not the safest place to locate a fuel tank. Vince took care of both of those problems by locating the gas tank underneath the cargo bed.
He figured out that a 1965 Mustang gas tank would do the trick if he added a cross rail to the Apache’s frame. (“I hate to say this,” Vince told me. “I’m a diehard Chevy man.”) He drilled holes in the frame to match the tank’s mounting flange and says it “bolted right in like it was factory.”
The filler cap in the pick up bed is from a 1965 Corvette, and the bezel around the cap used to be the lid to one of Vince’s wife’s frying pans. A friend of Vince’s modified the lid to fit. And Vince replaced the pan for his wife.
Vince got the help of another friend for the gorgeous wood bed in the Apache. The two of them planed all the planks from an oak tree. “We filled two 55-gallon drums with the shavings,” Vince recalled.
And the bed was one of the first projects Michael got involved in. He was very young at the time and Vince sat him in the bed to drop bolts down the holes so Vince could secure the planks and stainless steel strips underneath.
Michael also contributed in a large way to meeting Vince’s “old man truck” goal of being easy to work on. You’re probably aware that modern vehicles that store a spare tire under the car have an easy way to lower the spare when it’s needed. On a 1960 Apache pickup, you had to crawl underneath and unbolt the spare. That just wouldn’t do for an old man truck.
Vince found a cranking system at a junkyard that was designed to lower a spare tire. And then he saw Michael driving around on his toy four-wheeler. “That’s a 12 volt system,” Vince thought. “And that’s a gear box.” So Michael’s four-wheeler donated the electrics Vince needed to install a simple switch activated spare tire system (shown below).
It’s hard to believe the Apache was a rust bucket when Vince got it. The body is in outstanding condition now, between the parts he was able to find, and the extensive repair work he did. The rear lights came from 1959 and 1960 Chevys. The rear bumper is a ‘68 Camaro bumper that Vince shortened and rechromed.
The tailgate is mounted on late model hinges and secured with aircraft seat belt buckles. And the smooth surface of the tailgate is the result of a skin of sheet metal that a friend of Vince’s welded on. “He’s fantastic,” Vince told me. “He can weld a gum wrapper.”
The Apache Blue paint matches the truck’s original color. Vince got the paint at no cost from an airline he used to work for – the paint had expired and the airline was getting rid of it. It was applied by yet another friend of Vince’s who is a painter. Vince did some mechanic work for him and he applied the new paint to the truck.
The interior has been completely redone. The dashboard was the most challenging part. It was held in place by about 100 spot welds. Vince had to drill out all those welds to remove the dash, which he then sent out to be powder coated. Vince fabricated the aluminum insert that holds the gauges and built brackets that allowed him to bolt the dash back in the truck.
Look, building any hot rod can be challenging, never mind a 60 year old rust bucket of a pickup that no one makes parts for. Fortunately Vince was well qualified for the task. He’s a retired Air Force mechanic – formerly a crew chief for F-15 fighters and B-1 bombers. I wasn’t trying to diminish the effort he’s put into his Apache when I asked him if working on it was easier than working on F-15s. “It was easier,” he said with a smile. “And more fun.”
Vince’s Apache is very impressive. But how he went about building it is even more impressive. With the help and involvement of his family and many friends, and with Vince’s awareness of and gratitude for the blessings he received along the way, it’s not surprising that his “old man truck” turned out as well as it did.
Photos by GHR
Click here to see photos of Vince’s Apache.