How an Idaho ranch hand found a second life as a beach bum
The 1934 Chevy pickup in which Steve Henderson can be seen tooling around Galveston has a story and pedigree befitting a classic American hot rod.
The truck, the story goes, began its career working on a ranch in the mountains of Idaho. One day in the 1980s, the old truck just quit and the ranch hands just left it where it lay.
That might have been the end of the ’34, except that Idaho hot-rodder Jeff Devey, who’s somewhat famous for his fine paint work, pinstripe and script in particular, heard in about 1987 that somewhere out in the badlands the corpse of a classic Chevy had been left to rust away.
Devey and his father, Bill, went up the mountain and dragged the truck back to their shop in Twin Falls, Henderson said.
“This was a father-and-son project,” he said. “They finished in 1989.”
The transformation not only gave the ’34 a new life, but landed it a new career, for awhile at least, as a push-and-chase car on the Bonneville Salt Flats, where it ran free with the rocket cars and other exotics in pursuit of land speed records, Henderson said.
At some point, the car changed hands and came into the possession of California hot-rodder Ron Mangus, who’s famous for custom interiors. The Ron Mangus Hot Rod Interiors logo adorns the ’34’s doors still today.
In 2013, Henderson heard through a broker that the truck was for sale in Yucca Valley, Calif., and made an offer.
“A week later, I had it on a trailer on the way back to Galveston,” Henderson, who is retired, said.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the ’34 is the fabrication work the Deveys put into it. They built the motor mounts and most of the suspension parts — including the front-end torsion bars and friction shocks, which were modeled after those on a Model-A Ford, Henderson said. The rear axle rides on air bags.
They also built a four-pipe exhaust system that gives the ’34 an impressive voice.
The Deveys chopped the top 6 inches and channeled the lower body about the same amount, giving the truck a low, fast and aggressive silhouette.
The ’34 was powered by a 327-cubic-inch V8 from a 1967 Chevy C10 pickup, which also donated the four-speed manual transmission and Positraction rear end. The 327 developed an ominous knock, however, and Henderson replaced it with a 350-cubic-inch Chevy V8, fed by the same trio of two-barrel Holley 94s.
The truck also came with wide slicks on the back, which Henderson has replaced with narrow tires mounted on the ‘34’s original steel spoke wheels.
Other than that, the truck is what Henderson got when he bought it, and he plans to leave it that way, he said.
“I’m not even repairing that,” he said, pointing to some rust bubbles along the driver’s side rocker panel. “That’s from the Bonneville salt and it’s part of the truck’s history and character.”
And the truck has always worked for a living.
“It’s not a trailer queen,” Henderson said. “I keep it in a garage, but I drive it every day.”