Originally from Long Island, New York, Jim Schwenk used to be an active automotive enthusiast in his younger days. Winning the NHRA East Coast Championship back in 1967 with his homebuilt nitro-powered dragster is just one example of how deep his feet were in the scene. But, marriage, career, military service, and raising a family had a way of changing priorities. Although, Jim never stopped dreaming about the time he could return to his hobby. Now retired and living in Palm Coast, Florida, Jim realized this was the perfect time to begin working on his dream.
Jim was looking for a '40 Ford pickup truck like the one he had back in the Fifties. It was a special truck, painted a beautiful shade of gold that was used on the Studebaker Golden Hawk. After an exhausting search, he actually found his original truck, but it had been hit and was beyond repair. Since he couldn't rebuild his original, he set out to recreate it. Jim and his wife Gerry spent a year tracking down a series of leads, most of which turned out to be disappointing. Finally, in Atlanta, Georgia, he found the perfect truck. It was one of those fairytale discoveries, an amazingly complete truck that languished in a barn for 26 years.
Just as the master welder and fabricator he has been all his life, Jim began the rejuvenation process by stripping the truck down to its chassis. Lo-Beck rails were installed, and he made his own crossmembers, adding a Heidt's air-ride front end, a narrowed 9-inch Ford rear with 31-spline Moser axles, and disc brakes all around. Meanwhile, American Racing 16- and 17-inch Hopster wheels, wrapped in a Goodyear Eagle rubber, got it rolling. Not one to be satisfied with an underpowered vehicle, Jim chose a brand-new, a fuel-injected, 350 Ram Jet V-8 crate motor and installed it himself. A bitchen firewall plus chrome and billet accessories dressed up the engine room quite well.
Upgrades to the body included replacing the original pickup bed with a Mack Hils reproduction version. Jim bent the custom stainless steel himself, with each piece fitted with lathe-turned, chromed carriage bolts. The taillights are from a '39 Ford, using modern LED lenses and were frenched into a custom-made steel roll pan from 20-gauge steel that Jim shaped in his shop. The one-piece windshield is from Vintage Glass surrounded by a one-piece gasket from Steel Rubber. The front end sports a '35 Ford bumper with custom Bob Drake Tri-bar headlights, accented with tiny turn signals on top that Jim fabricated. Also, the door handles, mirrors, and grille are from Bob Drake. Jim went so far as to create his own door latches out of stainless steel, cutting them on a lathe and shaping them to fit. All the internal window mechanisms were also machined by hand.
Once all the hard work was done, it was time to complete the project with a show-winning finish. That's when Doug Corl of Auto Restoration in Bunnell, Florida, sprayed the House of Kolor Zenith Gold paint on the bottom, and Black with micro-flake paint on top. It was the closest they could get to the original Studebaker Golden Hawk Gold, and it seemed to work really well for the project.
Jim worked on the truck every day for almost four years, but it was worth it. Plus, it proved that, after 40 years, he still has what it takes to create a show-winning vehicle. Now that it's complete, he and Gerry attend shows throughout Florida and have already accumulated more than two dozen trophies.