There are a few things in life you never forget, such as your first love, your first job, and your first truck; they all hold a spot in your memory bank. For custom upholsterer Gabriel Lopez of Bloomington, California, his first truck was a '68 Chevy pickup, which his Dad gave him when Gabriel was a teenager. It was the first truck Gabe raced in and the first truck he did a smoky burnout in, but when he finally sold it a few years later, he promised himself it wouldn't be his last classic.
Many years later, that promise popped back in his mind while he was driving through Winchester, California. Off in the distance, sitting in a field surrounded by nothing but weeds and dirt, was a beat-up '68. Every piece of metal on the truck was a different color, parts were piled up in the bed, and spots of cancer were visible, but Gabe saw through the dents, piles, and rust. He saw a treasure chest waiting to be claimed.
Once the gem was purchased from the farmer who owned it, the Chevy was taken back to Carlos Caudillo of Diamond Auto Body & Paint in El Monte, California. Carlos, with the help of Heriberto Guerra and the rest of the crew, completely dismantled the truck and assessed the project laying in front of him. It was going to be a difficult one, but Gabe and Carlos were confident that they could create Gabe's dream truck.
Carlos began by reshaping the metal into its original form all throughout the Chevy. A late-model Stepside bed was dropped on the rear framerails and bolted on, then the job of smoothing the body panels began. The door handles, the tailgate handle, and the gas filler door were all shaved clean, and a roll pan was added in place of the factory bumper.
The front frame horns were cut off, and a '79 Camaro front clip was grafted onto the existing metal, which not only gave the front disc brakes but lowered the truck as well. Gabe decided to keep the engine mild and reliable, so a small-block crate engine equipped with a set of Doug's headers and SRRC exhaust was dropped into the chassis. The powerplant was then backed by a TH350 transmission and a shift kit.
As soon as the ride height was determined in the front, the task of bringing the rear down was given to Richard Pineda. Richard installed a CPP C-notch kit for clearance and then flipped the rear axle using Belltech components. A set of helper 'bags was then bolted into place and fed via a Thomas compressor. Finally, a set of 20-inch Boyd Coddington Renegade wheels encased in Kumho rubber was locked into place at each corner.
With the truck nice and low, it was time to put some color down on the metal canvas. Carlos laid down Lamborghini Orange and Ivory and then had Phil Winstone pinstripe it using purple and lime.
After the truck had its new colors, it was taken to Barry White's Street Rod Repair in Placentia, California. The crew ran all new wires throughout the truck, chromed a slew of parts beneath the hood, and shaved the existing dash. With a twist of the wrist, Gabe fired up his newborn truck for the first time and could feel the excitement growing within him -- his dream truck was almost complete. The only thing left to do was to stitch up a smooth interior, which happens to be Gabe's specialty.
With more than 27 years of experience under his belt and wrapped into his shop, Gabe's Street Rod Custom Interiors in Bloomington, California, Gabe went to work molding and shaping the door panels. Covered completely in leather and incorporating style and design, the door panels flow into the Brothers dashpad, which was extended to the windshield. A VDO gauge cluster made by SRRC was set into the shaved dash and then surrounded by Phipps billet accessories.
A contoured center console was fabricated and then wrapped in the leather hides. The console houses various controls as well as a Pioneer head unit and a 10-inch MTX sub. On each side of the console are two-tone Suburban seats that use blind stitching and double-stitch seams to finish off the high-class look of the cab.
The waiting was over, the promise was fulfilled, and Gabe now had his truck completed. He had waited forever to drive his own '68 for a second time. It was something that could almost make you feel like a kid again.