71 GMC ¾-ton pickup
Owner: Matt and Fenton Nelson
Resides in: Iowa Falls, Iowa
The story: Matt Nelson says, “My son Fenton wanted an early ’70s GMC or Chevy pickup so bad he could not stand it. That is all he talked about, wanting to get a pickup. So I put a small ad in the local farm paper here in Iowa ‘looking for early ’70s GMC or Chevy pickup,’ and did we find one. A farmer from about one hour north of us called me and said he had a ’71 GMC ¾-ton pickup that was his fathers. His father had passed away some years ago and the truck had sat in the barn not used. The farmer could not take it to the junkyard due to the love his father had for the pickup as he had bought it new. It was his pride and joy.
“He was joyed to hear that it was for my 15-year-old boy to fix up and put it back into good use. After some discussion about what we were going to do with the truck he wanted to meet my son to make sure it would have a good home. The interview with my son went well and after a little motor work and a jump-start we were on our way home with it for $250.
“My son and I spent the whole fall and winter in the shop going through every piece, part, and instrument, getting it in good running shape. The four-barrel 350 motor was running weak so a lot of work and time went into upgrading the electrical system and carburetor until it ran like a top. The Turbo 350 tranny shifted like a dream from day one, so only a change of oil and the addition of a tranny cooler was all that was needed for that.
“New rocker panels, cab corners, quarter panels, floorboards, and the body was ready to go. I located a flatbed for it as my son is really into flatbeds. Some people do not like the looks of them, but he loves them so it got a flatbed we found in a tree grove, fixed it up, and put it back into use also.”
Nelson goes on to list all of the parts that were replaced or added including a fifth-wheel plate for a gooseneck trailer, rear suspension air bags, and a rear receiver hitch.
“The truck was done by his 16th birthday and made its debut at the ‘drive your tractor to school’ day for the local FFA chapter. It was a hit,” Nelson notes.
71 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser
Owner: Mike Bellomy
Resides in: Scottsboro, Alabama
The story: Bellomy rescued this ’71 FJ40 from “ruining in a field” near where he lives in Alabama. He says, “I recently had a friend help me paint a ’69 FJ40 Land Cruiser and he told me he knew where there was another one and if I might be interested he would take me and show me where it was. I went out and took a look and it took me approximately two years of haggling with the guy who owned it before being able to talk him into selling it to me. I’m in the process of restoring it right now and should have it in the paint shop in the next couple of months. I plan on painting it the mustard yellow color that was so popular and just screams Land Cruiser to me.”
Bellomy’s FJ40 only has 61,000 miles on it and he says it is as solid as a new one. He has already done a disc brake swap on the front and probably will do a power steering conversion as well. Bellomy has also rescued a ’69 FJ40 that was in worse shape and he restored it to like-new condition.
1951 Dodge/Gerstenslager Power Wagon ambulance
Owner: Dan Brown
Resides in: Lapeer, Michigan
The story: Brown says, “A while back a good friend of mine from Albuquerque, New Mexico, sent an email and attached some intriguing photos. As I recall, my friend Brian and his brother had stopped at a body shop in Albuquerque to see about having some work done on his brother’s old ’50s-vintage pickup truck. Behind the shop, functioning as an auxiliary storage shed and shelter for the guard dog, was a ’51Dodge/Gerstenslager U.S. Navy Power Wagon ambulance. He asked the shop owner if the truck might be for sale, as he knew a guy up in Michigan who might be foolish enough to want to buy it and fix the thing up! Brian put me in touch with Jeff, the shop owner. Negotiations took about five minutes and I became the proud (sight unseen) owner of a not-too-rusty 8,700 GVWR doorstop. Jeff said, ‘the guy I got it from said it was running, I’m sure’ and that it had ‘most of its parts in the back,’ somewhere.
“I contracted to have the Gerstie hauled up here to Michigan by a commercial hauler who didn’t care that the truck didn’t run, had fossilized tires (one of which was flat), no brakes of any kind, and no seats, but steered OK. It took us three hours to coax the thing off the car hauler with my John Deere loader.
“I confess, I had a tiny bit of buyer’s remorse as we examined the thing. (I never admitted this to my wife, Debi. The girl is a saint.) The transportation cost was almost four times what I paid for the truck.
“Caveat emptor? No way! My new best friend Jeff is 100 percent true and honest. Once I found all of the parts I needed and vacuumed half of the high desert out of the intake manifold, the engine fired right up and runs as smooth as some of that high-priced Mexican tequila!
“This particular Dodge Power Wagon ambulance was an interim vehicle purchased by the U.S. Navy as a cab/chassis for the Korean War. The Gerstenslager Company built the body in Ohio. (These guys also built the Bookmobiles, TV trucks, and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile that often appears in parades.) It has the same whiney, double-clutch-it transmission as the old WWII weapons carriers and the original flathead-six that powered Chrysler products for decades. I understand that only about 250 of these were built, which makes it interesting.
“My dad drove a tough, gritty WC-51 Dodge Power Wagon during WWII. He served with the 10th Mountain Division. His tales of driving through enemy territory at night with that ‘damned noisy transmission’ and a .45 Colt on the seat sparked my interest as a youngster. That interest has remained a part of my life to this day.”