Baffling, that's what it is. We're blown away every time we hear about a truck owner who puts blood, sweat, tears, cash, time, and emotion into a truck and then hangs a For Sale sign in the window as soon as the last bolt is turned and the final spritz of paint has dried. Just the same, that's exactly the way this spic-'n'-span '71s life has been lately.
"I purchased this truck in 1991 from Chad Gorman when I was attending college in Flagstaff, Arizona," revealed Dan Hopper. "His uncle had originally begun the pre-build process, including the six-point rollcage, fuel cell, Dana 60 rearend, and bumpers. This process started in Southern California, and I located the truck in Flagstaff, Arizona. At that time, his goal became mine. The truck was in decent shape when I bought it, but all I could picture was the potential. The rebuild had a strong beginning, but there was still a lot of work to be done."
Dan's rebuild of the vintage American iron fits the term restification to a T. Rather than duplicate the truck's mechanical aspects as if the truck had just left the assembly line, Dan integrated key modifications as he took the truck down to its skeleton and built it back up again. The mods morph the truck from a clean-enough-to-eat-from stocker to a lightly modified truck that's capable of backcountry exploring, hauling dirt bikes and camping gear, and navigating rush-hour commuter traffic. The '71 has been restored and modified. It's a versatile machine.
After his name was safely affixed to the pink slip, Dan moved the project along by having the engine rebuilt by DJ's Motors of Bend, Oregon. DJ's fitted the 350 small-block with a mild cam, polished heads, balanced pink rods, a Weiand Stealth intake topped by a Holley four-barrel, and a fuel-zapping HEI ignition. A couple of years after the motor rebuild, Dan's next move replaced the weather stripping. Soon after, tight finances put the project on hold for several years. At least the truck was driveable.
Last year was the end of the tight finance tunnel, and Dan plunged back into the restification. Years of grease and grit were stripped away from the frame and running gear. To ensure decades of corrosion-free life, the truck's underside was sand-blasted and coated with Chassis Black paint. The sheetmetal received a new hue, and the protective and sound-deadening properties of Line-X were called on to coat the fenderwells and three fuel tanks. A fresh set of oak bed slats came courtesy of Oklahoma's Mar-K Quality Parts.
The project wasn't limited to engine mods and protective coatings. A Ford Dana 60 rearend now takes the place of the factory GM 12-bolt. The bolt pattern was changed to fit the Chevy 1/2-ton 6 on 5-1/2 standard. Rough Country 2-1/2-inch leaf packs re-arched by Flagstaff's American Spring Co. give the truck a bit of extra height. Since the '69-'72 Chevy pickups have generous wheel openings, no further lift was needed to clear a set of 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/As. To fend off unfriendly underbelly assaults, a substantial skidplate spans the distance between the engine and transfer case crossmembers.
Clean slate? We think so. Dan's attention to detail has created a truck that's several steps ahead of the '71 Detroit assembly line. The mild mods mean that this truck could be built into a hard-core link-and-coilover fully 'caged prerunner, or fitted with some bigger meats and a 'crawler-style double transfer case fit to conquer the Rubicon. Then again, the truck could be left in its very competent current state of build and simply be enjoyed. The possibilities are many and the options are open.
Why hang the For Sale sign? "I wanted to sell it in prime condition," Dan stated. "I suppose "American Chopper" has influenced me quite a bit lately, so I am considering selling my truck and building a custom chopper." Even though we'd hang onto such a rolling masterpiece, we'll congratulate Mr. Hopper on a job well done, and extend our congratulations to whoever pockets the keys to this vintage Bow Tie. Let us know what you do with it, Dan.