NORMAN — Keith Reames has a photo album illustrating the restoration process of his 1953 Chevrolet 3100 series pick-up from rust bucket to cool blue truck. The Norman investment counselor started his first-ever automotive rebuilding project eight years ago.
“I saw the truck parked with a for sale sign at 24th Street near Highway 9,” Reames said. “It had four flat tires and the engine was locked up.”
The Duncan native looked at the old farm truck that hadn’t been tagged for more than 25 years and it appealed to the country boy in him.
As a 13-year-old kid, his grandparents and uncles had taught him to drive by motoring around ranch pastures in similar vehicles.
“I’ve always liked the 1950s look with nice clean lines and I just thought it would be fun to get one someday,” he said. “But I also like things like automatic transmission and air conditioning.”
His 1953 truck didn’t have those when it was new, they couldn’t be ordered from the assembly plant with those features at any price. Known as “Advanced Design” the trucks were no-nonsense load haulers intended for farmers and construction workers. The payload bed supports were wooden blocks. A Hydramatic automatic transmission became available for the first time in this series of trucks as an option in 1954.
“When I began restoring it, I had the choice of going back original but decided to soup it up a bit,” Reames said. “But even my ‘modern’ 350 engine is from a 1977 Chevrolet van that was going to be crushed for salvage.”
He had the motor rebuilt at a machine shop in Lexington. All rolling chassis components are from different, relatively modern vehicles. Now it has disc brakes, power steering and fuel injection. Reames married the refurbished power plant to a 1994 automatic transmission from a camaro. He did it himself in the two car garage of his NW Norman home. A picture in his photo album shows a posse of enthusiastic neighborhood men and boys on hand to help out and observe the operation. One red headed kid has the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. It was like a community project.