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March 2, 2013

A one-of-a-kind ‘abomination’

NORMAN — The first motor vehicle that Greg Burnett got his hands on to drive with no adult supervision was at his relatives’ farm in western Kansas. His mom’s side of the family were hardy French-speaking Canadians who had immigrated to the Sunflower State to raise wheat and children.

“My cousins were accustomed to driving long before they were 13 or 14 years old,” he said. “They’d drive trucks and other farm equipment across the pasture.”

When Burnett was a kid he’d visit and get to crunch gears on the 1940s era International Harvester trucks around the place. Decades later in a new century those fond memories made him want to find and own one of those trucks from the mid-1900s.

Burnett knows his way around vintage automobiles, trucks and motorcycles. He’s the owner/operator of Riverside Speed Shop, 2219 S. Robinson in Capitol Hill. Burnett rebuilds and restores vehicles made before 1964 for private clients.

He’s also a rockabilly musician and is well known in metro artistic circles for his singular style and retro panache.

“A few years ago I told my wife Traci that I needed another truck for the shop,” Burnett said. “The van I was using had seen its day and didn’t really have a lot of cool factor.” One Monday morning after a trip to visit friends in Austin he was looking through Sunday’s newspaper classified ads.

“I found a 1941 International Harvester pick-up for sale in the antiques and classics section,” he said. “It had no engine or transmission but I didn’t want that anyway.”

His new acquisition was pretty much just dented sheet metal that had been sitting in a pasture.

“There was no glass in it but that was easy to replace because it was all flat,” Burnett said. “The window regulators were still operative and I kept the 1941 air conditioning which consists of a crank-out windshield.” He found no official source for International Harvester parts. The company was broken up and sold off 25 years ago. Replacement parts for the truck that he christened “Abominational” were painstakingly collected on E-Bay and other on-line resources.

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