Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Even though John McNarry always has an automotive project on the go, his restoration of a 1953 Chevrolet 1500 still took a little longer than anticipated.
The Alexander resident first acquired this vehicle in approximately 1992 after a friend rescued it from wasting away at the side of Highway 10.
McNarry thought the truck was the perfect candidate for a rebuild, especially since it formerly served as a McCreary Fire Department vehicle.
"All the fire truck apparatus had been stripped off of it from the cab back to as far as the B pillars," said McNarry, recalling the first time this vehicle came into his possession. "But being an old fire truck it had very low miles on it, and so the chassis and the undercarriage was in really good condition."
However, throughout the years, McNarry had to constantly put the project on the back burner, with his responsibilities at Brandon’s Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum growing to the point where he eventually became its president.
But since the COVID-19 pandemic has brought large swaths of society to a standstill, McNarry finally squared away enough time this summer to put the finishing touches on the 1953 Chevy and showcase it to the public in August.
Ongoing Westman car events gave the museum president ample opportunity to highlight the Chevy’s bold aesthetic design, including a black and red colour scheme that is meant to mimic old Chicago fire engines from the 1940s and ‘50s.
McNarry also went out of his way to install more functional attributes to make sure that the truck is more than just a pretty face.
"It has a hydraulic hoist and an 8,000-pound hydraulic winch just ahead of the rear bumper," he said. "And the reasoning for that is I wanted to be able to pull things onto a trailer."
Additionally, McNarry installed a custom six-cylinder Detroit Diesel engine under the hood to guarantee that the 67-year-old vehicle can keep up during lengthy highway drives.
"Detroit didn’t sell those engines in Canada, but I found out about them when I was visiting one of my friends down in the states," he said. "So I brought two of them home, took them apart and made one out of the two and grafted it into the truck."
Overall, McNarry’s major goal with this project was to model the new and improved 1953 Chevy truck off of one underlying idea: what would a two-ton, step-side, dually pickup truck look like if it was designed by General Motors?
"And I wanted this truck to look like that, where all the sheet metal parts are GM and … it matches," he said. "It’s not just thrown together all helter-skelter."
But ironically, after all this time, McNarry is ready to give this truck away to a new owner in the not-too-distant future.
While finally getting the Chevy on the road this summer was a big accomplishment, the museum president said there are several other automotive projects that he is itching to tackle in the fall and he needs all the shop space he can get.
"I’m kind of hoping that somebody else will fall in love with it and take care of it and I’ll go on to something else," he said.
McNarry’s upcoming restorations include a 1939 Plymouth two-door, a 1953 GMC panel truck and two 1928 Ford Model A’s.
The 69-year-old gear head sincerely hopes that these individual projects don’t take three decades to complete.
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson
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