Ron Palermo liked this 1965 Chevy when he first saw it. A local auto body man had originally built it as a personal project over a five-year period. Ron says the truck hung around town for the next decade, only coming out of hiding occasionally as the guy built two other cars.
Once Ron was over the “marriage-kid-mortgage” hump in life he found himself wanting a truck, and inquired about it. The transaction was made, and at last the resto-modded beauty he’d long admired was his. Though it was finished, and very well done, he wished it sat a little lower and wanted to upgrade the wheels and brakes.
Over the years Ron had been cultivating a family-owned body shop supply company, Autobody Products, Inc., that his dad and uncle had started, and today they have 23 stores and more than 150 employees. He began looking for a suitable shop to help him modify his truck, one that wouldn’t be stepping on anyone’s toes in terms of business. His search ended with 23-year-old Travis Zeigler of Zeigler Fab.
Travis had worked at a hot rod shop while in high school and was starting out on his own with the help of his dad by using a couple bays of their home garage. More importantly, he and Ron were on the same page about the truck’s style. Travis agreed to do “a few things” on the truck and, as usual, those few things got way out of hand once they tried to get it low enough for Ron.
The solution was a Spec chassis from the Roadster Shop with a Ford 9-inch rearend on a four-link and Wilwood brakes. The frame features a deep C-notch and air suspension. Ron selected a clean, classic-influence set of 22-inch Billet Specialties wheels with Pirelli tires. The wheels are part of Ron’s strategy of keeping vintage influences and original styling at the forefront of the truck’s appearance, while getting it low and tidied up a bit. All the original chrome and stainless trim on the exterior is in place and accounted for, and the body, except for filled stake pockets, remains as it left the factory.
Since Ron owns the body shop supply company, (and since they never planned on repainting the entire truck) he took panels home and prepped them himself in the evenings. Instead of showing favoritism among his clients, he had five different shops spray the prepped panels as they had time in their schedules. Thus, no one person gets full credit as the painter. It was made official on the tailgate with the inclusion of “Paint by: Pete the Painter,” a reference to an iconic character that used to appear on all of PPG’s old marketing material.
Though Travis was pulling for an LS swap, Ron wanted a traditional engine and carburetor to pay homage to the truck’s roots. A 430hp Blueprint 383 was added after being dressed in a custom air cleaner and valve covers. It was paired with a 700R4 transmission and set into the engine bay. Take a minute and really soak in the one-off inner fenders Travis made. They are works of art.
The interior on these trucks came in a factory brown or bronze hue. It was left intact, and Scott Zielinski of Sew It Seams in Erie, Pennsylvania, was tapped to trim the factory seat frame in newly sculpted cushions and tan leather. Leather also found its way around the factory steering wheel and on a custom dash pad for a bit of refinement. The original gauges were detailed and reinstalled, and down below there’s a Lokar shifter, an A/C vent panel, and a subtle console with cup holders for those morning deliveries.
Speaking of deliveries, Ron went a few rounds about how to add his business info to the door, wondering if an old-style logo would sit well on a nicely painted truck. Though often applied as faded on patina’d trucks, we are reminded that those were once new trucks with fresh lettering. Local pinstriper Jeremy Seaner of Lucky Strike Designs whipped out the vintage-style insignias without a template and nailed it.
In the end, Ron’s idea of a timeless, stock-and-dropped truck that can be reliably driven was realized, albeit painted one part at a time. The results were impressive enough to earn a PPG Dream Car pick at the 2017 Goodguys Southeastern Nationals in Charlotte, North Carolina. With a few shakedown miles on the odometer, the truck is slated to go back to Travis for a few minor tweaks and the tucking of the bumpers, though in keeping with the build theme, the mounting bolts will remain in place. It’s those little touches that will keep Ron’s truck forever young. We dig it.