Big Nose Kate to Diamond Dan, c’mon.
It doesn’t take very much for my eyes to light up when I get around my daddy’s truck, a 1978 F150 Custom. It holds all the fun memories of hauling down country roads, bass boat in tow, Dire Straits playing on the cassette radio, windows down in the hot humid air of North Carolina while my dad carried on over the CB. My dad, Dan Wingard, was a long-haul trucker for 40 years, freight and tanker, one of the last American cowboys as they say. His trucker handle was ‘Diamond Dan’ and he didn’t drive anywhere without his CB, a gun or two, and a few cigars. He loved vintage planes, respected his military veterans, and cheered on Nascar legends, and his ’78 truck was his steady 4x4-wheeler until the day he suddenly passed away. There’s not a bolt on this truck I don’t cherish, not a speckle of paint I admire more, or a smell from the glovebox I won’t ever forget. When I sit in this truck, as cliche as it sounds, I feel like a little kid again, riding alongside him with a big sense of pride and hearing his mischievous laughter cackling over the rumbling V-8 exhaust. This truck was his personality, of what I remember him most, of how everyone remembered ‘Diamond Dan’ from the line-up, in his husky, green, Ford pickup machine.
My dad was the 2nd owner of this truck, bought it in 1981, and after inheriting the truck, I shipped it out West to my home in Colorado to be an active part of the restoration process. Today, it has been fully restored for decades more driving and enjoyment on the road.
Having never been garaged, there was plenty of rust to tackle on the truck, from complete interior floorpans to replacing a crossbar that had rotten entirely & upwards into the back of the bed. I ran into a bunch of issues with the first garage I chose. (Plenty of bait & switch out there, so choose your garage carefully is my advice. Always check with the local BBB, and let’s just say if you’re ever near Greeley, Colorado looking for a restoration shop, keep on driving).
Once I got the truck back on track, I found an amazing soda-blast company, Western Soda Blasting, to strip off the original paint. More rust spots and small holes were uncovered for repair, but for it never been garaged or covered, the body was in great shape for its age. All the trim and parts were a polish away from original finish and were completely reusable. The soda blasting was genius, zero warps to the metal, and eco-friendly clean-up. Bob, owner and operator, clearly knew what he was doing; his handy work was super efficient. We were both excited to see the raw silver sheen of bare metal underneath, only took him 5 hours, top to bottom. Standing whistle ovation.
From there, Emmel’s Enamels of Denver, hands down the best auto restoration shop on the planet in my opinion, took the truck thru multiple stages to its final restoration in less than 3 months. The taillight panels were rusted and dented from a ‘tree incident’ my dad never had repaired, so Emmel’s rebuilt both sides of the taillight sections. They removed every dent, every inch of rust on the truck, blasted off any remaining original paint hidden from sight, blocked, prepped and primed it for the new paint, all hand-buffed down to the spec. Ryan Emmel, owner of the garage and ridiculously skilled master painter, finished the truck in its original Dark Jade Metallic. He also sprayed in a color matched bed liner to keep me on budget as well as keep the truck in real working condition. He refinished the entire gas tank, bed and body frame to protect and prevent further rust, as well as stripped and repainted the bumpers to their authentic color. There were so, so many details, and all expertly handled by this shop. I volunteered to be on parts duty, so whenever anything was missing or needed replacing, I ordered the parts and delivered them over to the garage, which became a great learning experience. Now I know pretty much every part, wire, and gasket on my dad’s truck.
As for the interiors, most everything was in good condition. The interior bench seat needed a bit of love and thru a friend, I found Auto Weave in Denver to do the reupholstery. I was able to keep much of the original fabric, luckily enough for both sentimental value and budget. The only section that needed replacing was the driver’s seat foam and bottom fabric along with a small section of the top trim. The seat looks practically brand new even though 80% of it is original! New carpet and speakers for the interior, new door panels color matched and painted, and a CB radio from my dad’s collection was installed. I also re-bolted my dad’s long-range, 8.5 ft. CB antenna to the rear bumper, and added his signature trucker technology...a tennis ball for stability. Breaker Breaker 1-9, anybody got their ears on, come back.
As for the mechanical, the drum brakes were overhauled and a new booster installed. Both battery cables and speedometer cable were replaced since the rubber coating was breaking off, a new alternator installed, and the front-end stabilizer was changed out. The radiator had a small leak so it was rebuilt at Buchtel Motors, along with a full service oil change and fluids check. Everything runs and lights up, and has been kept as original as possible, just how my dad drove it around for decades. Hard to believe it only has 82k miles on it!
This truck is a major head turner, looks like it rolled right off the line from 1978, and it's got the engine that hums just as pretty, a 6.6L 400 block with that solid rumble. I get goosebumps every time it cranks up. That sound is irreplaceable. That sound is the instant connection to my dad, the reminder that he is still around, watching over me, my family. This isn't just another Ford pickup truck, it is the crown jewel of all special memories with my dad, all the times I watched him climb into the driver’s seat, and the closet thing I have to hugging him today. I can’t be more thankful for the people who helped restore this truck, especially at Emmel’s Enamels, who took the time to get things done right, to remedy the stressful issues from the first garage, to ultimately treating my dad’s truck with genuine respect, smart talent & careful consideration for every detail.
And not only did the truck turn out amazing, one final surprise waited for me on the final day of restoration. Emmel's Enamels pinstriped that familiar nickname on the center tailgate…Diamond Dan. I can’t smile big enough, what a perfect send-off salute.
Big Nose Kate to Diamond Dan,
keep on truckin’ good buddy, over & out.