Custom Cruise Friday
Lots of people spend entire lifetimes wishing, hoping, even pining for their dream vehicles. Todd Hinkel was able to bypass all of that at a very tender age by owning his 1978 Chevy Cheyenne half-ton pickup truck before he could legally drive it. Despite being just 15 years old and six months from his next birthday, was able to buy the truck from J. Mayer and Sons Chevrolet-Oldsmobile in Stony Plain. After all of the options were considered, Hinkel paid $5,350 (the equivalent of $18,500 today) and proceeded to play what must have been a torturous waiting game for another several months.
If you like this truck:
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“Not too many people got a new one,” Hinkel said. “Most kids start out with an old junker.”
You can’t always get what you want
Getting a vehicle for the first time is exciting enough, but to be able to have worked up the means to buy a brand new one adds a new element to the equation that not many young people get to experience.
“The salesman asked, ‘What kind of engine do you want in it,'” Hinkel said. “I said a 454 (cubic-inch engine) would work perfectly.”
High-powered vehicles and new drivers are a lamentable combination; this idea was not lost on Hinkel’s father. The senior Hinkel immediately inquired about other V-8 engine options available for 1978 Chevy Cheyenne. At the time the other options included 350 and a 305 cu.-in. engines.
“My dad said a 305 will work, so that was one thing shot down,” Hinkel said. “He did let me have a rear sliding window.”
On the day Hinkel and a licensed driver were able to take the truck home, he actually got an early glimpse. While walking to get lunch during a school day, Hinkel actually saw the truck on the car carrier parked out side of the dealership.
“I was pretty excited that day,” Hinkel said. “Then we took it home and parked it in one of the sheds at the farm until I turned 16.”
A few illicit trips to school may have been taken in the truck prior to Hinkel’s birthday.
“The old man caught me,” Hinkel said. “That was the end of that and it was back on the bus.”
Paint it black
As is often the case with getting exactly what is wished for, an unexpected downside comes around. Over the years, the 1978 Chevy Cheyenne with a step-side box became less practical. Starting a family has been known to have that effect of pickup trucks. So into storage it went for about 20 years. Hinkel’s oldest daughter wanted to use the truck for her wedding vehicle. The race was on to get it ready for the big day. Hinkel brought it to a restoration shop where they took the truck down right to the frame rails and refreshed, powder coated and rebuilt everything.
“I thought, ‘I don’t want to do it again,'” Hinkel said. “I won’t be the one that wears it out this time.”
Not only did the cosmetic parts of the truck get worked on, which was helped by the fact that it rarely was driven in winter, but some performance changes were made to make up for lost time.
“I finally got my 454,” Hinkel said.
The new crate engine was ordered from his daughter Melissa, who happens to work in the Fleet Services Department at Don Wheaton. Hinkel’s sister, Lori, provided some support as well being the Don Wheaton Parts Department manager. New headers and a two-inch exhaust was added to give the truck and estimated peak output of 475 horsepower.
Bucket seats were taken from another pickup truck that Hinkel owned and were reupholstered for the 1978 Cheyenne. The oak slats in the cargo box were refinished and separated with stainless steel spacers for a much sharper look.
Time was not on Hinkel’s side. However, the restorations were completed a little under two weeks before the wedding took place.
Start me up
Now that the truck is restored and has the engine he really wanted, Hinkel looks forward to being able to enjoy it for another 38 years.
“I still want to get out with it,” Hinkel said. “I’m still going to be fussy with it. It’s not going to left out in the rain or parked under trees.”
If you have a customized pickup truck or other vehicle you’d like to share with other fans, contact Don Wheaton Brand Manager Melina Kawecki by email – email@example.com. Please include contact information as well as pertinent details about the vehicle.