Car of the Week: 1958 Chevrolet Apache

A Montana work truck gets a wonderful second life in Virginia
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Car of the Week 2020

Pete Schultz had a lot of reasons for wanting to adopt the battered 1958 Chevrolet Apache his wife told him about back in 2012.

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Pity was right at the top of the list.

“I saw it for sale and I felt sorry for the poor truck sitting there in that car lot,” recalls Schultz. “It needed work, but it was something that I felt I could handle.”

Pete and his wife Carol live in tiny Fincastle, Va., but at the time they spotted the pickup, they were still living in New Jersey. It was the last place they expected to come across an old farm truck from Montana. “My wife was coming home from work one day and said she saw an old truck for sale on the side of the road at a little dealer lot. She told me it had double headlights, so I thought that’s gonna be a ’58 (Chevrolet) and above. I went to look at it and it was in pretty good condition, actually. I think the truck probably had a lot of good luck behind it. I found out it was a Montana farm truck, but it must have been kept indoors most of its life in a barn or something. You can tell if a truck has been kept outdoors or in a field.”

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The pickup had been scooped up by a local man and his son who liked to make road trips west and buy old cars they could bring back and sell in New Jersey. “They’d buy stuff that wasn’t totally unrepairable,” Schultz noted. “They’d do some work and get them running, but nothing too much. They were not really restoring. They sold them kind of as-is… I went back and looked at it a couple times, and I decided it wasn’t going to be too expensive to restore.”

The Schultzes already had a nice 1966 Chevy half-ton pickup at home, but Pete was hoping to find something older to go with the ’66. The search had gotten a bit discouraging before his wife found the Apache.

“We were always looking out for an old truck, but it was always one of three things wrong: either it was too expensive because of what’s been done to it, or it’s been modified. And we just don’t care for modified trucks.

“Or else we’d see trucks and they just needed too much restoration. They were just too far gone.”

The stepside Apache had plenty of warts, but it had plenty of potential, too. It had some rust issues and plenty of dents in the cab and fenders, and it would need a new cargo bed. The truck listed a bit to the driver’s side, the seat was pretty much shot, and the Thriftmaster six-cylinder needed some new plumbing and parts. But otherwise, it was intact and just needed some TLC.

 The Thriftmaster six-cylinder looking ready for duty.

The Thriftmaster six-cylinder looking ready for duty.

Perhaps the pickup’s best quality was that it was a Chevrolet, and Schultz is a bow-tie guy all the way. “I’m a Chevrolet guy. I don’t care for Fords and I never had anything else,” he chuckles. “I wouldn’t have minded having an old Dodge or International … but I’m a Chevy guy. I guess what attracted me most was that it was a truck from the ’50s and it was all original. I guess you’d call it a survivor.”

ONE GIANT LEAP

It should be no surprise that a truck enthusiast such as Schultz would become enamored with an Apache or any of its Chevy siblings from that era. The Task Force trucks were popular during their run from 1955-’59 and they have been a hit with collectors and hot rodders ever since. The debut ’55 trucks were a big departure from anything Chevrolet had offered previously, with more car-like amenities and styling including curved windshields, more room and lots of optional brightwork plus extra-cost V-8 propulsion and two-tone paint jobs. A 235-cid inline six-cylinder was standard, but for the first time, buyers could jump up to a V-8 with the 265-cid/145-hp mill. A base three-speed transmission was still standard, but Hydra-Matic was available. Air conditioning was even offered — a first for Chevy trucks.

 The Task Master cabs were roomier and generally more passenger friendly than earlier models. Dashes were finished in a metallic gray with a large V-shaped speedometer above the steering column. On the floor, between the accelerator and gear shift, is a starter pedal.

The Task Master cabs were roomier and generally more passenger friendly than earlier models. Dashes were finished in a metallic gray with a large V-shaped speedometer above the steering column. On the floor, between the accelerator and gear shift, is a starter pedal.

The Apache name arrived in 1958 and was used for only four years. Medium-duty trucks were dubbed Vikings and the heavy-duty haulers were named Spartans. The ’58 model year was also when the new Task Force Commercial models received dual headlamps, a new grille, new trim and technical changes. Styling-wise, the new grille consisted of narrow horizontal bars just below the hood and a more massive barbell-shaped lower molding extending out and under the headlamps. The molding had the Chevrolet name lettered across it and its rectangular outboard extensions surrounded the similarly shaped parking lamp lenses. Base-level Apaches also had a cream-painted grilled, bumper and headlamp bezels and cream-colored hubcaps. Chrome-plated parts could be substituted at extra cost. A rather large, jet-plane-shaped ornament above the front fender feature line carried the Apache name and series identification.

The switch to the Apache name was one of two significant merchandising innovations for 1958. The second was the arrival of the Fleetside box, which featured slab-side rear steel fenders flush with the cab and an extra-wide cargo area. Fleetside models had a missile-shaped bulge along the bed exterior. Their boxes were 75 inches wide versus the Cameo Carrier’s 48 inches. Although the general appearance of both was similar, the Fleetside did not use bolt-on plastic panels and fiberglass parts to achieve its slab-sided look. A traditional ladder-type frame used five cross members, and drum brakes were used on all four wheels of the Task Force trucks. An optional 4x4 drive train was also available for 3100 models.

 The ’58 got a “frame-on” restoration, but it was a good one. “The frame was in good shape, so I didn’t see any need to take the body off and restore the frame,” Schultz said. The truck needed an all-new bed for the cargo box, but the rest of the original body panels and cab were salvaged.

The ’58 got a “frame-on” restoration, but it was a good one. “The frame was in good shape, so I didn’t see any need to take the body off and restore the frame,” Schultz said. The truck needed an all-new bed for the cargo box, but the rest of the original body panels and cab were salvaged.

Color choices for the year were: Jet Black, Dawn Blue, Marine Blue, Kodiak Brown, Granite Gray, Glade Green, Oriental Green, Polar Green, Omaha Orange, Cardinal Red, Tartan Turquoise, Pure White, Golden Yellow and Yukon Yellow. Six two-tone paint schemes were also offered. Wheels were black with solid colors and lower body color on two-tone trucks.

Chevrolet’s hard-wearing upholstery included new color combinations in either all-vinyl Deluxe (now base level) or cloth and vinyl Custom (extra-cost) trims. Also featured was an 18-inch-diameter deep-dish steering wheel and NoGlare instrument panel. Custom chrome and Custom cab equipment were separate options. Custom Cab models had two armrests, two sun visors, a cigarette lighter, foam rubber seat cushions and back rests, bright control knobs, and chrome window moldings. The Panoramic rear window was an option. Seat belts were also among the new options.

In addition to the Stepside and Fleetside pickups, the 3100 line also included a panel truck model and burly Suburbans with either rear doors or a tail gate. Prices started at $1884 for the six-cylinder Stepside Apache pickup, with the Fleetside listing for $1900. Suburbans were about $600 more. Maximum GVW for the Apache was 5000 lb. for the 4x2 and 5600 lbs. for the 4x4.

REBORN, BUT STILL ORIGINAL

Schultz admits he wasn’t exactly certain what he was going to do with his Apache when he first got it home. He knew he wanted to get it running right and certainly looking better than it did at the time, but he wasn’t sure what route he was going to take to get there.

He says he started with the seat, which had broken springs and a blanket for a seat cover. “I went to a fella who has a small upholstery business, Fleetwood Upholstery, and I bought the material from Jim Carter, I think — the padding and the vinyl and everything… Whoever drove the truck must have been a very heavy person, because the guy showed me all these pieces of masking tape inside the seat, and every place there was tape there was a broken spring. But he was able to replace a lot of the springs — I’m not sure how he did it — and he just did a fantastic job.”

 Between the accelerator and gear shift, is a starter pedal.

Between the accelerator and gear shift, is a starter pedal.

Schultz then started asking around and looking for a good paint and body man to help him, “but lo and behold, nobody wanted to do the truck,” he says. “Guys just don’t want to do that as much anymore — they don’t want to get into bodywork and don’t want to get into restoration. They just want to do collision work and replacing plastic parts. They don’t want to do it because it just takes too much time.”

Luckily, Schultz had made an ally at the upholstery shop and they helped connect him with an amateur restorer who quietly did work on the side. He didn’t advertise and was apparently very choosey about what he worked on. Schultz got a look at the work the man did on an old Corvette and Camaro and was quickly convinced he had found his man.

“He said, ‘I’ll take a look at the truck and I’ll see if I want to do it.’ So he came to my home and looked the truck up and down and said, ‘Alright, I’ll do it.’ It had a lot of dents, rust holes, the bed was shot, the head panel above the bed was shot. It was pretty rough, but he said he’d do it … Mostly, I just wanted to get the truck painted. He said ‘What kind of job are you looking for?’ I said I was not looking for a Maaco job or an Earl Scheib, but I wasn’t looking for a Barrett-Jackson job either. It wasn’t going to Barrett-Jackson. I just wanted to get the truck painted. Everybody loved it the way it was, but I think it deserved to be painted. He said, ‘I only do it one way, I do it right.’ And I said, ‘OK’.”

 I'm sure the bed didn't look this nice in its farm days.

I'm sure the bed didn't look this nice in its farm days.

For the next six-plus months, the Apache received a “frame-on” restoration, with a lot of new parts, and a lot of sanding, filling and dent pounding. Underneath, the truck was fitted with new springs, brakes and brake lines, drums, shocks and master cylinder. The engine received a rebuilt carburetor, new radiator, water pump, ignition and hoses. “We never took the engine out, but we did everything we could to it. I don’t want it to be something I’m afraid to use,” Schultz said.

The wonderful bodywork and paint, he added, were far more than he bargained for.

 The 1958 Chevrolet Apaches shared plenty of styling with their automotive counterparts and their generation was a design leap forward from their predecessors. Pete and Carol Schultz restored this example back to original condition, complete with the original Thriftmaster six-cylinder engine and a coat of its original Marina Blue paint.

The 1958 Chevrolet Apaches shared plenty of styling with their automotive counterparts and their generation was a design leap forward from their predecessors. Pete and Carol Schultz restored this example back to original condition, complete with the original Thriftmaster six-cylinder engine and a coat of its original Marina Blue paint.

“He welded in new side steps and rocker panels. There were a lot of rust holes in the back fenders. They were so bad. I said, ‘You’ve gotta let me know if you want me to buy new back fenders.’ They looked like somebody hit them with a bag of nickels. He said ‘Please, don’t buy new fenders. New fenders don’t fit. I’ll make your fenders look beautiful.’ And he banged out all the dents and did a fantastic job … I got new door hinges, steps and rocker panels. I even had a hole in the dash where somebody had cut the dash board open and put a radio in it. It was a radio-delete truck originally, and I wanted it original. So he put a panel in the dash and made it the way it was supposed to be. Me and the wife, we don’t need a radio when we go to car shows. We just want to drive the truck! … He took the dents out of the hood and dents out of the roof. He fixed everything so beautifully. It was unbelievable.”

Schultz says the truck was a light blue when he brought it home, but that wasn’t the original color. It left the factory wearing Marina Blue, and he knew that was the color it needed to make it look truly look new again.

“Would you believe it was painted in a chicken coup?” he laughs. “He actually painted it in a chicken coup!”

The Schultzes try to give their Chevy collector trucks as much exercise as they can, and sometimes arrive at shows each driving a pickup. “She drives the ’66, and I drive the ’58,” Pete says. The Apache always gets lot of attention, not just because it’s a 62-year-old pickup, but because it’s in stock condition.

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“It’s really an experience to drive an old truck like this,” he says. “It really sounds like an old truck. You can hear it coming, with that Thriftmaster six-cylinder. It runs like an old truck, it sounds like an old truck. It doesn’t rattle or anything. It’s pretty darn solid.… And I can’t tell you how many people come to me at a car show and tell me how much they’d rather see an original truck and that their father had one, brother had one, or they learned how to drive on one. It brings back all kinds of memories for people.”

Pete insists that he winds up swapping stories with fellow truck fans while his wife gets the job of head detailer. “She takes care of all the chrome, for every show. She takes care of everything. She says that she does all the work, and I’m the one that does all the talking.”

“But we love driving it, and we love having it. My wife thinks it’s my favorite, and I guess it is.”

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