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Here’s most of the team with the truck.

Not Your Average Rust Bucket

John Gunnell has been writing about classic cars since 1972. He is also the owner of Gunner’s Great Garage in Manawa, Wis. He owns 11 cars and seven motorcycles.

EDITOR’S NOTESee build progress photos below. The following news blog was written by John Gunnell, owner of Gunner's Great Garage Restoration Shop in Manawa, Wisconsin. Gunnell regularly contributes articles and industry-driven observations for THE SHOP magazine and eNewsletter.

The SEMA Show in Las Vegas represents the top of the mountain in the specialty automotive world, so last year the students at Freedom High School built a mountain climbing Toyota 4Runner for the show. This year, their goal was to promote rust-busting B’laster products by building an older truck that had been saved from the ravages of rust in their home state of Wisconsin.

The students’ goal was to turn a Rust Belt ’51 Chevy pickup into a show truck that proved that rust can be dealt with one way or another. Products, such as the B’laster line, can be used to eliminate rust, or builders can patina the rust into a pickup truck’s finish, like the Freedom team did. The front fenders, hood and rear fenders of the truck were partly clear-coated over the rust to drive home the point that rust is nothing to be scared of.

Over a period of about seven months, the old workhorse was converted from a farm relic into a hot rod with modern high-tech underpinnings and a classic Camaro V-8. The aim was to have it ready for an open house on Oct. 11, to show it off to area car enthusiasts and car clubs and raise donations for the trip to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

Auto Technology instructor Jay Abitz said that the students ran into a last-minute snag with the radiator inlet/outlet configuration and some welding needed to be done to get that straightened out. “We had the truck running for a few minutes,” he said, “but we had to shut it down until the welding work is completed.”

As you can see from the accompanying photos, the youthful car builders met their deadline, although there’s a bit of fine tuning to do over the next 15 days.

Also on display during the open house was the Front Runner Toyota the students created for last year’s SEMA Show. That vehicle won’t be going back to Vegas, but the ’51 Chevy Advance Design pickup will be exhibited in the B’laster Corp. booth (No. 53020) at the Oct. 30-Nov. 2 event.

A number of car clubs from the Green Bay and Freedom areas came to the open house and made group donations for the students’ trip out west, which embarks Oct. 27. Visitors included members of a Model A Ford club who commented on the truck being low to the ground.

“It’s got an air bag suspension,” someone pointed out. “So, they can make it as high as a Model A or bring it as close to the ground as a low rider.”

It was fascinating to see owners of cars made in the 1920s and 1930s showing interest in a modified postwar pickup.

“Hey, we’re all old-car people,” said one Model A’er. “If it’s got an engine and wheels, you’re going to find us poking our noses under the hood or under the chassis. You never know when we’ll learn something we can use in our next project."

Author’s note: In the 4th part of this series I mistakenly referred to P.B. Blaster as J.B. Blaster. Sorry about that. 

For more on this build, read earlier installments of Gunnell's series: