ROB Veitch built this belly-scraping, LS-powered 1959 Chev Apache pick-up as a spectacular tribute to his late father, Barry. Yet its creation generated so much more, with quality people banding together to craft a superior ride and fostering friendships and mutual respect in the process.
First published in the January 2021 issue of Street Machine
It all started with a cheeky purchase by Barry. “Dad was a car guy, and after he got cancer, he would sit and buy things online,” Rob says. “I visited one day and he had this glint in his eye, and admitted to buying an Apache from Bakersfield in the USA. It was sight-unseen, and he had no idea how to get it to Australia! We figured that out, and it landed 18 months prior to him passing away. The Apache is all we’d talk about when I visited.”
After Barry passed, Rob decided to build the pick-up in his dad’s honour. Enter Leon Davies from Big L’s Chop Shop. Initially, Rob had Leon just rust-repair a few panels, but that soon escalated to the entire rig rolling into Big L’s for a hefty rebuild.
Rob was keen for an airbagged, flat-black pick-up with red wheels and a carby-fed Chev donk. However, a quick glance at the photos on these pages should give you a pretty decent indication of how much plans for the Apache evolved during the six-year build process.
First up, Leon separated the crusty and rusty left-hook cab from the chassis. The rails were then hefted into a jig for the myriad alterations required to airbag the beast. In fact, the Apache was one of Leon’s first ’bag jobs – something he’s now renowned for.
Plenty of foundational work was required to sling this ride into the weeds. Leon grafted in a Jag IFS front end, recessed to allow the airbags to do their thing. He then notched the rear chassis around eight inches using CAD-created laser-cut sections.
It might all seem straightforward, but these modifications were extremely time-consuming both on the tools and in the problem solving. Not to mention the fact that the Apache features oodles of tweaks and adaptations, such as the right-hand-drive conversion.
While Rob was keen to keep the tiller on the left side of the cab, sourcing a steering rack proved rather costly, and given the volume of work already going on underneath and up front, it was agreed that Leon should devote a few extra days to altering the driving position. A fresh firewall helped the steering transition and incorporated the recessing required for the LS fitment.
Yup, those plans for a carby-fed Chev crate motor also got the flick thanks to the cost-effective ease of the ol’ LS swap. This particular L76 and boofy 6L80 six-speed were relieved from a financial write-off 2012 Caprice. The motor’s factory internals remain, but the plastic-fantastic bolt-ons have been swapped out for a modest old-school feel that nestles the LS nicely in that handsome blue engine bay.
And that vibrant tint sure has turned the Apache into a true neck-snapper. “Once the rust was fixed, people started telling me that the body looked so good that it should be gloss,” Rob says. After sighting a BMW out in the wild painted in striking Atlantis Blue, Rob decided that hue would be perfect for the Chev.
However, the late change to a shiny finish demanded better foundational work. Leon went back over the Apache, gapping it tighter and further sanitising the body. Scott Bateman then splined and filled the body before Troy Palmer did the final work and laid down that outstanding finish.
Now draped in its lustrous glaze, it became clear that the Apache now deserved more refined finishes, from updating the interior styling and fitment to adding customised touches like the bespoke Allen-key bolts and washers throughout the body.
Though the Apache now looks like a real show-winner, it was always set to be a cruiser. Even so, it did win a gong that held particular significance for Rob. “I put it in the 2020 Victorian Hot Rod Show and won an award for Best Pick-Up,” he says. “Dad and I went there when I was kid, so that meant a lot.
“Leon deserves an enormous amount of credit,” Rob continues. “He worked on it for six years and everything went well. Everyone exceeded my expectations and they were super-nice and extremely talented.”
Now that the eye-catching ’59 is engineered and regoed, it’s time for Rob to start racking up those highway kays. “I’m still nervous and tentative to drive it,” he admits. “Though I’ve just moved to Far North Queensland, and I hope to drive the heck out of it; I look forward to cruising those beach-side windy roads.”
ENGINE BAY IN DETAIL:
1. Dimple-die radiator cover
2. Satin finish
3. Braided lines
4. Stainless-steeL centred bonnet brace
5. Bead-rolled firewall
6. Hidden wiring
7. Cast Edelbrock covers
BODY IN DETAIL:
1. RHD conversion
2. Raised tray floor for clearance
3. Timber slats with stainless-steel trim
4. Indicators in tray roll
5. Commodore rear-mounted fuel tank
6. LED tail-lights
8. 20in Smoothies
9. Tightened door and bonnet gaps
10. Shaved badges
1959 CHEVROLET APACHE PICK-UP
Paint: Custom BMW Atlantis Blue gloss and satin
Brand: Chev L76
Fuel pump: Commodore
Oil sump: Reverse-hump Camaro
Cooling: Alloy radiator, Spal thermo fan
Exhaust: Stainless headers, twin 2¾in pipes
Ignition: Hurricane leads
Trans: 6L80 six-speed, modified shaft points
Tailshaft: 3in tube, slip-yoke
Diff: 9in, 3.7:1 gears, LSD, 31-spline axles
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Jag XJ6 Series 3; Slam Specialties RE-6 springs, Pedders shocks
Rear: Parallel four-link, Watt’s link, Slam Specialties RE-7 springs, Pedders shocks
Airbags: Viair dual 480C compressors, AccuAir e-Level
Steering: Rebuilt Jag steering rack, Flaming River column
Brakes: Commodore discs with Jag four-piston calipers (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood, dual-diaphragm booster
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Smoothies; 20×8 (f & r)
Rubber: Kumho 245/40/20 (f & r)
Leon Davies and the Big L’s Chop Shop crew; Troy Palmer at Palmer Air for paint; Scotty Bateman for bodywork; Matt from Geelong Differential Services; Kris from KJF Custom Trim; Ben from Mighty Tow Geelong; Aaron from DTM Automatic Transmissions for tuning the engine