As automotive editors, there is nothing the staff of Truckin' enjoys more than hearing tales of how enthusiasts found their classic pickup projects, rescued them from years of neglect, and used them as a canvas to paint their vision of the perfect custom hauler. Some have discovered their classic treasures in fields with weeds growing up through the cab, while others have found their trucks tucked away in barns with years of dust resting on the surface. Usually a classic truck enthusiast's dream is hauled away on a trailer with four flat tires and a dead battery, and after years of hard work, patience, and commitment, that rusted-out old workhorse becomes a thing of true beauty. Whatever the scenario may be, one of the most interesting things about purchasing a classic project truck is learning the vehicle's history.

Michael Steele of Chandler, Arizona, is the proud owner of the '35 Dodge pickup spread across these pages, and like many, his automotive enthusiasm was shaped at an early age. As a young boy, Michael would tool around town with his father Jim in his '30 Chrysler coupe, and ever since then he has been hooked. Once Michael got to an age where finances would allow for a frame-up project, the hunt began. At the time the search began, Michael was living in North Carolina and spotted an ad in the paper for a classic '35 Dodge pickup in need of restoration. Arriving at the owner's house in Vernon, Connecticut, with cash in hand and trailer in tow, the father and son duo immediately noticed the current owner's attempts to create a street-rod-styled pickup and were very impressed with all the extra stuff the $1,100 purchase price included. Michael purchased the truck along with a fresh 305ci V-8, a Turbo 350 transmission, and a complete Mustang II front suspension; not to mention the original straight-six still sitting between the 'rails.

Once the truck was unloaded off of the trailer, Michael began analyzing the title and started turning the pages to unravel the truck's past. After a little research, it was determined that the man Michael bought the truck from had bought it from the original owner, who had used it for several years on his farm. Now that a clear history of the truck was established, the four-year-long customizing journey began to transform the truck from a clapped-out classic to the stunning showpiece seen here. Desiring to motivate the classic with the appropriate brand-matched power, Michael chose to unload the 305ci V-8 engine and Turbo 350 transmission that came with the truck, and search for a Chrysler 440ci motor and TorqueFlite 727 transmission. As luck would have it, Michael was able to trade the 305 motor for a Ford 9-inch rearend, which he needed to replace the stock differential. The Turbo 350 was sold for a C-note and the truck's original drivetrain was unloaded for $500. After all of the wheeling and dealing was complete, a Chrysler 440 motor, with a 727 TorqueFlite transmission hooked to it, was acquired for a meager $125.

Michael immediately jumped on this screaming deal and after running the block-casting numbers, determined the package had come out of an old Plymouth Fury police car. Typically, engines installed in police vehicles were a bit more stout than those shoehorned into production vehicles, so Michael was thrilled with his rare find and immediately delivered the mill to Performance Engines in Cornelius, North Carolina, for some massaging. The folks at Performance Engines cleaned up the power source by first porting and polishing a set of Edelbrock Performer aluminum heads and installing a Competition Cams bumpstick. A set of Sanderson Jet-Hot-coated headers sends fumes to Flowmaster mufflers, while an Edelbrock Torker II intake manifold, topped by a Holley 750 vacuum secondary carburetor, allows the mill to drink high-octane liquid when Michael's foot feathers the throttle. The mill is sparked and brought to a low rumble using a Mallory electronic ignition.