How do we honor the fallen? For presidents, we build monuments, carve their faces in stone, and place their likeness on currency. For the thousands of American men and women who serve, fight, and lose their lives, what becomes of their legacy? No such question has to be asked for Army Captain Bruce Hays. His life, filled with spending time with his family, serving his country right out of high school, and bettering himself by going back to school, won't be summed up by simple words on a tombstone. Thanks to a community of people coming together from across this great nation, his life will be remembered and celebrated every time his wife, Terry, takes her '59 Apache out for a drive.
After serving in Desert Storm as a tanker, Bruce Hays returned home and got his degree from NMSU. With a successful career and exemplary service record, the Army National Guard offered him a commission, and he quickly accepted. Before leaving for his deployment to Afghanistan in 2008, Bruce bought an old '59 Chevy Apache as an anniversary gift for his wife. Leaving a huge $17,000 deposit with a local mechanic to restore the truck, a plan was put in place to have a good daily driver for his family. Killed in action on September 17, 2008, Bruce would never see his mission fulfilled. At least not here on this Earth.
Once family and friends tried to find out what happened to the truck, they were appalled to realize the mechanic had taken the soldier's money and left town. A local news reporter caught wind of the terrible escapade and went live with the story on nightly news. What happened next, no one could have anticipated.
The floating spare tire holder was airbrushed with Bruce’s feelings for his beloved countr
An outpouring of support from individuals, local shops, manufacturers, and other servicemen and women breathed new life into Capt. Hays' truck mission. Forming a team called Friends of the 133rd, a challenge was accepted to build the truck Bruce always wanted. Taking the lead on the project, Stevinson Automotive and WyoTech began working on the truck.
Serving as both a lesson in life and in automotive repair/restoration, the students at the Laramie, Wyoming, WyoTech school lowered the truck with a Heidt's Mustang II front IFS and disc brakes, while using a Heidt's rear leaf spring kit to drop the back end down. Big-O Tires in Centennial, Colorado, donated the 15-inch Wheel Vintiques wheels and BFG tires. Curt August supplied with dog-dish hubcaps to make the Apache look the '50s-era part. Powering the Chevy is a 400ci small-block machined by Carquest in Longmont, Colorado, and assembled using a rebuild kit from O'Reilly Auto Parts, in Firestone, Colorado. It seems we're all on the same team when honoring those who deserve it. D&D Performance, also in Longmont, put the engine together with go-fast parts like a GM Performance Parts Ram-Jet intake and fuel injection, Hedman block-hugger headers, and Holley electric fuel pump, sourcing fuel from an LMC Truck relocated gas tank. Gary Puls, an instructor at WyoTech, fabricated the 2.5-inch Flowmaster exhaust provided by Meineke. A 700-R4 trans sends the more than 300 ponies to an 8.5-inch rearend from a '75 Nova and fitted with 3.08 gears.
With a rolling chassis, the Apache was gaining real momentum, but the body's rusted condition needed to be addressed. Patching the components they could, the WyoTech students went ahead and installed new parts from LMC Truck. Front fenders, bumpers, grille, door handles, headlights, taillights, and the necessary hardware are all new. Using Sherwin-Williams GM Indigo Blue paint, instructors Joe Faycosh, Tom Mortneon, Troy Tennal, and Gary Massengill teamed up to forever change the Chevy's color. Massengill then went in and used Planet Color Very Yellow on the fleetside for added accent. Faux chrome trim was airbrushed for a custom touch, and a rocket hood emblem from a '59 Oldsmobile was bolted in place. Capt. Hays' mission was nearly complete, and knowing this truck was going to be driven, a custom interior was given the green light.
'That's the living legacy that she'll be able to get into whenever she drives it, and she'll think of her husband.' Kent ...
Thomas Sweet of Dynamic Auto Sounds, in Longmont, put together a nice audio package that included an 8-inch sub behind the seat, a remote CD changer, and custom kick panels. Auto Weave Upholstery in Denver, worked hard to cover the bench seat in saddle Naugahyde, and covered the upper door panels with the same material. A cool touch are the Captain bars stitched into the seatbelts. A Dakota Digital gauge cluster and a leather-wrapped Grant steering wheel from Centennial Aircraft Interiors round out the Apache's confines.
At an unveiling on WyoTech's Laramie campus, the Hays' family warmly received the Apache in Bruce's honor. A husband, father, son, Captain in the United States Army National Guard, and hero finally got the recognition he deserved. For this soldier, the mission was accomplished.
Inside the Build
Year Make Model: 1959 Chevy Apache
Owner and City/State: Bruce Hays Family • Colorado, USA
Type: 400ci small-block
Induction: GMPP Ram-Jet
Exhaust: Hedman headers and Flowmaster mufflers
Fuel System: Ram-Jet fuel injection
Built By: D&D Performance
Rearend: '75 Nova 8.5 with 3.08 gears
A nice touch are the Captain bars stitched into the custom seatbelts.
Front suspension: Heidts Mustang II
Rear suspension: Heidts leaf springs
Brakes: Heidts disc
Wheels & Tires:
Wheels: 15-inch Wheel Vintques with dog-dish caps
Tires: BFGoodrich Radial T/A