Gary & Pam Barrett's 1958 Chevy Cameo Pickup
(from Volume 21, Issue 250)

story by owner Gary Barrett, photos by Michael B. Kelly


My dad had a big window Chevrolet Pickup that we used to pull our Dirt Car from race track to race track around the Jacksonville Area. Waycross, Lake City, Valdosta, the Old St. Augustine Speedway (the one made of bricks), no matter where we went I got a bird’s eye view of the big window in the rear of that truck. My dad would let me ride in the race car, which we pulled with a tow-bar in those days, so it was pretty cool to ride past your friends and everyone else sitting in the seat of that race car being towed.

Fast forward some 45 years, when I saw this 1958 Chevy Cameo Pickup sitting in Daytona, partially finished and for sale. It reminded me of those days spent following my dad I jumped at the chance to get my hands on it. After a brief conversation with my wife, Pam, we decided to purchase the truck. I don’t think Pam was too impressed at first, but it sure has grown on her, and the 6 years we have owned this truck has been a blast.

I had quit racing myself in 2004, since the local race track was sold to build houses on the land. I was getting a little restless, since I missed racing and all the people I saw every Saturday night at the track. As it has turned out, the truck was the perfect solution.

As soon as I got it home I began to take it apart, removing the rear end, leaf springs drive shaft, etc. I purchase a 9-inch Ford rear end from Quick Performance in Ames, Iowa, and while we had it out we added Wilwood brakes on the front and rear, with 12-inch slotted rotors and red powder coated calipers. The rear end’s gear ratio is 3.50:1, and it has a 700R4 overdrive automatic transmission. I added a 4-Link rear suspension kit with coil-overs from Total Cost Involved. The front suspension is from a second generation Camaro (1970-1981), and the frame had already been clipped. We followed that with a new power plant, a 383 cubic inch stroker with aluminum heads, 10:1 compression, and a Howards hydraulic roller from White Performance in Tennessee. We had a little problem tuning the motor with a carburetor, while trying to operate the air conditioner, and the fuel economy was poor in the beginning...only about 8 miles to the gallon. So I contacted MSD about their MSD Atomic EFI system, and after several phone calls decided that was the way to go. It made the Motor much more manageable, brought with it better fuel economy, and much better drivability with the air conditioner on.

The bed trim on Cameo’s is extremely hard to find in good condition, due to some of the parts being made from pot metal. I managed to find the few missing trim parts on eBay, and after doing a little haggling with the seller and trading a few items I wasn’t going to use, had all the trim parts needed to complete the bed. I sent those items to J & M Stainless Steel Repair in Bunnell, Florida for refurbishing and some repair. It took about three months to get the trim back and installed on the truck, and my hat is off to John and Jason, as they did an excellent job.

Next we went looking for the perfect set of wheels. While in Daytona at the Turkey Run, I spotted a set of Foose rims for sale. I liked the wheel and the price was reasonable, but I wasn’t sure if they would clear the wheel well opening, so I decided to wait and call Foose direct and find a local dealer. It turns out a local tire store handled them on special order, and agreed to order in a set to see if they would fit, and give me a chance to see them on the truck. It was just what I wanted, they filled the wheel well just right, and looked great. They mounted on a set of BF Goodrich tires, with 235/45/ZR17 on the front, and 255/45 ZR17 on the rear.

We had the interior done by D & L Interiors of Jacksonville, and wanted it done with a theme that looked like a 50’s truck, with colors that matched the exterior. We decided to move the fuel tank from in the cab to under the bed to cut down on the fumes from the fuel return, so I added a 15 gallon aluminum tank where the old spare tire carrier was.

Like many other enthusiast’s vehicles, this truck is always a work in progress. It is a driver, and no matter where we go to attend the car show or cruise-in we are attending, it is always driven there. I’d like to say thanks to Tom, Bruce, Woods, Ronnie, Jim, Alan, and Ron.....because without all of these guys the cruise-ins and weekend trips to the car shows would not be possible, and certainly not as much fun. All of the cars and trucks at the shows are great too look at and enjoy, but it is the people that make this hobby so enjoyable! -Gary Barrett