Lost Hot Rods II - The Lepesh Pickup

When my son, Bill, called me from his shop in South San Francisco to tell me that a customer had brought him a 1941 Ford pickup that had recessed canted quad headlights, sculpted running boards, a rolled rear pan with custom taillights, and that it had been in shows in the Bay Area in the early 1960s, I was naturally very interested. The headlights reminded me of Dave Cunningham, candy-red Forty, but that was a sedan. Bill said that when the customer, David Pozzi, got the truck it was Gold Metal flake, had a chromed early Olds engine with dual 4-barrels and crusty five-spoke mag wheels. The custom pickup had been in David's family a long time, and had been in
Though faded, this is a rare color shot from 1961, showing the 1958 Dodge taillights in the fenders and the rear "grille." These were changed to the current rear design when the truck was redone in gold 'flake in 1962-1963. The new version will have milder striping and no scallops.
his garage since the early 1980's. But he was only 21 when he got it, and was too young to know much of its history from back in the day. He just remembered this sparkly truck being parked in his uncle's backyard garage when they were kids, and how they'd lean their bikes against it's gold tailgate.

Then Bill called to say, "It's in the Hot Rod Yearbook No. 2." I memorized that book when I was a teen, and when I turned to Lepesh's Lalapalooza, I recognized it immediately. Not only did it have the canted quads, but it was painted a deep Claret Red with bold white scallops around the lights, much like Cunningham's. Further, perhaps not coincidentally, the photos in the two-page 1962 feature were by the same Dave Cunningham.

This is how the truck was last seen in 1961, with white scallops, spot-lights, bed pipes, and Plymouth bumpers. Note the white pleated upholstery inside, and how closely the new wheels match these.

With a little more research, I found a near-identical two page feature on it in the October 1961 Hot Rot, plus it was one of three similar Forty pickups featured together in the October 1959 issue. In 1959 it had single DeLuxe headlights, 1949 Plymouth bumpers, stock running boards, bed rail pipes, the DeLuxe car dash, and Edsel wheel covers with wide whitewalls. It also had a white interior with gold rolls. Strangely, I also found another one-page feature in the June 1964 Car Craft, photographed earlier when it had white scallops around the 1940 headlights, chrome wheels with baby moons, and a 1958 Impala steering wheel. In all these features the 1950 Olds engine had plenty of chrome, but just one 2-barrel ca.. Although it was never shown in its final Gold Metal flake version, this custom truck easily qualifies for this "Yellow Pages" chapter.

Although both had to be replaced, the 1940 DeLuxe car dash and 1958 Impala wheel were in the truck by 1959. Lots of 1-inch white pleats, including a band in the headliner, are early 1960s style. Note the Merc door handles.

Here, the brief story. Nick Lepesh owned a used-car dealership, Lepesh Motors, M Sunnyvale, California. In all the magazine articles, no one is credited for the mechanicals, the bodywork, the paint, the upholstery, or even the pinstripes or scallops, so I have to assume that Nick did some of the work, probably in conjunction with mechanics, bodymen, or painters who worked for his dealership. I don't know, nor does anybody in David's family. Nick was actually David's mother's first cousin. I assume Nick showed the truck until sometime in the mid 1960s, then park it in the garage. He didn't drive it, but Dave said it ran. At one point Dave's dad tried to buy it, but Nick said no, he wanted to put stock fenders back on it and paint it black. Unfortunately, Nick died of a sudden stroke at the age of 61 in 1982. His wife didn't want the truck, but she wasn't going to give it away, even though a couple of nephews wanted it. Since one of them "already had too many old cars," she decided to sell it to Dave in 1983. He installed a new gas tank and rebuilt the carbs and got the truck running, though he figured it needed a complete rebuild. Then (he blames it on his brother-in-law) first gear in the 1939 transmission went away, and Dave parked it in his own garage, saving it until he could afford to rebuild it properly. That took about 20 years.

The new engine nestled neatly in the Brizio chassis is a basic GM 350. The chrome emblem on the firewall is from Lepesh Motors, Sunnyvale, California. Detailing is impeccable.

By 2006, Dave got the truck running again and put new tires on it, but then the brakes went out. And first gear was still gone. And who knew that was under that thick 'flake paint? Roy Brizio's rod shop was right down the street from Dave's house. He decided a new Brizio chassis with IFS and a modem GM driveline would be more practical than trying to rebuild the old Olds and early Ford components. That part went smoothly. But when they had the original body sandblasted, it was in sad shape (as it was to begin with, according to the 1961 Hot Rod article). So Roy referred Dave to Bill's nearby shop for considerable sheet-metal rehab and replacement, which ultimately evolved into finish bodywork, luscious Candy Brandywine paint by Joe Compani, white upholstery in 1-inch rolls by Chris Plante, and all the details needed to complete the pickup.

The original 1950 Olds engine and Ford transrnission that came out of the truck, along with a few of its many show trophies from the 1950's and 1960's.

Since it had been seen and shown in various configurations, Bill and Dave had to decide which to replicate. In its last form, the Plymouth bumpers were replaced by handmade nerf bars, and the Dodge taillights had been replaced with 1963 Impala lights and a frenched license plate set into a rolled pan. Bill made new front nerfs, and had to remake the rear pan, tailgate, and sculptured run-ning boards, but the four fenders and most of the bed are original, after much repair. Some items, such as the spotlights and side pipes, were eliminated, but Bill had to make the chrome reversed rims from 1950 Ford centers and 5- and 6-inch Buick outers to match the 1960s originals.

When these photos were taken, a few details were still left to do, such as a chrome radiator cover and some subtle pinstriping, as seen when it was displayed for the first time in nearly 50 years at the 2012 Grand National Roadster Show. I hope Dave is enjoying this beautiful pickup, back on the street once again.

Original fenders and bed were saved, with much work. Magazines say the gas door is from a 1953 Pontiac. The rolled pan with 1963 Impala lights and frenched plate was the final version.