Like many who share a passion for the muscle and classic cars and trucks of yesteryear, Chet Jackman found his passion for breathing new life into old cars from his father. “One day, he asked me if I wanted to come down to the shop with him. I asked if I could help, and he said, ‘No,’ I could watch,” recalled Chet.
As a kid, Chet watched his father replace and refinish vehicles and was eventually allowed to have a small part in the projects. “He let me polish the chrome on the underside of the vehicles because he didn’t want to get under there,” laughed Chet. His father specialized in creating hot rods, highly modified original vehicles built for speed, appearance and noise, and to be able to drive around town. His prized project was a 1921 Ford Model T that was featured in national magazines and won second place at the Los Angeles Roadster Show, one of the top shows in the country for hot rods. Those early days fostered the passion that Chet carries on today, and his most recent project is a testament to what one can accomplish with a deep love for what they do.
Although Chet has fully restored several vehicles in the past, he is most proud of his current restoration, a 1934 Dodge half-ton pickup. “It’s quite the story on how it got going,” explained Chet. “A gentleman approached me in Walmart when he noticed my Mopar Jacket and asked me if I owned a shop in town.” While Chet has recently opened a restoration business out of his garage, he did not have a shop at the time. Through conversation, Chet found that this man’s grandfather had purchased the pickup new in 1934 and passed it along to his son. Unfortunately, it was burned up in a garage fire, and the family wheeled it outside under some trees on their Troy, Montana, property where it sat for about 30 years. “To have it be in one family for all those years was a cool story, and I decided to tow it back over and get to work.”
That work spanned seven years to bring the hardly recognizable truck into a show-worthy entrant. Chet worked overtime at his job with the City of Sandpoint in order to buy the parts he wanted to customize the truck. The fire warped much of the vehicle. A few things like the front fenders, grille shell and cabin corner were in pretty good shape, but just about every other part of the truck needed rehab and a facelift. Through his connections in the Injectors Car Club in Sandpoint, Chet was able to find help with the carbon fiber work and also the paint job, which is the same red found on all Dodge Vipers. “I rebuilt the frame from box steel and found parts from all over Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Washington and a few on Ebay from even farther away,” said Chet. What stands before him today is an incredible hot rod that’s getting noticed not just by eager onlookers but by some of the top car-show judges in the country.
“My dad always used to tell me that out of 100 projects that get started only about 10 will be completed, and of those 10 only three will be show worthy, and I always took that advice to heart.”
To make it his own and impress a few judges, Chet has done more than a few major modifications to the 80-plus-year-old truck. Under the hood is an engine and transmission from a 2006 Dodge SLT truck and a 5.7Litre Hemi. Chrome coats the truck, and every panel on the vehicle has been modified. He also stretched back the cab an additional foot to create a five-window cab, something rarely seen in this class of hot rod.
Chet’s first entry with the vehicle was locally at this past May’s Lost in the ‘50s event in Sandpoint. He entered into the modified truck class, but organizers moved him into the street rod class where he came away with second place. There were mixed results at a few other regional shows, some taking home a trophy and others coming home empty handed. It wasn’t until a friend encouraged Chet to think a little bigger when something really cool happened. “He encouraged me to enter into the ‘Early Truck of the Year’ category with the Good Guys car show,” said Chet. Chet’s truck was eligible as the category includes everything pre-1952. Chet took the truck to Colorado for the show and ended up winning first place and was named one of just seven finalists from all across the country, with an invitation to the organization’s premiere show in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Just before Thanksgiving week, Chet fired up his beloved hot rod and drove—yes, drove—to Scottsdale for the show. “I build my cars to drive, which is something else I took from my dad. If you’re gonna build it, drive it!” While that thought might make other classic restorers cringe at the idea of a rock chip, door ding or hail storm, damaging such a huge investment of time and money, Chet is all about enjoying the ride. While he didn’t come home with top honors at the event, his truck still drew a lot of attention from those in attendance, and remarkably, it was the only vehicle of the top seven that was built in a garage and not a professional hot-rod shop. “The winner in my class spent 15,000 man hours and more than $1.6-million dollars on their project, so to just be recognized in that kind of company was truly a special honor,” said Chet.
Back home in North Idaho, Chet is getting his new business, Jackman’s Rod Shop, off and running, still out of his garage. His first project for a customer is to complete a restoration of a 1942 Ford convertible of which only 1,060 were built. As far as the award-winning truck goes, it’s for sale for the right price, but if it doesn’t sell, Chet will still be driving it to shows and will eventually be handed down to his grandchildren. “I don’t think I’ll ever stop building; as long as I have the money for it I’ll keep going,” he said.