Many of us who own vintage cars make changes to our rides to create an extension of our own personality. That means we often have to dive right into undoing what previous owners have done to at least bring that customization back to zero before starting the process of making it ours. I guess you could occasionally snag a car that had all the perfect modifications you want, but that’s so rare in my experience.

That certainly wasn’t the case when my friend Brett decided he wanted a vintage pickup. An orange 1979 Chevrolet appeared on the side of the road one day and he decided that, despite the vibe being virtually the polar opposite of what he wanted, it had good bones. It was merely a starting point, after all.

He ran down the modifications he had planned, and I fell in love with the idea of showing how much of a transformation two guys could accomplish in a weekend. Brett brought the truck over to my garage, and we started with the easiest part of the transformation—the front end. A previous owner put in a cheesy custom grille and grille guard that gave the truck a distinctively 4×4 look, despite the lack of four-wheel-drive.

Brett ordered a factory replacement grille, but that didn’t mean it was going to bolt right up. Instead we had to think outside the box to get the new grille attached and that grille guard removed. Just those two small changes make the truck seem more legit, but on the floor nearby there are still boxes filled with parts that will really dial up the cool factor of this stepside squarebody.

Be sure to subscribe to Hagerty’s YouTube channel to receive a notification when each new video goes live—including next week with the second installment of this three-day transformation.

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Whether trying to nail the punchline on a joke during Thanksgiving dinner or make a tired old engine run properly, timing is important. My 1930 Ford Model A is out of rhythm and yielding crickets from the audience, as it were, so it’s time for a freshening.

The process of getting the very simple Model A ignition system set up properly is actually quite complicated, because it is the breaker point cam is that is adjusted, rather than a simple turn of the distributor body like in a more modern engine. This job requires some disassembly and extra tools.

Rather than grabbing a timing light from the toolbox, I start with a 9/16″ wrench to remove the timing pin on the front engine cover. Using that pin allows me to know that the number one cylinder is at top dead center on its compression stroke. From there I use the process laid out by Les Andrews in his Model A Ford Mechanics Handbook. A simple test light clipped to the points allows me to know the exact point the gap opens as I turn the breaker point cam.

The one big key in this process is an easy one to forget—only turn the breaker points cam counter-clockwise. Gear lash and tolerance stack up means you could set the cam perfectly, but as soon as the engine starts, the tolerance stack up will effectively retard the timing, sending you back to step one.

It’s not an incredibly difficult process, but I have to admit it tested my patience this time. I think most of that was due to the tired nature of a lot of the parts on my coupe, specifically. Following the book to the letter just wasn’t working, so I had to switch to using the instructions as more of a guideline and adjusting the whole system by feel rather than measurement. Now and again, this approach is necessary.

The end result is not perfect, but it’s definitely better than before. I have a multitude of other items to deal with on this car, but picking off projects one at a time is how to make progress over the long haul. I’m gonna keep at it, and if you want to follow along, be sure to subscribe to Hagerty’s YouTube channel to receive a notification with each video that goes live.

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