A year ago, I was in London covering the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run for ClassicCars.com and visiting my grandson and family for his 7th birthday and, low and behold, I saw a 1959 Chevy Apache pickup truck sitting in the street (see photo above) and looking like it was being restored.
I looked into the ripped-apart cab and, to my surprise, the steering wheel was in the process of being moved from the left side to the right on the dash.
This sparked my interest and learned that this “bloke,” Bobby Dean, and his truck lived in the flat right across the way and was doing the entire restoration right there in the street.
This area of London is Bethnal Green, in the East End, and Dean tells us it was known as the home of the Kray Twins (Goodfellas of London and English criminals and perpetrators of organized crime during the 1950s and ‘60s).
In 1955, Chevrolet introduced its Task-Force pickup truck designs, which included several firsts in the market, including wraparound windshields, 12-volt electrical systems and customizable color and trim. The 1958 model, with new quad-headlamp design, was the first with the Apache nameplate.
Before Dean started to restore the truck, the Apache housed an inline 6-cylinder engine known as the Thriftmaster, featuring a cast-iron construction and a single-barrel carburetor. Three-on-the-tree synchronized speed transmission was mated to the 145 horsepower engine that produced 215 pound-feet of torque.
Dean found the truck in Essex in southeastern England, “The fellow that was working on the truck just botched it and didn’t have a clue of what he was doing so I bought it and put in a new floor and redesigned the body in the back,” said Dean.
“I’ve got a cottage in the countryside of Kent, in the City of Canterbury, which is all country lanes and its all bushes and its narrow so if you’re sitting on the left side the bushes will clump ya’. So if you’re sitting on the right hand side it’s a lot easier.”
This is one of the main reasons Dean moved the steering to the right, besides being the norm for English driving, and also to have a different and unique look.
He installed a “bullet-proof” 7.2 liter Mopar V8 engine with a Holly 4-barrel carb and a commercial automatic gearbox, but even before that, “I sprayed the entire under carriage with a ‘stone chip’ material right in the street.
“In fact, the entire restoration is being done right in the street in front of my house,” said Dean.
The steering assembly came from a ‘60s Ford Transit Van, as did the brakes and some other components.
Dean runs a mechanics shop a few doors down from his flat and all day long customers needing repairs and oil-changes stop by for walk-in service. In between that work, Dean works on his projects with his son. Among those projects was a Range Rover they converted into a convertible. They sold that one.
“People drive me mad to buy ‘me’ projects,” he said. “The Apache truck I could sell every day of the week.”
One of Dean’s other projects was spotted across the street, a bulletproofed 2017 Land Rover Defender 300 TDI nicknamed “the Coffin” was used by the British Army in Afghanistan. Dean uses the massive vehicle for towing and any other big jobs that arise.
Yes, he’s an amazing chap.