A Bargain 1951 Chevy Pickup

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Nestor Daza finds great gratification in restoring a dilapidated, forgotten vehicle to better-than-new condition.

Whether he’s getting behind the wheel of his 1951 Chevy pickup, his 1925 Ford Model T, or his 1965 Chevy Impala, he takes pride in knowing he’s the one that toiled countless hours to return the vehicles to their former glory.

“I like when the people smile and see the cars,” says Daza, who owns a 5,000-square-foot nook of a repair center called N.O.D. Body Shop in south San Francisco. “I like when people ask if they can take a picture.”

And each of the cars was a bargain that pretty much landed in Daza’s lap, he says. Because he got them for so little, he was able to invest in quality restorations.

The Stalled Project

Daza, who fell in love with classic cars growing up in Colombia, bought his first restoration project shortly after opening his shop in 2002.

A customer brought in a ’51 Chevy he intended to restore, but he ran into money problems and the project stalled, so he sold it to Daza for $4,500. The truck had some minor rust, but it was fairly straight. Still, Daza decided to perform a complete frame-off restoration.

He worked on it nights and weekends, and his seven-person crew worked on it during downtime at the shop, which deals mostly in repairing rental vehicles.

“Sometimes I stayed until midnight working on the panels,” Daza says.

The frame was powder coated, the chrome was redone and everything that was beyond repair was replaced with a new part. The original 235-cubic-inch engine was rebuilt and mated to the factory three-speed manual transmission.

Daza sprayed the truck himself in a vibrant yellow that grabs plenty of attention on the street. He even put the truck on his business cards, which he hands out to admirers during parking lot photo ops.

The Time Capsule

Daza’s second project was a surprisingly unmolested ’25 Ford, which a realtor friend found in a client’s garage.

The owner was a widow who said the car had been sitting for decades, Daza says. She wanted $5,000 for it and Daza didn’t hesitate to make the purchase. While he was loading it on a trailer in the driveway, the woman’s neighbor came out and offered $12,000 on the spot, but Daza knew he had a rare find and refused to give up the car.

The original four-cylinder engine fired after nothing more than an oil change and was left alone. Daza worked with a Model T historian to bring the rest of the car back to new, since parts and repair resources are hard to find. Daza again sprayed the car himself, in a classic two-tone black and silver.

It took him a while to get the hang of driving the car, since its configuration is not conventional. But it’s probably the most fun of all of his cars to get on the road, he says.

“It’s fun to drive because most of the people love the car,” Daza says. “I’m always happy when I drive that car.”

The Show Stopper

Nothing turns heads in California like a vintage ragtop Impala.

Daza bought his ’65 for $10,000 from an employee in financial trouble. It was already partially complete, but Daza replaced the floor and quarter panels, redid the chrome and for a third time painted it himself, this time in a burnt copper color.

With a modern version of the legendary 409-cubic-inch engine, it’s got plenty of brawn and a sound to match. Plus it has an aftermarket suspension and big chrome wheels to help give it the West Coast look.

Daza says the Impala is always turning heads and it recently starred in a friend’s daughter’s 15th birthday celebration.

During the last decade, Daza and his employees have sunk countless hours into his projects and he estimates they’ve cost him about $100,000. But to him, that’s money well spent.

“Most other [classic car] owners just buy their cars,” Daza says. “The good thing to do is to build it and enjoy it.”

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