Painted to Perfection

May 1, 2008
’41 Chevy flatbed now stars in parades

Tom Heath’s reputation tends to get him into some interesting paint situations. Thanks to his spray gun skills, some pretty strange items have ended up in his collision repair shop—T-N-T Auto Body—needing a new coat. Things like a weight bench, a little red wagon, even a cherry picker. Not one to discriminate, Heath dutifully restores them all to their original luster.

But he saves his energy for his true passion: restoring cars. And one of the biggest, baddest trucks ever to cross his path is the 1941 Chevrolet one-and-a-half ton flatbed he restored in 2006.

Luckily, the truck was in driving condition when Heath got it, courtesy of the mechanical work that Speevy’s Garage in Contoocook, N.H., did on the Chevy’s original six-cylinder, 250 horsepower engine with four-speed standard transmission. But before Heath could get to the fun part—the painting, of course—he had to do some serious work on the truck’s damaged body. That’s where he met his biggest challenge. He had to remove the dents that revealed the truck’s cattle-hauling past.

“Metal like that is pretty tough. It’s not like the cars nowadays that are like beer cans,” he says. Removing the dents required about as much force as one might imagine the truck’s four-legged passengers used to put them there. Heath used a dolly and hammer to get some of the dents out, but he had to use a pin welder for the tougher ones. Once everything was sanded down, dents smoothed and holes filled, Heath put his painting prowess to the test.

Heath first found he had a natural gift for bodywork during his early twenties, when painters at the shop where he washed cars needed a little help. They asked Heath to try his hand spray-painting a car. “They let me go to town ... and the next thing I knew I was a full-time painter,” he says. Some might call a situation like that fate, but Heath just calls it luck.

The ’41 Chevy truck is truly a work of art, displaying Heath’s natural dexterity with the paint gun. The two-tone purple and blue paint on the body makes the truck so distinctive that it has become a fixture in local parades. Despite the eye-catching exterior, the little touches noticeable only upon closer inspection make the truck truly special. The blue engine compartment, painted to fit the truck’s overall color scheme, and the metallic pewter painted floor and dashboard are a testament to Heath’s eye for detail.

Heath spent about six months getting the truck to look like it does today, although he spent just one week painting. Finding time to work on a side project like the truck can be tricky since Heath’s healthy collision repair business keeps him pretty busy. That’s especially true during harsh winters like this past one, when some serious snowfall sent drivers sliding.

“I had so much collision work in March. I was working seven days a week,” Heath says. And Heath’s wife, at least, was looking forward to his schedule letting up a bit. She wants him to spend more time on another special side project—a ’67 Mustang coupe customized just for her.

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