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posted: 9/15/2013 6:00 AM

Boyhood love of trucks remains

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  • 1964 Chevrolet C30 tow truck

      1964 Chevrolet C30 tow truck
    Photos Courtesy of Prestige MotorCar Photography

  • For 45 years, the wrecker towed broken-down racers at Blackhawk Farms Raceway near Beloit.

      For 45 years, the wrecker towed broken-down racers at Blackhawk Farms Raceway near Beloit.

  • Wally Becker has a passion for old Chevy trucks, and owns six of them.

      Wally Becker has a passion for old Chevy trucks, and owns six of them.

  • The interior upholstery has been replaced, but the rest of the cab is in its well-worn, original condition.

      The interior upholstery has been replaced, but the rest of the cab is in its well-worn, original condition.

 
 

As a boy, Wally Becker was kept awake on hot summer nights. His imagination wasn't running wild with nightmarish thoughts, but rather dreams of catching a glimpse of his favorite truck.

The Iron Ridge, Wis., resident's family farm bordered a highway and his bedroom windows would be left open to catch a breeze. "The local garage had a 1960s Chevy wrecker. It was painted black, had the side marker lights and glasspacks on the exhaust.

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"I'd be lying in bed and hear him coming," Becker said. He'd then race to his window, where he'd see the lights approach and the driver whiz by to rescue some motorist.

Those vivid memories stayed with the classic truck enthusiast, who has accumulated a collection of six Chevy trucks, all dating from 1963-66.

He was first alerted to this 1964 Chevrolet C30 tow truck in summer of 2009.

"A friend mentioned the Blackhawk Farms Raceway was getting rid of one of its support trucks," Becker said. Blackhawk Farms is a 1.95-mile road course nestled in the rural community Rockton, near Beloit on the Illinois-Wisconsin border. It wasn't until April of the following year that he was able to contact the owner and promptly make an offer.

The track official was able to provide insight into the truck's service history. The C30 was actively used at the track from the late 1960s through 2010.

"The truck would remove smaller, open-wheeled vehicles from the track. The boom would be stretched out all the way and pick the cars up by their roll cage," Becker said.

While the well-worn Chevy was effective, it's equipment had become outdated. The gear drive power for the winch was quite slow compared to newer models. After getting the vehicle home, Becker took the time to make some alterations.

He removed the banged-up rear bumper, rewired the lighting harnesses and added new wheels and tires. To recall that childhood black beauty, he installed side marker lights and additional lights on the roof and top rack.

Underhood is a 1980s six-cylinder engine. "It runs fine but has no power. The track went through many parts over the years and the stock engine was swapped out at some point."

Another former track employee shed even more light. "There are holes cut in the front of the bed. He told me that years ago the truck had a big V-8, complete with exhausts stacks."

Track workers also added power brakes and a line-lock so the truck wouldn't loose traction when towing.

"The interior was pretty worn. The bench seat had three covers on it -- all were worn through right down to the springs." Becker added new upholstery. Despite being rough around the edges, the Chevy has a solid foundation.

"Underneath is completely rust free. The truck sat in a storage barn over the winter months and was out on nice days during the summer monitoring the track."

It's limited use doesn't change that, at its core, the Chevy is still a utility vehicle. "It's rough going down the road and requires some muscle to steer," Becker said. "The transmission is worn and you have to shift slow to avoid grinding gears."

Despite the effort, Becker is so happy to own the truck, he feels like a kid again when driving it.

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