Mike Keegan really didn't want his 1961 Chevrolet Apache pickup. He thoroughly loves classics, but the gearhead already had more than enough four-wheeled projects to keep his hands full.
But try as he might, his inner desire to help a fellow enthusiast -- and to save this rolling treasure -- got the better of him.
The Barrington resident first came into contact with the truck's owner in 2011. A mutual friend introduced them when a man named Ed was looking for a flatbed truck to move a "family heirloom" from Missouri up to Illinois, Keegan said.
That family relic turned out to be Ed's father's Chevy pickup. It was purchased new and used on the family's farm. To aid in daily duties, Ed's dad opted for the extended 6-foot bed for additional hauling capabilities.
After driving and using the Apache for 10 years, the father parked it in a barn. It remained there for the next 35 years until Ed's interest was rekindled to get the vehicle back on the road.
While Ed possessed a passion for the project, Keegan quickly learned that he was a bit hazy on details. "He thought it was a 1950s Ford with a flathead engine. He was very excited but frankly didn't know a lot." That unfamiliarity almost cost Ed his beloved Chevy.
Five months went by before the truck resurfaced in Keegan's life. "Our mutual friend called again. She was quite concerned that Ed was being taken advantage of," Keegan said.
Apparently, the driver of the shipping company Ed hired had talked him out of keeping it. "He had convinced poor Ed the project would be too costly and it was best to crush the truck."
Once Keegan caught wind of the miscommunication, he raced to retrieve the Apache in a local body shop's yard. "One look and I could tell it wasn't a crushable vehicle," Keegan said. He dutifully brought the pickup back to Ed.
"I explained the project was doable and encouraged him to try. He was so fed up and appreciated my honesty, he wanted me to buy it." Even a more than generous offer couldn't entice Keegan.
Ed remained persistent, eventually dropping the price to a fraction of what the vehicle was worth. Keegan's garage might have been full but he wanted to make sure the Chevy was safe.
"The vehicle was well-preserved and just needed some safety and maintenance issues addressed," he said. Keegan installed new wiring, brakes, brake lines, a master cylinder and a water pump. Four new tires were also installed and the 235-cubic-inch inline six-cylinder's generator was exchanged for an alternator.
All the original bodywork and well-weathered Forest Green paint was retained. A special hand-painted livery was bestowed on the doors.
"A good friend Bob (Thomas) helped with a lot of the mechanical issues. The 'Speed Shop' idea was a tribute to him."
Another active participant in the project has been Keegan's son, Chase.
"I was born in the '50s," Keegan said. "There were guys across my street with '57 Chevy's, white T-shirts and Camel cigarettes. Seeing that stuff leaves an indelible impression. It's important to get kids hooked on cars instead of other things."
Chase's passion for old vehicles and this '61 Chevy should rapidly increase in the months ahead. As soon as Chase gets his permit, Keegan is turning the keys over to him.
"I've had new, shiny trucks, motorcycles and even drag cars, and this is more fun than anything I've driven," Keegan said. "It evokes a lot of memories."