Paso man's '55 Chevy to be on display at Estrella Warbirds car show

Karl Williams has converted his grandfather's 1955 Chevrolet ranch truck into a beast that has six times the power of the stock original.
Karl Williams has converted his grandfather's 1955 Chevrolet ranch truck into a beast that has six times the power of the stock original. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Karl Williams let out a chuckle as he recalled chasing a herd of cattle on his family’s barley ranch in Southern California as a kid, his sister riding in the bed of his grandfather’s 1955 dark green Chevy 3100 as it sped across the field.

Today, that same work truck still sits in Williams’ garage. But it sports a new bright blue exterior flanked with hand painted flames and has won 50 awards in the last five years.

With its heavy lifting days far behind it, the classic Chevrolet is now a car show staple.

“You got to pry me away with a crowbar to get me to not do this stuff,” said Williams, who lives just outside Paso Robles.

The 56-year-old welder plans to showcase the truck Saturday at the Warbirds, Wings & Wheels Car Show, held at the nonprofit Estrella Warbirds Museum in Paso Robles.

He enters the truck in about 20 shows a year, but he says the Warbirds show is one of his favorites because of the local camaraderie.

“A lot of the people who go are the people I grew up with,” he said. “It’s like a little history lesson there. (It’s) so much more than a car show.”

Now in its fifth year, Warbirds, Wings & Wheels features 20 classes of classic vehicles and more than 200 entrants. The museum’s military airplanes, fighter jets, war memorabilia and several building exhibits including one for race cars will also be there.

Several special guests will be on hand for autographs, including Grand National Roadster Hall of Fame member Cole Foster, and father-and-son Hot Rod Hall of Fame members Jim “Bones” Noteboom and Kutty Noteboom.

The mix of airplanes and classic cars makes the show fun for all ages, Williams said.

It took 10 years and close to $200,000 for Williams to rebuild his Chevy, which his dad passed on to him in 1971 as Williams’ first car.

He’s added custom touches to the truck but most body work was made to look as original as possible, including factory-style taillights and a wooden lining in the bed. Williams chose walnut over the painted oak Chevy typically used in flatbeds.

Williams also ramped up the horsepower from its original 115 to 750 and replaced the standard motor to the biggest style Chevy makes.

But not everything on the Chevy is new. Williams kept its original key fob, a worn hunk of faded leather etched with the original dealership’s name alongside “Phone 79.” As he held it to the light, Williams laughed at the phone number being “all of two digits” and said he always enjoyed keeping the truck in the family.

If you go

The fifth annual Warbirds, Wings & Wheels Car Show and Family Fun Day is planned for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Estrella Warbirds Museum, 4251 Dry Creek Road in Paso Robles. The show is free to spectators.

Children’s activities include a bounce house, obstacle course and face-painting fundraiser that costs $1 per ticket to benefit the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps’ Central Coast division. The volunteer-based cadet group works to help youth learn basic seamanship, patriotism and self-reliance.

For more information on the car show, visit www.ewarbirds.org/www5.