1959 Chevrolet Apache - Airborn Express

This ’59 Apache flies down the quarter-mile in under 10-seconds, and can win a show just as quickly

Terry Molin Jan 28, 2014 0 Comment(s)
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There's something awe-inspiring about seeing a 4,500-lb pickup truck launch with the wheels in the air. As you follow it down the quarter-mile and see it run high 9s at just under 140 mph, you can only shake your head. But when you see it up close and realize it is show-quality as well … let us tell you, sometimes you can't set up a photo shoot fast enough.

This was the case with Ken Clark's remarkable '59 Apache truck. We wanted to feature it the first time we laid eyes on it at the Memphis Super Chevy Show in 2012, but it wasn't until the '13 event that we could capture this hauler for posterity.

The entire build started out with a casual conversation, according to Ken. "I was at a race talking about building an old truck. A buddy told me that if I wanted a 1959 Chevy pickup, to come get it out of his pasture. No charge, just haul it off."

1959 Chevrolet Apache 2/10

What's that old saying, "Beware of people offering free vehicles?" This was just the beginning.

After a quick evaluation, Ken realized the truck was in rough shape and more parts would be needed. Word spread and another friend located two more trucks. "The guy that owned these said if you want any parts you have to haul both trucks off, again, at no charge," Ken says. The best parts were chosen from the three and the build started.

A project of this magnitude has to be put in the hands of a multifaceted shop. The shop of choice was Tag's Hot Rod Shop in conjunction with Clark Racing. Both shops are out of Brandon, Mississippi. Interestingly enough this build was kind of a family affair. Tag's Hot Rod is run by Bob Taggart (father of three boys). One of his boys (Ryan) works with him at the shop. They were responsible for the frame/chassis/suspension. In addition, Ryan handled the audio installation and Bob custom built the console. Bobs other two sons are Chris and Roger. They work at Ken's show, Clark Racing. Roger, along with Jamie Berry, handled paint and body duties. The motor build involved Tony Barker and Chris.

Because this was a frame-off build, the frame was stripped and boxed for strength. Fit with a Heidts Mustang II front end, including rack-and-pinion, followed by a Speedway swaybar from King Racing. Afco springs and QA1 shocks were used dropping the front 4-inches. Stopping comes via Wilwood 13-inch rotors and four-piston calipers.

In the rear, a Chris Alston four-link was installed. Like the front, Afco springs and Q1A Shocks were used, netting a drop of 6-inches at this end. Stopping duties are handled by Wilwood 11.75-inch rotors and four-piston calipers. The back-half is attached to a 9 inch rear housing narrowed to 39-inches, containing Strange axles and a 4.56 gear.

1959 Chevrolet Apache Front 3/10
We've put the truck in five car shows and taken four Best in Shows and one Best Engine.

The wheel of choice was the Weld Aluma Star 2.0 788 series. Up front they picked a pair that measured 15x6-inches, with a 3.5-inch backspace. The rear was a massive 15x15, using a 5-inch backspace. Tires on the front are Mickey Thompson Sportsman Flame at (24.5x5); in the rear are Hoosier Quick Time Pros (33.0x18.5).

When you approach this flawless '59, the cowl hood gives a sense of something special under it. When the hood is lifted, there is a moment of confusion. This is due to the glare of chrome that blinds you. Once everything comes into focus there is 1,000 hp staring back at you. This was accomplished by taking a big-block Chevy and boring it to 4.6 inches and installing a Calies ultra billet crank stroked to 4.25 inches. This comes out to 565 cubic inches. The cylinders are filled with Diamond pistons and topped with Brodex BB2 Plus aluminum heads. This combo nets an 8:1 compression ratio.

Handling the cam duties is a solid roller Comp Cams bumpstick. It's boasting 310 degrees of duration on intake and 320 degrees of duration on exhaust. Maximum lift is .750-inch on the intake and exhaust. The intake manifold is a Weiand blower intake topped by a Weiand 8-71 polished supercharger. It's producing 12 lbs. of boost. Providing the fuel/air mixture are two Williams 1050 cfm carburetors. The carburetors breathe through K&N air filters. Exhaust gases exit through Hooker 2 1/8-inch Super Comp ceramic coated headers, then entering a custom 3.5-inch exhaust that is attached to Schoenfeld mufflers. For back up an NOS blower plate was used. This allows an additional 200 hp from the big-block, though it's never been used at the track.

The transmission of choice is a Chevy Turbo 400. Steve Evans with Transmission Rebuilders out of Jackson, Mississippi assembled it. A reverse pattern value body was installed with three forward gears and a transbrake. Shifter duties come via a Hurst Quarter stick. A BTE torque converter was used with 4,500 rpm stall.

Sans the N20, the Apache had covered the quarter-mile at a best of 9.80 at 139 mph—that's wheels up at a race weight of just about 4,500-lbs.

When it came time for bodywork and paint, the '59 needed some major reconstruction. The bed had to be tubbed and cleared for the four-link. Aluminum diamond plate was used for the floor. The bed rails are boxed for a clean look and the tailgate has hidden latches. Finishing the rear is a custom chrome bumper deleting the tag bracket. Up front the stock steel hood had a cowl welded to it. This allowed clearance for the chrome show underneath. Multiple cycles of priming and block sanding prepared the body for House of Kolor (Black).

1959 Chevrolet Apache 10/10

On the inside, Melly Upholstery (Brandon, Mississippi) was enlisted to reupholster the Scat seats, door panels and console. Material of choice was black leather with alligator inserts. Other interior enhancements include one piece electric windows, a one-off center console, Auto Meter Ultra Lite gauges, a Digital Delay box, and a custom steering wheel that matches the wheels.

Audio is provided from an AM/FM CD, DVD player. It feeds video to a monitor and audio to a 1000 watt Rockford Fosgate Punch amp. The amplifier feeds (4) Rockford Fosgate 6.5" Punch speakers and (2) Xtreme XT Slim 12-inch subs.

When asked if he's had the opportunity to show the vehicle of, Ken replied, "We've put the truck in five car shows and taken four Best in Shows and one Best Engine."

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