Ken Beasley was looking for a truck to help on his and his wife, Margie’s, hobby farm just east of Sanger.

Then he stumbled upon an old 1948 Chevy three-quarter ton flatbed, or “stakebed,” bought new from a Chevy dealer in Clovis. He had to have it, presenting the truck to Margie on her birthday.

“She loves trucks,” he said.

The couple used it to haul hay and do some other jobs. Then Ken got into the fixing up the bed and kept going.

“One thing led to another,” he said. “It’s been a labor of love.”

The original split rims were kept and painstakingly refinished. All chrome was sent to New Age Metal Finishing in Fresno to be made shiny and better than new. The body was straightened, its rust rehabilitated and subsequently coated with green paint by a legend in the business — Finis Fortney.

“It was one of his last jobs,” Ken Beasley said. Fortney operated an auto body and paint shop for years before he died last year.

The ‘48 drew a lot of interest March 2 at the Blossom Festival Car Show in downtown Sanger. “This your truck?” a man asked of Beasley. When Beasley said yes, the man added, “Beautiful.”

The Beasley farm truck won Best of Show.

“I love the old cars,” Beasley said. “Always have. Kids love it. It’s quite the deal.

“Pretty rare for a truck like this to be fixed up. You don’t see too many original flatbeds.”

And he’s right. Few people mess with big trucks. Cars get the nod for original restoration more often. Trucks, if they’re chosen, usually get a full customization and upgrades to the suspension, wheels and running gear.

Another rare vehicle also proved to be a crowd favorite. Gregg Hernandez of Fresno said he was always a big fan of “Highway Patrol,” which aired from 1955 to 1959. The television drama starred Broderick Crawford, Art Gilmore and William Boyett and included the catch phrase, “Powerful patrol cars, fast motorcycles and superheterodyne two-way radios combine to fight crime on the rural highways of America’s wide open spaces.”

Hernandez said he bought his 1955 Buick Special for $250. It came with an original 322 cubic inch “Nailhead” engine, so named for the unusual vertical alignment of its small-sized valves. The powerplant enabled it to develop high torque, which was considered exceptional for the time.

“It was sitting in a carport with four flat tires,” he said. “I bought it in 1989 from an ad in the classic car section of the Fresno Bee classifieds. Ever since I was in grammar school, I liked the ‘56 Buick. My sister’s boyfriend had a yellow and white one, and I just fell in love with it.”

Kids from the neighboring foot races kept coming over to Hernandez’s classic car and remarking about how cool it looked with its Highway Patrol logo on the doors and black and white paint job. Their moms took pictures.

“Want to sit in the driver’s seat?” Hernandez asked one family.

“Sure,” they said.

He opened the door. It didn’t creak or groan like an old car. It was more than willing to allow a younger generation behind the wheel.

Hernandez said he can only drive it in parades or in very limited use like the day of the car show because it looks so much like a police car. Of course, it looks nothing like the Ford Explorers and various  SUVs used by today’s highway patrol.

“It’s a big hit wherever it goes,” he said.

The carnival nearby drew squeals of happiness from children. The little train hauled people up and down the closed off streets and vendors offered everything from food (the sweet rolls were heavenly)  to services.

Newly elected congressman T.J. Cox made an appearance, and the Apachapella choir performed at least three songs.

“Blue skies,” Tammy Wolfe, president and chief executive of the Sanger Chamber of Commerce, said. “I’m so happy.

Those skies lasted until that afternoon.

The reporter can be contacted by email at nemethfeatures@gmail.com or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.

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