In the great world of automotive excellence one can easily admire flashy foreign cars, Detroit muscle cars, digitalized hybrid custom creations and off-the-rack kit cars, but if you take the time to look really close, you can also admire an original like Richard Aki’s 1957 Chevrolet step side pickup.
Richard Aki is the president of the Kaua‘i Classic Car Club and bought his customized Chevy step side 25 years ago from his friend “Atta-boy” after the truck’s front end was damaged and left to hibernate in a garage. One day Aki discovered the pickup and offered to buy it but the owner refused to sell. Then an agreement was reached with Aki trading his ’79 Chevy 4-wheel drive for the ‘57 Chevy pickup.
It took Aki three years to restore and customize his ‘57 “ride” taking the truck down almost to the frame. He rebuilt the 350 Chevy V8 and automatic transmission, adding a 1971 Camaro front end with disc brakes. Then he reworked the aging body, adding new fenders, an original chrome grille, new front and rear bumpers, a pair of custom tail lights purchased in Reno, Nevada and a powered French antennae kit.
Aki next chose a royal blue paint color from a 1985 Ford pickup and added a special red tint to the final mix giving his 1957 pickup a truly first class body color. “The downside of this custom paint job is whenever there is a scratch; it cannot be repainted with the same color effect” Aki said, adding, “This means one of these days I’m going to have to change my truck to a brand new color.”
Aki’s nephew free-hand painted the incredible “Ghost Flame” design on the body and a really sharp pin striping was painted to the sides by former Kaua`i resident Alan Perriera. “Likeke”, the Hawaiian name for Richard, was also hand painted on Aki’s ‘57 dream machine adding a nice personal touch.
Finally, a custom bone-white tonneau cover created by Sharky at Kaua`i Canvas was snapped on to the bed completing a genuine rodder-style look to Aki’s retro-ride.
“I have to tip my hat to my future son-in-law, Pancho Lopez for detailing my truck every week. It’s nice to always have my truck in beautiful condition whenever I want to take it out for a show or a parade,” Aki said with a warm smile.
Aki stores his prize truck in his garage and only drives it out for local auto shows, parades, and Kaua`i Custom Car Club meetings at the Wal-Mart parking lot on the last Sunday of every month.
Both Richard Aki and Harvey Maeda are the driving force behind the Kaua`i Custom Car Club and Aki describes how they first met during a Kamehameha Day parade in Lihu`e. Aki said, “We had around fifteen cars gathered together at the top of Rice St. and were watching the parade when Harvey Maeda drove past. He stopped and asked, “Hey! Can I join you folks?” We said, “Sure,” so Harvey drove home and returned with his Model T, then we talked story for hours. The Kaua`i Custom Car Club came about after a guy named Squeaky Sugitan who owned a Ford T-bucket with a 450 engine, suggested they go cruising with their classics around the island together and then keep on meeting every month. The club has been meeting ever since.
Aki said anyone who would like to share their classic auto may find out more information by calling him at 482-0688. Those interested can also reach Harvey Maeda at 651-2813 or via e-mail at [email protected]
To view a short video of Richard Aki’s 1957 Chevy step side truck look for “video” at kauaiworld.com
• Leo DuBois, contributor, can be reached via news editor Nathan Eagle at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or via e-mail at [email protected]