By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
“It’s not a hot rod by any means,” said Fulton’s Gary Gough, patting the side of his 1963 Ford Econoline pickup.
He had that right. Aesthetically, the truck looks like it has two wheels in the grave: A ribbon of rust circles the thing from its stubby flat-fronted cab all the way around; its paint, which was probably blue at some point, is sun-faded to the point of being white in spots; and the vinyl seats have more cracks than a desert floor. Painted on the side in red and white are the words, “Gary’s Garage, Fulton, MS.”
Strangely, this is exactly how Gough wants his truck to look, to maintain its original … charm?
“Patina …” Gough said, adding a bit of delicate flair to the word. “It has the original patina.”
Patina aside, the truck itself is in a lot better shape than it seems. That old truck has been given the kind of love and attention that most flashy vehicles only dream about … if vehicles could dream, that is. Under the hood, the thing is all new. And though the interior looks a bit like a junkyard threw up in it — a soap dish acts as a change holder; a piece of metal subs for a rear-view mirror; old signs make up the floorboard — it’s all by design.
Prior to finding itself parked on Gough’s front lawn, the Econoline spent its days at Columbus Air Force Base.
“It’s never been out of Mississippi since it got here,” Gough said. “It’s been an Air Force truck all its life.”
Gough said he bought the truck from a friend eight years ago. It didn’t look much better then than it does now, and he absolutely loved it. He rode the thing until its giddy-up gave up.
“I got out one morning, and it wouldn’t hit a lick,” Gough said. “Wouldn’t run; wouldn’t try to run. I drove it ‘til it died.”
As he is used to doing, Gough began to tinker. It’s kind of his thing.
“I like to gather pieces of junk and put them together,” Gough explained. “I’ve been doing it all my life.”
Step into Gough’s garage, brimming with the kinds of yard sale finds most people just bypass, and it’s easy to see what he means. For example, the back wall is lined with stacked buckets full of furniture legs. He reached into one tub full of junk and pulled out the dismembered lever of a beer tap. He held it out in open air and pulled it down as if filling a mug.
“This is my paint department,” he said, motioning toward several lines of shelves, each loaded with paint cans in a crayon box worth of colors.
He uses all of that junk to make … well, fancier junk. All of those old furniture legs will eventually be used to create new tables and chairs and desks, mishmashed Frankenfurniture that will eventually find its way into the homes of people with similar eclectic tastes as Gough. It’s not about looking new; it’s about being new but looking old. Like the Econoline.
“First, we were recycling; then, refinishing; then, repurposing; then going green. Now, we’re upcycling,” Gough said.
“It’s kind of like, I’m not bald … I’m follicle-ly challenged,” he said.
What’s the appeal? Why put all that work into fixing something up that’s not going to be fixed up at all?
Uniqueness, Gough said.
“This kind of stuff is not for everybody,” he admitted. But it is for some: Gough said there’s a whole group of car enthusiasts who go for this kind of rundown look. It’s called a “rat rod,” he said.
“Everybody wants something their neighbors don’t have,” Gough said.
He nodded toward that old/new truck of his.
“Anybody can have a nice, shiny hot rod,” he said. “More than likely, you’re not going to roll up on something that looks like this anytime soon.”