Story by Joe Higgins • Photos by Sam Girton
A lung transplant several years ago forced a change in lifestyle upon Don Douglas. It saved his life but it took away his ability to be a carpenter after 28 years in the business. He was no longer able to be around his tools because of the dust and debris. He wasn’t even allowed to cut grass any longer. But what they couldn’t take away was his passion for tinkering with show-quality vehicles.
For 18 years, Douglas, of Chauncey, attended car shows with his yellow Mustang. But around four years ago, he started looking for something else to work on and show. Traveling through Nelsonville one day, he spotted a 1946 International KB1 pickup truck. The sale price of $10,000 was a little high for Douglas but he visited the vehicle a couple more times before making an offer. He eventually purchased the International for $7,000.
The truck had been “built” to some extent already. It was sitting on a 1992 Dodge Dakota frame but the exterior was in primer gray and much of the truck needed work.
Unsure of the truck as it stood, Douglas took it to a car show.
“It was kind of embarrassing,” he said. “It wasn’t car show quality so I took it home and put it in the garage.”
The following weekend, Douglas started to tear down the International. All of the interior features, the walnut bed and the motor were taken away. Bill Adams, of Coolville, built a new engine — a 302 Mustang engine — and revamped its home under the hood. Douglas was able to work on the interior, placing the new covers and creating a new dashboard out of aluminum. He also got to work with his sons, Bub and Brian, on the project. Bub cut all the 45s for the new oak bed and stainless strips were added to conceal the bolts, making the bed one of the highlights of the machine.
Next came paint.
“I looked at the book for the International and it had five different colors it came in originally and they
were all ugly,” Douglas said with a laugh. “I picked fire red with a metallic finish.”
Travis Powell, of Nelsonville, worked the body lines back to peak condition and put down the new paint job. Douglas said Powell did a masterful job.
After about two years, the International was ready to show. Douglas still tinkers with it from time to time but with its reborn look, the truck turns heads everywhere it goes.
“When I drive it, people give a lot of thumbs up and nods. It makes me feel like a younger man,” he said.
Douglas estimates the truck has been in around 40 car shows and has around 30 awards to its credit. He said the bed, paint job and some of the original parts score big with judges and spectators. The truck itself is also unique as Douglas said he’s only seen one other International at a show and added, “No one’s ever seen one like mine.”
Douglas estimated that a brand new version of the truck might have sold for $600 off the line. He said he wouldn’t take any less than $35,000 for his.
“Since I had the transplant, they’ve taken everything away from me … this is the only real hobby I have now,” said Douglas. “It’s a different life but I’m alive, that’s the main thing. These car shows, I really enjoy them. I’d go every day of the week if I could.”