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Revitalized pickup a gift with horsepower, heart

By: Gus Thomson of the Auburn Journal
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It was an Auburn Cruise Nite surprise like no other.

Eight months ago, Ed Perez of Grant’s Pass, Ore. had traveled to Newcastle’s Justified Performance in hopes of getting his 1964 pickup running again and looking a little better.

Little did he know, that Justified Performance owner Tommy Williams was thinking of something a little more extensive. Justified Performance is a 1½-year-old shop specializing in modifying trucks, jeeps and other vehicles.

“Do what you can with a little bit of money we have so we can drive it around,” was what Williams said he heard Perez tell him.

But what he was really hearing was inspiration talking.

What eventually emerged was a shiny turquoise eye-catcher that was the result of non-billed after-work shop time and a hankering to do some good.

Williams has family ties to the project. Perez’s wife, Daye, is Williams’ dad’s cousin. The family had limited means but an attachment to a vehicle that they hoped could be part of a heritage for generations to come, Williams said.

The truck has been Perez’s for 20 years but for the past 18, it hasn’t been all-too-roadworthy. Most recently it has been languishing in a field.

“We took on this job knowing that this truck was meant for greatness,” Williams said.

The vision was of a mostly stock do-over with slight custom touches. That would mean leaving things almost all-original, with ever-so-slight hints of custom – a Justified Performance specialty.

With plenty of rust and dents on the body and more work on the bed, interior, drive train and chassis, the overhaul became a project for Williams and his crew at Justified Performance.

With the final Cruise Nite in Auburn on Friday, road testing to ensure the Chevy was ready for driving took place the day before.

Friday evening, Williams strolled with an unsuspecting Perez along Lincoln Way, enjoying the dazzling selection of more than 340 vintage vehicles parked along the roadway. Unknown to Perez, the completed 1964 pickup was parked up ahead.

 Approaching the truck, Williams nonchalantly said to Perez that there was a truck that looked like the same truck as his.

“Then I said, ‘Hey, I think that is your truck,’” Williams said.

A shocked and grateful Perez was soon behind the wheel and circling the exterior, amazed at the TLC and hard work involved.

And as he continued to check out his revamped ride, a Cruise Nite official stepped up to present him with the award for the best-in-show stock vehicle.

While Perez couldn’t be reached for comment Monday, his wife, Daye, said Friday was a memorable night.

“We’re still walking on Cloud 10,” she said.

The pickup will be a family heirloom now, although with three sons, the Perez’s say there may be some tough decisions down the road on who will get it.

In the meantime, Williams and Justified Performance are basking in the glow of a good deed of epic proportions.

“I’ve got a great team behind me,” he said. “It’s really a rewarding experience to give a gift to a family that’s so well-deserving.”