Restored and ready

Monday, September 20, 2004

By Julia Metelski ~ Southeast Missourian

Robert Pecaut Sr. can hardly bear the thought of ever parting with his teal green 1954 Chevrolet pickup. Every crevice and curve has been lovingly restored to near-perfect condition, and vital parts have been painstakingly modified to yield a sleeker, glossier version of the once dull and rusted farming truck.

Pecaut, of Perryville, Mo., proudly displayed his modified creation Sunday at the River City Rodders' 27th annual car show at Capaha Park. It was among 150 cars from five states that were judged in 36 classes.

"Just when you go fishing, you try to catch the biggest fish," the 76-year-old Pecaut said about competing in shows. "When you show cars, you try to have the biggest trophies."

Though it did not win best of show, his truck has placed in every show since it debuted in 2001, he said, including Sunday when his truck placed first in modified two-wheel-drive trucks, 1949 to 1957.

Old vehicles can be restored to run, to race and to display. Having grown up as a mechanic, Pecaut said, he chose to update an older truck with parts from newer cars rather than restore it to its original look.

"It's just a challenge," he said.

With the help of his three sons, Pecaut has replaced several parts of the truck with parts from other Chevrolet models. The truck went from a six-cylinder, three-speed straight shift to a V8 automatic transmission passenger car that has a 1978 Monte Carlo front suspension, power brakes and steering, disk brakes, a 1970 Camaro rear end, a tilt-turn wheel and a Monte Carlo instrument cluster, just to name a few changes.

The truck's appeal is largely the neatness, Pecaut said, because judges are impressed with older cars that are restored to showroom quality.

River City Rodders member Scott Morton said that cars past 1990 are not judged but are allowed to sit on display.

Eighteen-year-old Jill Sneathen of Cape Girardeau has won awards with her black 2000 Ford Mustang, yet she displayed it Sunday just to get the exposure and experience, she said. Her parents' green 1970 Ford Mustang Boss and silver 1970 Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500 were judged also.

Even though she was not going to win a trophy, she said, other parts of the car show were more fun anyway.

"The drive over here is just the best part," Sneathen said, especially when she assesses the favorite part of her Mustang.

"My favorite part is when you sit behind the steering wheel and see the hood scoop," she said, because it has so much performance. Modifications include the hood scoop, which looks like a raised vent, a roll bar, side scoops and chrome wheels.

The love of Mustangs became a family affair when her father bought his first Boss in the 1970s, she said. Her first memory of a car show was at 4 years old. She has attended at least 50 car shows since then.

Sneathen's father owns and operates Sneathen Enterprises, a car maintenance shop, so she has absorbed quite a bit of knowledge, which attracted guys during high school, she said.

"I seemed like the one they came and talked cars with," she said.

335-6611 extension 127

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