By Angelo Van Bogart
Old Cars has featured many barn finds, garage discoveries and storage locker unearthings, but it’s been decades since there’s been an honest-to-goodness “behind the wall” find.
Mark Buttles’ significant other, Becky Sharpe, was surfing the local online classifieds earlier this year and stumbled upon a 1930 Chevrolet roadster pickup for sale in Oconomowoc, Wis. Knowing Mark likes to sniff out old iron both with and without wheels, Becky showed him the truck. What really caught Mark’s eye was the rusty old gas pump behind the truck. Seeing this as a potential “two for” deal, Mark reached out to the seller. The truck had been posted only minutes earlier, but there was already someone else interested.
“I messaged him asking about the gas pump and about the truck and he called and said the first guy wanted to hot rod it,”’ Mark said. “It came up as we were talking that I like original paint, original interior, and he said, ‘That is what this is. You are the second caller. The first guy wanted to hot rod it so I blew him off.’”
Mark and Becky hustled down to check out the truck and the gas pump as soon as they could and got the lowdown on the rare old Chevy.
It had been bought new by an Oconomowoc heating and plumbing company that used it for many years, although its name on the passenger door has been all but lost to surface patina. Eventually, a local man bought it, then stashed it at the back of his garage, walling it inside and making it impossible to get the truck out. Only a few people knew it had been hidden there for several decades.
When the man died last fall, some of his friends and acquaintances came to purchase his muscle car collection from his daughter. Meanwhile, the Chevy remained walled up in the garage.
“When somebody asked about the truck, she said, ‘Yeah, it’s still behind the wall.”
One of those acquaintances bought the truck and was bent on getting it out and trying to make it run. He did just that and then listed it for sale earlier this year. That’s when Mark and Becky spotted it.
“The guy wanted to hear it run before he got rid of it, and it ran, but barely,” Mark said.
Mark really wanted the gas pump, but he knew his friend, David Geisler of Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo, S.D., would be interested in the truck. Geisler told Mark to buy the truck and a package deal was worked out for the pair. Mark was also charged with working out the truck’s bugs.
“It woke up real easy,” Mark said. “So the guy must have preserved it before he parked it. Usually I find sticky valves, but he must have oiled it up real well.”
Mark also quickly tuned it up, adjusted the valves and rebuilt the fuel system with parts he sourced from buddy Bob Marsh. The wooden steering wheel was also broken, so Robert Whitmoyer of Pennsylvania sent him pieces to make the original wheel whole again. Now the truck runs like a top and turns heads in its unrestored condition.
While Mark was cruising around a car show this summer, someone spotted the truck and wanted it more than Geisler or Mark and it was sold. This truck story has a happy ending, though.
“It’s now sitting in Woodstock, Ill.,” Mark said. “A big collector bought it, and aside from new tires and maybe a top, he is going to leave it just the way it is.”
As for the gas pump, it’s safely in Mark’s collection.
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