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One glance at a shiny, remodelled antique pickup truck can make any hot rod enthusiast drool.
But for Kiera DeFoort and Kim Stockwood, the antique truck that sits outside each of their homes is not just about shiny chrome, a smooth-running engine and classic lines, or even the monetary value.
Their classic vehicles are worth much more than money. They’re a legacy of love.
Kiera and Kim live on opposite sides of the metro region and have never met, but they share similar stories — each of their classic trucks were gifts from a close, now-deceased, family member, who worked to restore it for them.
Kiera is 12 years old and is years away from getting her driver’s licence, but knows more about her red 1954 Chevy pickup than many experts.
She can’t hide a smile as she walks around it outside her family’s St. John’s home.
“It has five windows, so, it was considered an advanced design,” the articulate preteen said, pointing to the rounded side windows. “(The style of pickup) was only made in 1954 and 1955.”
The truck was owned by her grandfather, Dennis DeFoort, of Winnipeg, who had a life-long dream to restore an old truck. Kiera explains that about 11 years ago, while her grandfather was driving through Northern Bay, Man., he spotted the truck “completely junked” in a field. She said he drove past it every day for a year before he finally stopped and bought it from a farmer, whose father was the last to drive it.
Her grandfather, a mechanic, worked tirelessly on the truck for 10 years, completing the body and mechanical work.
Kiera visited her grandfather when she could and kept in contact with him.
After he unexpectedly died in April from a muscle disease, Kiera’s grandmother called to tell her that her grandfather had left the truck to her.
“It was kind of a shock because I had only ever seen it once, maybe a year before he died,” she said. “But I was really touched by it.”
The family entered the truck in several car shows throughout the province last summer, as well as various events, including Nevaeh’s Lemonade Stand. It will soon be stored for the winter.
It’s also attracting lots of attention from neighbours and passersby. Even photographers have requested to use it as a prop during their sessions, as the antique red truck has become a staple of Christmas, being featured in decorations and other material.
But instead of charging people to use it, Kiera and her family encourage them to donate to the Children’s Wish Foundation.
“But it means so much more to me now once I learned the story of the truck and met Dennis and his daughter,” local photographer Melanie Courage said. “I am so touched by their kindness and I know my clients are, too.”
Kiera looks forward to the day she can drive it. Until then, her father, Dennis DeFoort Jr., will drive her around in it.
“It’s so impressive that I ended up with it,” said the Grade 8 student at Brother Rice Junior High School. “My grandfather could’ve given it to many people, but he chose me. It’s an amazing gift.”
Kim Stockwood, 49, of Paradise, still gets emotional when she speaks about the blue 1947 Ford pickup her father, Milt Stockwood, left to his family.
A well-known hot rod enthusiast in the province, Milt bought the truck about 20 years ago and spent many hours working on it in his garage over the years.
“Oh, he loved showing it off to whoever came over,” said Kim, who has fond memories as young girl going to several car shows with her father. “He put on new headlights, grill, made the rooftop shorter. He was making all kinds of modifications to it. It was 100 per cent custom-made.”
Sadly, when the truck was about 80 per cent completed, complications from cancer meant her father was unable to do the work.
“Dad would sit in his chair in the garage and just stare at it,” Kim said. “I often wonder what he was thinking.”
When her father died in 2010, Kim moved into the family home, where the truck remained in the garage for several years.
Milt’s friends would often pop by to see Kim and her family.
“They’d talk about the good old days with Dad,” she said.
In May, they brought up the idea of getting the truck’s restoration completed. Kim agreed.
She had it towed to a mechanic, Tony Fitzpatrick, in Conception Bay South, a friend of her father’s.
“It wasn’t an easy job and throughout the process, when Tony had a few challenges, the answer would come to him and he’d message me and say, ‘Milt was with me tonight.’ He really felt Dad’s presence helping him through it,” said Kim, adding that much of the truck’s wiring, centre console and bucket seats had to be restored.
Last week, she received word the job was done.
“Oh my God, when I walked into Tony’s shop, I heard the motor running, I can’t even talk about it, it brings me to tears,” said Kim, who began to cry. “I instantly felt like Dad was with me there. For a couple of seconds, it’s like he wasn’t even gone. And Mom (Patricia, who died five months after Milt) too, because she always went on drives with him.
“Tony did such a good job. I was just flabbergasted at the craftsmanship. Dad would have been so proud. I really was blown away.”
She said her father wanted Kim’s son, Devon, now 18, to eventually own the truck when he was 21, but the whole family can appreciate her father’s gift.
“There are just no words,” she said. “To be able to have this piece of my Dad is priceless.”