Red, White, And Ready: Jim Paxton’s 1969 GMC K1500

Within the past 50 years, a phenomenon has occurred with regard to trucks – what were once affordable workhorses born and bred for hard lives and harsh conclusions, are now super-expensive and sometimes quite lavish vehicles. To put it simply, the way we’ve treated trucks has changed.

Nowhere was this more evident than at the 4Wheel Jamboree in Indianapolis, Indiana. Here, where rust eats anything that hasn’t already blown away in the wind, off-roaders and truck enthusiasts got together to celebrate the ‘froading lifestyle.

Lifted, red, and poised for off-roading, Jim's GMC was a sight to behold at the 4Wheel Jamboree in Indianapolis, Indiana.

One such enthusiast was Jim Paxton. He brought out his 1969 GMC K1500, looking pretty and ready for any mud hole or hill climb. We took one look at this magnificent machine and had to know more.

Background of the Build

The tale of the GMC begins in Jim’s high school days. “A friend of mine came over to the house with a 1961 International Harvester Scout,” he said. “I looked out the window at it, and man, it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.”

It was from that moment that Jim knew he had to have his own 4×4. The young man went out and purchased his own Scout, this one a 1968 model year. “I’ve owned four-wheel-drives ever since,” said Jim. “Almost 40 years later, I still can’t get over ’em!”

You can imagine the sorts of rigs Jim has been through in that much time. Suffice it to say, tons and tons.

“Prior to this GMC, I had a Jeep that I’d sold,” said Jim. “I wanted to build more of a classic truck for a change. I was actually hoping for the generation prior to this – 1960-66 – and I wanted it in four-wheel-drive. Sadly, I couldn’t find one. It wasn’t until I found this ’69 and fixed it all up that I found one just down the street from me. Oh well!”

In 2004, Jim knew a local who was an enterprising car seller. “He would fly out to California and Arizona, buy a truck, bring it back here to Indiana, and sell it,” said Jim. “These were rust-free trucks, a little beat-up, but rust-free and great platforms for restoration.”

Although it was not Jim's favorite GM truck generation (that being the 1960-66 body style), Jim made the most of his investment, restoring the GMC from the frame up.

Jim talked to the man and learned that he had a white 1969 at his brother’s house in Indy. It started, but couldn’t idle for long, and had damage to the rear window. It was also low-slung and had broken exhaust hangers. “I went back to my wife and said, ‘That’s the truck for me,'” he explained. “I immediately bought it on the spot.”

The Build Begins

Keys in hand and truck on driveway, Jim was ready to take his project head-on and get the GMC looking and driving like a champion. Little by little, adjustments and repairs were made to bring the truck back to its former glory.

“I put a new exhaust system on it, as well as a lift kit,” said Jim. “I took care of problems in the front end, replacing the kingpin bearings and drum brakes. After that, I drove it around for a couple of years, like I would with any other vehicle.”

"I've done as much work underneath the truck as I have on top," said Jim. It was here that we noticed the Dana 44 axles, Magnaflow exhaust, Rancho shock absorbers, and other nice details given an extra dash of care and attention.

It finally struck Jim one day that he would restore the GMC. After all, it was the man’s dream to have a beautiful ’60s GM truck, and what better to work on than what you already have?

“I took the truck out to a body repair specialist in Gwynneville, Indiana,” said Jim. “He did all of the body work and paint for me. We replaced the metal that was beat-up, and thankfully, there wasn’t any rust to fight with. Every nut and bolt we pulled out came right off like it was supposed to.”

Taking The Next Steps

For a while, Jim was pleased with the GMC. He finally decided to take the plunge one day in 2009 and do a full restoration. The body and bed were removed from the truck’s chassis, and were placed on a trailer and taken into a storage unit. “Everything else was completely ripped apart,” said Jim.

Down to the last nut and bolt of the GMC, everything was “chromed, powder coated, or painted,” according to Jim. It’s this level of effort and dedication that he’s most proud of, and played into his decision to bring mirrors to the 4Wheel Jamboree, so people could view the beauty underneath. “There are other vehicles here that are just as nice, but this is mine,” he said. “I’m very happy with it.”

Jim's guiding vision for the truck was to manifest what an "SS" trim package would look like on a '60s GM half-ton.

Starting with the powertrain, the GMC has a stock 350 SBC V8 under the hood. Jim gave it a Pete Jackson gear drive, known for their infamous but iconic noise. It also has dual Edelbrock carburetors and Hedman headers. Beyond that, it’s all stock.

“Back in the day, these trucks had oil canisters that stored the oil,” said Jim. “I had that removed and installed an adapter, so I could use an ordinary oil filter from a parts store.”

The small-block, 350 cubic-inch V8 is fitted with Hedman headers, dual Edelbrock carburetors, and a Pete Jackson gear drive to freshen it up and keep it running for life. All other pieces are stock, with some nice touches like powder coating or stainless steel.

Mated to the small-block V8 is a Turbo 350 automatic transmission, which Jim controls with a B&M shifter. The transfer case is an NP205, which splits the power to both front and rear Dana 44 axles. The gear ratio is set at 3.73:1, offering a nice balance of highway economy and off-road grunt. The power makes its way to 15-inch Pro Comp 69 Series wheels, wrapped in 35-inch Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ tires – white letters out, of course.

The bed was a special spot of restoration. Made with planks of red oak, it's exquisite to look at and almost too nice to load stuff into.

LED lighting was used for the headlights and taillights. Billet aluminum hood hinges from Ringbrothers allow the hood to go up and down smoothly. As for the interior, Jim had the work outsourced to Kent Upholstery in Beech Grove, Indiana. “We used the stock bench seat and reupholstered it in matching colors with the exterior,” explained Jim.

Asked what his favorite part about the truck was, Jim joked, “It’s mine.” After some careful thought, he said, “I like that it’s got my personal touches on it – the cowl induction hood, the rally stripes, the hinges. It’s different, and I’ve never seen another one like it.”

“The biggest thing you want to show on a truck like this is the attention to detail,” Jim commented. “The cover on the master cylinder is powder coated. The hose clamps are stainless steel.”

Jim has no plans to ever sell the truck. Instead, he hopes to pass it on to his son.

In Jim’s mind, the truck is still a work in progress. Prior to the Jamboree, he had installed the hood hinges. “It’s always little things here and there,” he commented. “I’ve got other stuff in mind after I get it back home. I’ll find something new to do to it. In a couple of years, I might do a complete color change and swap the white for the background and put red stripes down the middle.”

And it seems like Jim plans on always keeping it that way. “The day I’m done with this truck is the day I put a ‘FOR SALE’ sign on it,” he said. “And it will never have that sign on it!”

With all of the work and effort put into this GMC, it’s no small wonder that it’s a rolling success story. We salute Jim and the others who had a hand in its creation. It paid off beautifully, and now, we all can enjoy the beauty of one more 1960s pickup.

About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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