The Legend and build of my 1961 Econoline - The Yeti

If you've been following along on Instagram @thehulagirls or on Facebook, you have certainly seen my truck pop up on there a bunch...

I bought my 1961 Econoline from a biker in Fontana, CA, August of 2011. I had seen the truck a year earlier, during a car show at my former place of work (Hurley surfwear). I just happened to park my '62 Thunderbird right next to it. In fact, this photo (to the right) is from that day. I thought the truck was odd, but absolutely incredible.

I never expected to end up buying the Econoline, though I was lusting over it that day. A year later, I think I paid $5600 for it. Driving that death trap home to Costa Mesa from Fontana on the freeway was one of the scariest things I think I had ever done...

The subsequent years of driving it every day as my daily driver consisted of harrowing situations like the throttle being stuck wide open on PCH, the battery (which resides under the driver's seat) catching fire, spinning out in the rain, and a host of other terrifying situations. I've been under it, more than I've been in it. I've spent more time broken down on the side of the road, and more time driven home on the back of flatbeds than anyone else I know... but I could never bring myself to sell it. 

Although one time, my buddy Josh, and I, went and looked at an equally scary 1958 Edsel panel sedan to potentially trade for the Econoline. The Edsel had a habit of throwing you into oncoming traffic every time you tapped the brakes. I think it was a proportioning valve issue or something. When we got back from the test drive and I looked at my little black Econoline, I couldn't even consider the trade. I had since built him up into a tough, roadworthy little vehicle that looked good and performed pretty well.

Bumperettes, a narrowed '53 Pontiac bumper for the rear, and straight Lake pipes were added by my myself and my buddy, Josh. We also cut out the rot that had eaten through the side rockers and welded up replacement panels. We lowered the panels about 4" though. I also fabricated a tonneau cover and had it upholstered. 

So at that point, it was either paint and finish the truck, or try to move on from it. The decision was clear. With help and motivation from my good buddies Josh Winderman (@thedayolds), Cole Harper, and paint by Matt Means of Anaheim Rod and Custom, we came up with something pretty incredible.

But first the build...

I had given the truck a series of bad, quick driveway paint jobs over the years. I'm sure the neighbors were excited about those... The paint would last about a year before it started flaking and chipping.

Finally, I decided that it was time to do it right...

This was the beginning of a solid month of self torture in the hot, shadeless RV parking space on the side of my house.

I wouldn't wish this kind of work on anyone.


Sanding the truck down to the steel started showing some concerning issues. Like rot by the windshield and a ton of bondo all over the truck...

Every once in a while, I'd drive the truck over to Josh's shop to have him help with welding and doing custom stuff. One night, he said that we should do a custom dash in the truck...

He had an old '58 Edsel gauge cluster that we thought would look cool in the center. So we got to cutting and fitting...

He also had the rear surround from a '61 Ranchero. we figured that could help reshape the dash. It has a nice concave to the square tubing which adds a little aesthetic detail.

We cut out some paper to use as templates for the sheet metal that would skin the dash.

Used a plasma cutter to cut the sheet metal for the dash skin.

Forming and shaping the metal...

Tacking the sheet metal for the dash. Josh doesn't like welding masks... He just kinda closes his eyes when he pulls the trigger.

Okay, he uses welding goggles when he does long stretches of welding...

Grinding and shaping...

Cutting and fitting the pieces that fill the cluster... 

Without asking him to, he also took a second to fabricate a custom stick shift.

It's pretty weird.... but super ergonomic and super rad.

...and back at home, more tedious dealing with rust and filler...

Dyna-glass to fill the seams...

...and filler.... late at night... with Astro.

The next day and a view of my volcano pond...

My work allows me access to a bead blaster, so I pulled out the doghouse cover and took it down to bare steel.

I pulled all of the windows too...

And drove it back to Josh's shop (Old Metal in Orange) to work on a custom grill...

We had seen rebar used a few times on hotrods and thought that it would be a cool thing to try on the grill. Our thought were to follow the body details that occur below the headlights.

My buddy, Matt, from Anaheim Rod and Custom came by one day and helped out with getting the body sides straight. He's like a genius with filler. 

And looking at these photos now, it reminds me of how much I can't stand doing body work. Of course the way that I do it probably makes it take  way longer than someone as qualified as Matt.

My buddy and coworker, Cole Harper, came by and helped with getting my filler work (uh) straighter... He also sprayed primer on my truck. Managed to keep most of my plants and Astro, paint-free too!

We managed to find a paint booth to do the tailgate...

Next stop was the Anaheim Rod and Custom shop where my buddy, Matt, offered to do some custom paint on the truck...

In the style of guys like Gene Winfield, Matt free poured a combination of House of Kolor  candies and metallics to come up with an incredible blue green... Clear was later mixed with the amazing Blue Tang meatalflake by Paint Huffer for some sparkle.

I spent a bunch of time sandblasting the brake drums while Matt was painting... I had bought some vintage 1960's 'Single-Rib Radir' wheels that would show off the drums, so they had to be painted as well.

You can really see the Blue Tang flake in this photo! I can't tell you how excited I was about the color that Matt had come up with. It looks so period correct for an early '60s custom.

Driving it home to work on more interior stuff and a light sanding. It would return to Anaheim Rod and Custom a few days later for the final spraying. If you think it looks like I'm driving on the 405 with no windshield, you might be right. Just don't tell anyone (especially my Mom).

To help with the heat in the small fishbowl-esque cab, I dynomatted the ceiling and the doghouse. It's not as hot as it used to get, but it's still loud as hell in there. Can do much about that when you run straight lake pipes with no mufflers.

Josh and I did a final fitting of our custom grill and sent it, and a few other things, off to be chromed.

Josh had some ideas for chromed mesh insets for the dash too... and he got to fabricating them.

We both really like the early 1960s customs and I think this dash really does that style well.

Eventually, the gauge holes would be filled with white-faced, chrome-ringed               Mooneyes gauges. 

A few days later, the chrome was ready to pick up!

I couldn't wait to bolt up the grill...

The completed dash, with a freshly painted steering wheel, the chrome inserts (ahem) inserted, and the Moon gauges installed. I also cut and installed the black indoor/ outdoor carpet. A mesh screen covers a vent hole to the outside which originally housed the heater.  That hole in the floor is a life saver when the weather gets hot. Though I did lose an iPhone out of it once from stopping quickly... 

The new  wheels, before center caps and before the final painting...

Then, it was time to deal with the upholsterer. This guy had my Thunderbird for over a year just to do my carpet and headliner... I visited him dozens of times, trying to prod him along. He actually still has my Thunderbird seats. But his prices and quality are good and this was a quick job...

So I told him that I needed the upholstered stuff finished three days before Tiki Oasis... Of course when I showed up, he didn't have anything finished. 

So I pressed him and let him know that it was absolutely imperative that I get the stuff the next day. 

He told me noon the next day... And when I showed up, nothing... again.

...Told me to come back at 4. 

This time he had visor covers and chain covers finished... but no seats. 

So I stayed there till about 10pm and watched him do the work. At one point, I just left without telling him. I think he thought that I'd be back, so I assume that he kept working. 

The next morning, they were finished. Thank God.

Warp Speed White metal flake vinyl with metallic silver piping. 

I brought the stuff home and frantically installed everything. 
I was leaving for Tiki Oasis at noon.

...which ended up being more like 4pm due to me having to re-drill the holes for mounting. The seats were never really bolted down that well before all of this anyway. 
Now they're solid.

And with that, it was off to Tiki Oasis for the Car Show. Where Susana Vestige used it for photos with the beautiful Miss Tosh.

Ever since, I've been using the truck for hauling gear to Hula Girls' shows at Don the Beachcomber, Clifton's Pacific Seas in Downtown LA, the Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach and at all kinds of private events.

Well, if you've made it this far in this blog post, you're probably as exhausted about the story as I was in building the damned thing. It's certainly not perfect, but I'm really happy with how the truck came out. I absolutely could not have built this without the help of Josh Winderman @thedayolds , Matt Means @anaheimrodandcustom , or my buddy                   Cole Harper. Thanks, fellas. 

Bamboo Ben gave my Econoline the name The Yeti, due to it's icy color and the long pile white fur that hangs from the ceiling. I dismissed the name at first, but when a hostess at Clifton's called it the same thing without knowing that Ben had said that, I figured that was what it should be called... so, The Yeti.

Thanks for following along on the build with me! 
You can see the truck at the Mooneyes Christmas party at Irwindale Speedway,
this Saturday 12/09/17. Come say hi if you see Josh and I.