Arizona natives John and Jan Counts’ 1957 Chevy 3100 pickup truck has a storied history – just like their 45 years of marriage. They lived the typical American dream in Arizona, with John working for the Maricopa County Department for 41 years (which he just retired from in 2021) after serving in the U.S. Navy for eight years as a Second Class Petty Officer. With an interest in trucks as a weekend hobby, the Counts bought the classic truck in 1980 from an airman at Luke Air Force Base and had big plans to restore it to its former glory.
John enlisted his brother to help tear down the truck to restore its wiring, glass, wood bed and weather stripping. According to John, it still had the original straight-six engine, suspension and manual transmission. In 1983, the couple had the truck repainted from the original grey to a bold blue. They thoroughly enjoyed the pickup until 1995, when it, unfortunately, was vandalized.
From then on, it was sadly parked in the garage until 2018. That was the year John realized what he wanted to do in his retirement and driving around in his beloved Chevy 3100 was what he wanted to do for the rest of his days. “John wanted to put his truck back together since he’d be able to take his grandkids to car shows since he was no longer working,” details Shawn Brown, owner of Trend Auto Repair, who helped the Counts restore the Chevy into the modern masterpiece it is today.
“His original intent was always to do a basic restoration, including a 4-wheel drive and automatic transmission,” Shawn adds. However that all changed after having John in the shop one day as they were all trying to come up with a design for the battery covers. “To help come up with a pattern, we asked John what hobbies he had and what his favorite things were. We would have never thought he’d say DC and Marvel comics,” he says laughing.
John then went on to detail how his grandfather would take him every Sunday to a local pharmacy to buy a comic book for a nickel. His fondest memories were spending that Sunday afternoon reading the comics with his grandfather. That’s where the team got the idea for the Iron Man and Captain America battery covers and then it just escalated from there – the Thor 4-wheel drive shifter and dome light, light-up Justice League dash panel, Gotham City skyline in the kick panel, Aquaman tridents carved in the wood bed, Spider-Man steering wheel and webbing in the fan shroud, and the firewall featuring Venom and the Joker. Altogether, the total transformation of the pickup took about a year and a half and was worth every penny for the Counts.
While its comic book homage is definitely the highlight for everyone who sees the truck, Shawn mentions that his favorites include the upgrade from a 6-cylinder engine to a 350 engine with overdrive and adapting the frame to the 1979 full-size Blazer axles and leaf springs to make it a more functional 4-wheel drive.
Thanks to all the unique customizations, John had a truck he never dreamed of having. With the fabrication going above and beyond what he ever imagined or knew he wanted, the pickup is his prized vehicle. Everyone who sees it is blown away by its uniqueness and attention to detail that is admittedly hesitant to really drive it as much in favor of keeping it in its pristine condition. But because it’s something he wants to share with others, he does plan on slowly showing it off more in the coming years.