From what Howard Fowler tells me, the reaction I gave him in the Jack Byrne Arena parking lot is not too far from typical.
"Are you nuts?" I asked him - in the best possible way, of course.
Howard wasn't sure what kind of reaction he would get when he unveiled his hot-rodded '88 S-10 pick-up. It's still a little baffling he was so surprised. The truck's body has a three-inch slice taken out of the roof, and the cab is channeled down over the frame to give it a low, lean stance.
The one-piece hood flips up to reveal ... a Moosehead Beer keg, rescued from a landfill many years ago.
Hang on. Under the hood, a beer keg? Yes, yes indeed.
You're wondering where the engine is. That's a little closer to the tailgate. As in directly in front of it. And we're not talking the little Chevy's usual 2.8-litre engine, either. More like 8.2-litre. Howard says he had to add the metric ID to keep it Canadian, but any self-respecting gearhead will better recognize the 500-cubic-inch dimension of the mid-'70s Cadillac.
Yep, Howard pulled the engine and transaxle from a front-drive 1976 Eldorado, knowing some day he might find a use for the unique powerplant. This is a use.
"I don't think outside the box," he told me this week. "I beat the box up and throw it away."
"The engine I've had for at least 20 years. I wanted something different, so I went S-10."
An engine in the garage and a preference for the little trucks was not all that shaped Howard's 10-year project.
"I said I might put that in the back one day, and another fella said, 'No, b'y, you can't do it.' That's all it took. I hate it when somebody says I can't do something."
The build followed the best hot rod traditions: stock front clip, grafted to the front half of an S-10 4X4 Blazer chassis, which offered the proper suspension points for the mid-engined drivetrain. Firebird brakes, homemade exhaust, International truck hinges on the suicide doors. A piston from a flat-head Studebaker for a shiftknob.
"Even the paint is scrounged up. It's off a Hitachi excavator."
Howard figures he can claim 99 per cent of the project, from the welding to the bodywork, with a few helping hands along the way, like Ern.
"He'll know who he is. Ern is a good guy. He helped me a lot."
Another friend laid down the tractor paint, which never looked as good on a bucket as it does on this hauler.
"There was a lot of fabbing involved," he said. "A lot of late nights. A lot of rum and beer."
That big Caddy engine fires up first click, and the truck tracks as straight as our roads will allow. Howard's happy with the "finished" product, and has been taking it to the usual gathering places - A&W, the Kelligrews Orange Store, the Nick Coates show in Torbay - running with the gearheads and supporting whatever charity there is to support.
"A lot of this stuff is just a labour of love anyway," he said.
With a chill in the air, this love will soon be tucked away for another winter. You know Howard will be counting the days until he can cruise that beast up the local roads again.
Ken Simmons, The Telegram's new media editor, breathes exhaust and exhales clean, fresh air. Twitter @Ken_Simmons_NL/Tumblr