Beaufort man restores friend's prized 1953 Chevy pickup, 'Loretta'

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Beaufort man restores friend's prized 1953 Chevy pickup, 'Loretta'

By PATRICK DONOHUE
pdonohue@beaufortgazette.com
Published Sunday, December 23, 2012   |  449 Words  |  

Ray Williams could buy the 1953 Chevy 3500 pickup truck, but on one condition -- he wouldn't change the truck's name, "Loretta."

It was the late 1970s and Williams, a Beaufort attorney, was bartering with the warden of a prison outside Columbia for the vintage truck named in honor of country music icon Loretta Lynn.

Williams agreed to the man's terms and for the next decade or so, Loretta was a part of the family.

"The kids would hop in the back, and we would go tooling around Dataw Island or go hunting or something," Williams said. "She was a beautiful truck."

The truck soon fell into disrepair and came to inhabit Williams' backyard then the yard of a friend before longtime pal Howard Clark approached Williams in 2010 with an offer.

"Howard said, 'Would you like Loretta fixed up?'" Williams said. "She looked just horrible, so I said 'sure.'"

Williams asked if he could pay Clark for the work, but his friend wouldn't have it.

"Howard said,let me just see what I can do,'" said Howard's wife, Gail, who worked for Williams' law firm as a paralegal for more than 30 years.

"At that time, Howard knew next to nothing about car restoration but had always been fascinated by vintage cars and trucks."

For more than two years, Clark worked to rebuild Williams' prized pickup, mostly from a stall at Jackie's Alignment Center in Seabrook and almost entirely in secret.

"He never would let me see it," Williams said. "I had no idea, really, how the work was coming or what he was doing to Loretta."

That is, until Dec. 7, two days before Williams' 71st birthday, when he finally got a look at Loretta.

The truck had been completely restored and repainted it forest green. On the driver's side door, Clark lovingly painted in fine red script "Loretta."

"I was blown away," Williams said. "I later saw the pictures that they took during the restoration and (Clark) took her totally down to the frame. She's certainly a beautiful young lady now."

"I have never seen e so happy in all my life," Gail added.

With Christmas coming, Williams said he's looking forward to again riding with his children in the pickup and has extended a special offer to his friend who restored Loretta to her former glory.

"I'm calling it a timeshare," Williams said, with a chuckle. "He can drive her anytime he wants but she's going to live at my house."