Ronnie Van Zant loved his silver 1955 Chevy pick-up truck. It didn’t have air conditioning or power steering, but it did have an AM/FM radio and a leather-covered steering wheel. The Jacksonville rock star drove it everywhere.
“He bought it used,” after he’d already made it big with his band Lynrd Skynyrd, his brother, Johnny Van Zant says. “That was one of his dreams, to have an old truck. He drove that instead of a Mercedes.”
After Ronnie and several other band members died in a plane crash in Mississippi in 1977, his father, Lacy Van Zant, inherited the truck. Lacy drove it for a long time before passing it on to others in the family, including Ronnie’s brother Donnie, a rock vocalist and guitarist with the band 38 Special.
When Johnny, Lynrd Skynyrd’s current lead vocalist, got the pick-up truck, he featured it in his music video, “Brickyard Road.” Then, after plans fell through to use it in a television show, he stored it in his barn at his home in Middleburg with a hope to restore it to honor his brother’s legacy.
After a two-year restoration project, supervised by Fields Cadillac General Manager Jim Signorile, the truck now looks like it did when it rolled off the assembly line and runs even better.
It has been completely repainted a silver metallic color, and Fields Cadillac lead technician Tony Stoner rebuilt the transmission and installed a new 350 General Motors crate motor. Stoner also installed air conditioning and power steering, completely upgraded the wiring and equipped it with a digital radio that looks just like the 1955 original.
When Fields Cadillac got the truck, it had been in the barn for a decade, and the floor of its bed was lined with plywood. It now has oak flooring, very similar to what was in the truck fresh off the factory floor of the ‘50s.
It also has new tires and brakes, but the steering wheel was purposely left untouched, so that it looks the way Ronnie left it. “We didn’t even clean it,” says Signorile, a longtime friend of Johnny’s. During the restoration process, Signorile says the truck “lived in the service department,” when it wasn’t on display on the showroom floor. Now, he says, “It’s a new truck with original parts with modern technology,” and “an antique license tag.”
“Jim was the right guy” to take on the project, says Johnny, who was reluctant to turn the truck over to someone he didn’t know and trust. Now, he looks forward to cruising around in it, just as his brother did.
“The last time I saw my brother alive, he was driving it,” Johnny says. “Now I’m going to drive it and show it off to fans.”
Want to see Ronnie Van Zant’s 1955 Chevy truck in person?
You will have the chance at the 2016 Ponte Vedra Auto Show on September 11. For more info visit pvautoshow.com
Fields Cadillac lead technician, Tony Stoner, one of the mechanics who worked on the restoration of the truck.
The 1955 Chevy may have a lot of new parts to keep her moving, but it bares an antique license plate.
The original leather covered steering wheel was left as a reminder of the good times Ronnie Van Zant had driving his truck.