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Austintown man moves from race track to car shows

August 7, 2013
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

John Beniston of Austintown, took his 1946 Chevy C-10 to the Cars in the Park show on Sunday and it drew a lot of attention from the public. The unusual classic is restored to perfection and has brought Beniston a host of trophies.

For Beniston, hitting the show arena is a break from his previous passion of stock car racing. He has competed at Sharon and Mercer speedways for years, but decided to get into show vehicles in 1999.

"I bought the C-10 in 1999, brought it home and parked it behind the barn," Beniston said. "It took me some time before I got it into the garage."

Article Photos

Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
John Beniston of Austintown, and his nephew, Gavin Beniston, show they are Dale Earnhardt fans by throwing up the number three sign during the Cars in the Park car show on Sunday. The Benistons were at the show displaying John’s 1946 Chevy C-10 that has been a top award winner at various shows around the northeast.

The truck was in rough condition with a lot of surface rust and fading paint. He said the big plus for it was the fact all the body parts were there as well as the entire stock 6-cylinder engine.

In 2000, Beniston began the process of tearing the truck down for a full off-frame restoration. Over the next six years, a lot of mechanical changes were made and finishing touches put on the antique vehicle.

To start, Beniston decided to switch engines. He found a guy who was restoring a 1955 Chevy and wanted an original 6 cylinder. The truck engine was sold to the fellow and plans were made to replace it with a big V-8 power plant. Beniston had a friend, Jerry Deets from Crank and Sleeve in Girard, rebuild a Chevy 358 cubic-inch engine.

The larger engine meant beefing up the suspension and drive train. Beniston narrowed the front end by a half inch and incorporated a 1978 Ford Mustang front suspension, brake and steering system.

For the rear end, he used one from a 1966 Ford Galaxie blended with 1999 Chevy S-10 leaf springs. The S-10 rear wheel wells were also used to allow for a wider tire to fit on the rear of the truck.

As for the body, Beniston removed it in pieces, sanded and repaired the parts and painted them a sharp, high gloss red. The chrome pieces were also redone and the parts were ready for the final assembly, which proved to be a challenge.

"Protecting the finished pieces can be nerve racking," he said.

Beniston's goal was to finish the truck in 2006 for its 60th anniversary. He had it almost complete and was only lacking tires and wheels. When he was ready to buy them, he turned to his one source of financing that had taken years to produce.

"For six years I had saved my change in a large container," he said. "I broke it out and counted the coins. I had over $700 and that is what I used to buy the wheels and tires."

His hard work, determination, and coin jar saw his goal met and in May of 2006, the truck hit the road as a classic street rod.

Over the past six years he has earned numerous awards and some prestigious honors. The truck was featured on the turn table at Summit Racing in Tallmadge, and was used on the cover of Genuine Hot Rod Hardware Inc.'s catalog.

Beniston said the awards he earned with the truck have filled two trophy shelves in his Austintown home that previously held just trophies from his racing days.

As for the future, Beniston plans to continue showing his restored truck while working on a new project. He is rebuilding a rare 1962 Chevy Nova station wagon.

When he attends car shows like the Cars in the Park event on Sunday, he is not alone. Gavin Beniston, 8, a student at Western Reserve School District came with him to enjoy the more than 300 cars on display in Boardman Park. When asked about his thoughts regarding his uncle's vintage truck, he was quick to reply.

"I plan on having one when I get older," Gavin said.



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