WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE great at your day job, but equally impressive at your hobby?

Don’t be afraid to show everyone how you spend your free time.

John Thompson, a professor in Pittsburg State University’s Department of Automotive Technology, did just that recently when he self-published a coffee table book of his work rebuilding a 1946 Chevy truck using parts from a salvaged Camaro.

The project, which took him about three years to complete, was a labor of love for Thompson, who came to PSU five years ago to teach auto collision and repair courses.

After purchasing the truck for $500, Thompson bought the wrecked Camaro for $1,000 about a month later. Gifted with a vision for being able to see a finished project before even starting it, he went to work rebuilding the two vehicles into one – spending countless hours in his garage converting the 62 HP truck into a 300+ HP “1946 Chevy Camaro Z28 truck.”

“I wanted it to have the character of an old school truck, but for it to be like hopping in a brand new vehicle with all the new elements,” he said. Some of his work included building a new fuel injection system, power seats, an in-dash DVD, air conditioning, power driver seats, remote and power “everything,” decking out the inside with tan leather interior, and restoring and painting the outside a vivid red.

“Back when the Indians would shoot a deer, nothing went to waste,” he explained. “That was how the Camaro was for me. I used as much from it as I could.”
And although parting with it on Ebay last summer couldn’t have been easy, it’s not like this was his first big project. Thompson has restored a ‘65 Mustang fastback, a ‘69 Cougar convertible, and ‘70 Cougar XR7 convertible, and still has been able to make time for his other hobbies like drawing and playing piano and guitar. All these things, he says, feed into his creative side.

“People say to me, ‘How can you get rid of one of those after you build it?’ and I say to them ‘How do you get over a girlfriend? You get another girlfriend,’” he said with a laugh, adding that in addition to buying new living room furniture, he and his wife were able to pay off most of their debt with the sale.

“You do put your heart and soul into it and get attached to the vehicle and the vision. But you get another project,” he said. “I hope to live to be 80 and be out in my shop until I’m 79½. When I’m out in my shop, I’m at peace with the universe. It’s not my life’s work, it’s just my passion.”

To order a copy of Thompson’s hardback, 25-page picture book, contact him at jthompso@pittstate.edu.