A lot of time and a little bit of metal

Gerald LeLeux has always been a car guy. With the aid of his mother, LeLeux changed out his first starter when he was 12 years old. His class in school already labeled him as a mechanic in the 8th grade. When he was younger he frequently bought cars for $500, drove them awhile, and then resold them. To own a vehicle for more than six months was rare.

Those days have come and gone. You can’t pick vehicles up for that price anymore and computerization of engines and auxiliary systems left him in the dust.

Retired from the U.S. Postal Service, LeLeux has more time than money. What’s a car guy to do?

Armed with an El Camino chassis and a few sheets of metal LeLeux decided to build his own.

“That’s what I do,” he said. LeLeux had been selling parts for years and had enough left over for a good start

No, this is not a kit car.

“The guy at I-10 Auto Salvage calls it ‘One Piece at a Time’ said LeLeux, referring to the Cadillac immortalized by Johnny Cash in song.

LeLeux would classify it as a “rat rod.” Those were vehicles guys put together in the 50s and 60s with whatever they had laying around in the garage.

It’s actually the second one he’s built. “It’s prettier and a little better design,” said LeLeux of this endeavor.

He does not see minimal welding experience and no metal skills as a problem. It’s kind of learning as you go.

The fenders were purchased at Tractor Supply. Sheet metal came from Beaumont and there were many trips to I-10 Auto Salvage. A 350 Chevy motor was laying around the garage from a truck he parted out several years ago.

It survived its inaugural trip down the road Saturday. A leaking radiator kept the trip short and additional brake work needs to be done, but it runs. He also plans to finish the bed with wooden rails.

It won’t be his last according to LeLeux.

Though instances where a shade tree mechanic can tinker to his heart’s delight are becoming fewer, it hasn’t lessened his love of vehicles. If Detroit won’t build vehicles he can work on anymore, he’ll do it himself.

Gerald LeLeux created this one of a kind vehicle from spare parts, sheet metal and several trips to the wrecking yard.