THE ASCENCIO TRUCK
words and pics Povi Pullinen
If you roll through the streets of East Oakland, CA, you’ll spot an old mechanic’s shop that has stood since 1926. “Rattle In, Glide Out” boasts the aged and flaking signage facing Foothill Blvd, and while it might not look like much, the Havenscourt Garage name used to fly down dragstrips across Northern California as far back as 1959.
The man responsible for the rolling advertising was then-owner Manuel Ascencio, who built this race-only Ford pickup in the winter of ’58 at his house in Jingletown. It was originally Cadillac powered in its campaigns from ’59-’63 then Manuel dropped a small block Chev in it. Painted in Caddy’s Bahama Blue, it matched the color of the signage on the Havenscourt walls. Manuel travelled everywhere to race, picked up crate-fulls of trophies, and ran a best of 12.98@109mph. Then, as most of these stories end, it sat dormant for years and years, was messed with during the street rodding era (*shudders*) and kind of disappeared into obscurity.
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Less than a year ago, the Ascencio truck rolled into Donny Welch’s garage where it’s shouldered up next to another car with Bay Area drag racing history; Donny’s uncle’s ’63 Impala. Les Welch was a career-long drag racing photographer and even shot images of Manuel’s truck racing in the 60s. Donny himself works at South City Rod and Custom, and knows his way around a hot rod or two.
Donny purchased the truck from a used car salesman that dealt with a few survivors and older cars and considering his love for history and the car’s local and family ties, he couldn’t be happier. Donny’s a stickler for survivors and wants to preserve the awesome history entwined with the car. “[Manuel’s] son street rodded it in the late 70s… small block Ford, AOD, 8” rear, all that stuff. He scuffed up the Bahama Blue and spray painted it red oxide primer, too,” Donny explains. “I’ve been wetsanding it with 2000 grit to knock the primer off and try to get it back to the original color.”
Slowly, signs of the original lettering, pinstriping and other cool historic details have started to appear – including the slogan “Rattle In, Glide Out” lettered across the back of the cab – though there’s a lot more work in it yet. “In the early 60s it had a ’50 Caddy block with ’56 heads, custom headers, stainless steel firewall, and always it had 6x2s on it… ’39 toploader, ’40 banjo, solid mounted rear… I’m trying to keep it the same.”
The car was at the 1960 Oakland Roadster Show, and Donny sees the 2020 Grand National Roadster Show as a fitting anniversary to have the car displayed again, even if just as a roller. Bolted together and back to life it’ll be one formidable machine, and thanks to its years as astreet rod, there’s tags and plates that’ll be ready to go. “My big money shot is going to be doing hefty burnouts in front of his old shop!” grins Donny.