NATHANIEL ESKEW, left, who comes from a car family, works on a truck in the Workforce Development Institute building at Richland Community College in Decatur, Illinois. Eskew received the truck from his great-grandfather and restored it with the help of his classmates and family.

NATHANIEL ESKEW, left, who comes from a car family, works on a truck in the Workforce Development Institute building at Richland Community College in Decatur, Illinois. Eskew received the truck from his great-grandfather and restored it with the help of his classmates and family.

DECATUR, Ill.

Nathaniel Eskew has always had a love for cars. His affection runs through his veins.

“We’ve always been a car family,” he said.

Nathaniel’s great-grandpa Dwight owned Eskew’s Body Shop in Moweaqua for many years. The young man was often found in his parents’ garage working on vehicles with his great-grandpa as well as his father Eric.

“His first tool box was the shape of a John Deere tractor at about 5 or 6 years old,” said Eric, who did not have a relationship with his father and was raised by Dwight.

Throughout the years, the three generations repaired various cars and trucks with little sentimental attachment to the vehicle. Their enjoyment came from spending time together and viewing the finished product.

One vehicle, a 1973 Chevrolet truck, turned out to be more special than others.

In 2010, Dwight purchased the beat-up truck just to get around until his primary car was repaired. Nathaniel and his great-grandpa began restoring the truck shortly after the car was returned.

“I just wanted to get it finished because I was tired of staring at it,” Nathaniel said. “I have more of an emotional attachment now.”

In January 2015, Nathaniel brought the truck to his Automotive Technology class at Richland Community College’s Heartland Technical Academy. Nathaniel and Eric had already worked together on the truck’s engine, and he began his education in hopes of following in his great-grandpa’s footsteps.

But before Dwight could see the vehicle restored, he passed away from a heart attack on Oct. 3, 2015, at the age of 92.

Nathaniel and his father suddenly felt a new fondness for the old truck. Now 20, he will graduate this month from Richland with an associate of applied science degree in collision repair. Along with his diploma, he will also return home with his great-grandpa’s fully restored truck.

Since the truck was part of a class project, the process of repairing it took two years to complete.

“We have certain things we’ve got to do for the class,” said Kent Mears, Richland’s lead collision instructor. “If we’re not in that section of it, we leave it alone.”

Other students worked on all parts of the old truck, including windows, body and the interior.

“The entire class has had their hands on the truck,” Mears.

Nathaniel often found working with the class on his sentimental vehicle was a challenge.

“But I needed the help to get it done,” he said.

Two front fenders have been replaced. Otherwise, all other parts are original.

“Everything on there is a (General Motors). The body, rims, bumper, grill and headlights,” Nathaniel said. “No one can say I didn’t keep it GM.”

The color was slightly changed. Nathaniel kept it as close to the factory shade as he could.

“It is so close to the color, you’re not going to notice,” he said.

Nathaniel had planned to surprise his father with an unveiling during the Richland Community College Car Show on May 13. However, the truck was again becoming a nuisance.

“Kent wanted it out of the shop,” Nathaniel said about his instructor. “It was taking up space for other cars.”

“High school kids are in here too; so, anything could happen,” Mears said.

Nathaniel was worried about his father’s reaction. However, the excitement and sentiment left many in tears.

“This is exactly what he wanted,” Nathaniel said.

Before his grandpa passed away, Eric told him he didn’t want the beat up vehicle. After all the work the family has done over the years, he was excited to see the finished product.

“But I’m not a big truck fan,” he said.

After the Richland car show, father and son will continue to care for the truck as long as possible. Their future plans do not include having it sit in a garage.

“I want to go on Route 66 for a couple of weeks with Nate,” Eric said.


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