Along with beginning his first term on the Ridgefield City Council, Rob Aichele picked up a new passion project in 2020.
In November, Aichele decided to take a trip in the proverbial time machine and purchase a 1970 Ford F100 pickup from a fellow enthusiast in Ohio. On Dec. 7, a bright yellow F100 custom arrived at his door on the back of a transport — with a dead battery.
“I immediately went down (to the store) and bought a battery so we could get the vehicle unloaded,” Aichele said.
Aichele grew up in rural Oregon and worked loading trucks with bales of hay on a 200-acre cattle farm when he was a teenager. In order to do his job and drive loads of hay to other areas of the farm to feed the cattle, the farmer taught Aichele how to drive the farm truck, which had a four-speed clutch just like the F100 sitting in his shop today.
“I believe it’s important to preserve things from previous generations so we don’t forget how great those times were,” Aichele said.
Preserving and reliving the past is important to Aichele, especially when it comes to motor vehicles. His daily driver is a 2007 Shelby GT500 retro comeback vehicle. Next to his daily driver, Aichele has a Harley-Davidson Sportster model 72, a limited production replica model of the motorcycle company's 1972 Sportster.
“I have a passion for things from the 70s because it reminds me of my youth and all the good times I had as a young man,” Aichele said.
Throughout his life, Aichele has always been a part of the automotive community. He and his wife each own a Shelby, and Aichele got his dashboard signed by the late Carroll Shelby. He also met the two specific technicians who signed his engine block and placed it in his car. When he lived in Battle Ground, Aichele hosted the annual Northwest Shelby meet in his yard.
“I’ve always been a Ford guy,” he said.
Once the battery was replaced, other small issues with the truck began to pop up, and Aichele began making a documented list of the improvements he made.
“The previous owner supplied me with lots of receipts and a journal that he had kept for eight years,” he said. “I am continuing that journal.”
Following the battery replacement, Aichele replaced the heater control valve, freeze plugs and more to stop the truck from leaking antifreeze in his garage. He’s also worked on the steering lash and manual steering, spent a few days completely restoring all four hubcaps on the truck and is in the process of restoring the front headlights he finds “too dim.”
“The previous owner has done a good job on the restoration work to date,” Aichele said, mentioning that most of the work he has had to complete was cosmetic finishes.
Paying attention to detail is important to Aichele and his restoration process. After his time working on a cattle farm, Aichele spent many years working as a carpenter and eventually became a superintendent at Skanska Construction, where he learned to pay close attention to details on large construction projects. Aichele credits his keenness for detail to this work in construction, as catching “one little mistake” in the process can save thousands of dollars in construction.
Aichele takes a detail-oriented approach to his work on the truck. Doing his best to make all the parts look aesthetically pleasing. In the truck bed, he originally intended to replace just a few chipped areas and ended up refinishing the entire bed. On the rear, Aichele is working to fix the lights after refinishing the entire Ford logo, making the car look pleasing to the eye, all while continuing the long journal log of additions, repairs and restorations to the car.
Future restorations Aichele plans to complete are completing the circuit to the factory horn, fixing the defrost control cable, completing a tuneup and realigning the truck and replacing its 12-year-old tires.
While he is putting a ton of work and attention into the detail and aesthetics of the truck, Aichele said he doesn’t plan on entering the truck into any car shows and is planning to make the truck his working truck for hauling bark dust and events around town.
“I put up signs in the community, the big signs,” he explained. “I put a lot of signs up for the seniors for Ridgefield schools for the school bond. I’m very active in stuff that's gonna benefit our community.”
Aichele is looking forward to being able to put the signs in the truck as he drives around town and blares the truck's custom horn to “announce his arrival.”
“It’s going to be super fun once this is all said and done,” he said.
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