- Associated Press - Sunday, October 15, 2017

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) - A restored 1952 panel truck demonstrates, in a very shiny way, the heritage of Jerry’s Sheet Metal.

The Chevrolet was used by O.V. “Oscar” Hehnke, the founder of the Grand Island company. His grandson, Monte, learned of the existence of the vehicle a year ago. At the time, it didn’t look so great. But it has been carefully turned into a sharp-looking vehicle, its exterior a gleaming birch gray.

Recently, Monte Hehnke took his dad, Jerry, for a spin.

“Can you imagine how proud Oscar would be?” Jerry said to his son.

The Grand Island Independent reports that Monte, 49, is eager to introduce a new generation to the vehicle. He doesn’t have grandchildren yet, but he’s looking forward to showing the panel truck to them.

Anybody can take a look at the truck, which is on display in the showroom of Tom Dinsdale Automotive.

The side of the vehicle reads “O.V. Hehnke Co., sheet metal contractor.” The company proudly handled “tin to boiler plate.” Below that is a logo for the Iron Fireman, a line of products sold by Hehnke.

When Hehnke started the company in 1941, it was mainly a sheet metal and boiler shop. Among other things, he supplied flashings and copper gutters to many churches.

“He did a lot of metal work,” Monte said.

The vehicle, he figures, was probably the second or third truck purchased by his grandfather.

Monte and his brothers, Jay and K.C., now share ownership of the business with their father, who is 82. A total of 55 people work at Jerry’s Sheet Metal Heating - Cooling.

The vehicle was discovered by Randy Adams, one of the company’s commercial installers.

On a Sunday afternoon, Adams texted Monte from a Quonset building near Eagles Lake, where he found the vehicle. He asked Monte if he knew who O.V. Hehnke was. Monte responded that it was his grandfather.

Monte went to look at the vehicle with Mike Jakubowski, who is executive manager at Dinsdale Automotive.

For about 20 years, the panel truck had been owned by Doug Emery, whom Monte remembered from Emery’s days as a UPS driver. Emery bought the vehicle from Mrs. Earl Lessig after her husband passed away.

Emery and his son restore cars and trucks as a hobby. But he hadn’t gotten to the old Chevy, so he agreed to sell it to Monte.

“He knew the value it had to our family,” Monte said, so he thought it would be neat if the family restored it.

Monte bought the vehicle on Oct. 16 of last year. The restoration work wrapped up recently. Even though it’s 65 years old, it’s clearly not ready for retirement.

Dinsdale Automotive handled the engine, transmission, tires and other parts of the job. Much of the work was done by Marv Duryee and Andy Billington. Sloggett Body and Paint did the restoration.

Tom Sutliff did the wood inside, with Randy Martin doing the staining and revitalizing of the floor boards.

Harold’s Upholstery Shop did the seats, liners and door panels.

Monte thinks the engine is a 216 Babbitt. Under the hood, you can see the words Thrift Master.

Monte has already put 40 miles on the truck.

“It’s pretty cool to drive,” he said.

The vehicle is owned by Jerry’s Sheet Metal. It will probably remain on display at Dinsdale Automotive all winter.

The company supports Habitat for Humanity. Monte figures the flashy vehicle will be good advertising for the company at activities sponsored by that organization and other community events.

He remembers his grandfather, who died at the age of 67.

“I was probably 10 years old,” he said.

Jerry wound up buying out Oscar Hehnke.

The company almost folded in 1967, when it was more than $30,000 in debt. At the time, Jerry Hehnke played baseball in Boelus.

After a game, he was at the Golden Nugget when Andy Jensen of Boelus State Bank mentioned he’d heard he was having financial troubles.

Jerry said he and his wife, Chick, were going to shut the doors.

“How much money do you need?” Jensen asked.

“I need $35,000,” Jerry Hehnke responded.

The bank loaned him the money.

Jerry’s Sheet Metal is now a sizable business, “and we still bank at the Bank of Boelus,” Monte said.

The company has money in other banks. “But we still do everything through Boelus” because of the bank’s loyalty, he said.

___

Information from: The Grand Island Independent, https://www.theindependent.com


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