We at 10-4 Magazine recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of our very first printed publication from September of 1993. While researching things from our past for that special edition, we realized that a truck we featured on our 4th edition, dated November 5, 1993, still existed. Upon further investigation, we realized that the other two trucks featured on our 2nd and 3rd editions before this one no longer existed (the 1st edition did not have a truck on the cover), so this beautifully-restored 1951 GMC is the oldest surviving 10-4 cover truck. And, to make it even more unique, this classic truck today, 25 years later, is in the exact same condition as it was back in 1993, making it a true 10-4 Magazine time capsule!
Back in 1993, this 1951 GMC Series 900 tractor had just undergone a complete frame-off restoration that took several years. Owner Nick Bruno of Bruno Ranches in Riverside, CA had his wife take some pictures and then she decided to send one of them to us for a possible spot on our cover. Back then, we were just getting started and did not offer any full color – not even on the cover – so after getting the picture we scanned it and printed it on our 4th edition cover, in black and white, with a very brief description right there on the cover (there was no official photo shoots back then and no real story inside, either). Upon learning all this, we decided to go see Nick and do a proper photo shoot and complete story of this rig in our November 2018 edition – the one you’re holding right now – some 25 years after it made its first debut in the magazine.
Heading out to San Jacinto, CA where Nick and his company, now known as Bruno Farms, has a yard, we spent the day shooting pictures in various locations in and around the area. For me, it was a very special day, because I truly think this neat old rig is a part of 10-4 Magazine history, and I thoroughly believed it deserved a modern-day feature. And, to make things even better, Nick and his family were all good and nice people, too.
Both of Nick’s grandparents, from both sides of his family, immigrated to the United States from Italy around 1905. His grandfather, Nick, became a meat-cutter in the Los Angeles area, and then later, in the 1920s, got into the sheep business. This is when Bruno Ranches was formed. Raising sheep for wool and meat, Nick’s father and uncle (Bill and John respectively) later joined the business. In their heyday, the herd was about 9,000 sheep, but in the spring, when the lambs were born, that number might double. In those days, lamb was a very good commodity and there was money to be made, but these days it is a much smaller market. Nick phased out the sheep business when they sold their entire herd back in 2007, shifting their main focus to farming.
Over the years, the Bruno family always farmed wheat and barley, and about 20 years ago they began farming alfalfa, as well. Growing about 1,000 acres of alfalfa in Blythe, they also bought and sold thousands of acres more to dairies in Chino, Bakersfield, Hanford, Visalia and other areas. Today, with help from Nick’s son Nicholas (28), they grow about 3,000 acres of wheat and 1,000 acres of alfalfa. They also have a commodities company that services dairies with cotton seed, canola, distillery grains, hominy and corn. Based in Perris, CA for many years, their fields eventually got crowded-out (surrounded) with commercial businesses, so they sold that property and are now based out of Nuevo, CA.
Their current fleet consists of about half a dozen Peterbilts, painted white with blue and black fenders, but the pride of their fleet is still this cool little 1951 GMC Series 900 2-axle rig. Purchased in 1986 from a guy in Chino, CA named Alvin Garretson, the truck looked really good and had a fresh paint job, which was the same as you see today. Alvin contacted Nick and told him he was going to sell the truck to a guy in Iowa unless he brought him $35,000 cash for it. The next day, Nick and his father went to Chino and bought the truck. That night, Nick’s wife looked closely at the truck and realized there was a lot of rust under that new paint. Upon further inspection, Nick found lots of “hidden” problems, so it was decided that the rig would undergo a complete restoration.
Sending the truck to Van’s Auto Body in Riverside, CA, they removed the cab and sent the chassis and drivetrain back home with Nick. The body shop then began to do massive amounts of work on several body panels, including replacing the roof, the door skins, one of the hood panels, the fenders and the back of the cab – just about everything needed to be rebuilt. Once that work was completed, the cab was returned to Nick, where it was mated once again with the rest of the truck.
Before the cab came back, Nick and his guys began their work by sandblasting the frame, then they replaced the Detroit Diesel inline 6-71 with a more powerful inline 6-71TA. Next, they removed the original 2-stick transmission setup, and then installed a 13-speed transmission and a newer-style rear-end. Once the cab was reinstalled, the entire truck was repainted in the same colors (metallic maroon with two white stripes, outlined in gold), and then the interior was completely redone. All the original gauges were painstakingly restored and repainted by United Speedometer, the steering wheel was redone, and some chrome pieces were added. Keeping it as original as possible, the entire truck was re-wired using period-correct cloth wire (metal wire wrapped in cloth, not plastic).
After the restoration was completed and the pictures were sent to us by Nick’s wife, the family got busy raising kids and pretty much just put the truck in the barn. It came out for the occasional truck show, but the truck has run less than 200 miles in total since the rebuild was complete over 25 years ago (the odometer said 177.6 miles when we did the photo shoot). Right now, though, the truck is currently being re-powered with a more modern and stronger DDEC-III electronic engine, being built by Delaney & Ahlf Diesel Service in Bakersfield, CA. D & A has been around since 1958 and are known for building “hot rod” Detroit engines. They are also considering adding another axle and a bed to the GMC and converting it into a hay truck and trailer – but, one step at a time.
Meeting his wife Leigh in 1982, after four years together, she made an ultimatum to Nick, who promptly bought her a ring and married her in 1986. The couple has two children – Nicholas (28) and Abby (23). Nicholas grew up racing go karts and then got into competitive shooting. At 12, he earned a spot on the California State team, shooting with them for six years. In 2008 he tried out for the U.S. Olympic team, but after failing to qualify, he quit competitive shooting and joined his dad in the family business. Their daughter, Abby, who grew up showing horses and had great success, is now attending college in Texas, studying to be a veterinarian. Nick’s father Bill is 90 years old and has been enjoying his “retirement” for the past 40 years!
Hoping to continue farming long enough for his kids to take over the operation, Nick (63) really enjoyed doing our photo shoot and the subsequent talks we had afterwards to put this article together. He was honored and thankful that we took such an interest in his old GMC and is excited to see it on the cover – again!
With only two trucks EVER on our cover before his one, which included Dick Huizenga’s 1953 GMC and Bobby Blandino’s 1969 cabover Freightliner, Nick’s old ride is immortalized as our 3rd cover truck ever, and the oldest one still around, which is pretty cool. It truly is a 10-4 Magazine time capsule, for sure, and we are very proud to have finally given it a proper cover, centerfold and feature story.