How an Old Chevrolet Farm Truck Inspired a Passion for Painting

For one auto enthusiast, Detroit's famous Woodward Dream Cruise became more than just a fun-filled weekend; it opened a door to pursue a new career opportunity and a lifelong passion.

Where it began

There is a special spot in Todd Wilhelm's heart for his family's 1951 Chevy pickup truck. His father purchased the truck from a farmer in California just prior to Todd's birth. The truck had always been around and a part of many family memories, including regular trips to the ice cream shop. He fondly remembers riding in the bed of his dad's pickup, "back in the early '80s, you could do that and not get in any trouble," he joked.

At the age of eight, Todd began working with his dad to spruce it up and keep the old, farm truck in working order. The thing he loved the most was admiring the faded, old yellow paint job and dreaming what color him and his dad would paint it when they restore it.

Todd Wilhelm and his father working on the 1951 Chevy pick-up truck.

With this history, passion and expertise, it wasn't long before he began working in automotive body shops.

All roads lead to BASF

During his time in the shop, Todd developed a strong affinity for BASF paint. So much so that he left one of his body shop jobs because they made a switch from spraying BASF to another brand.

"The BASF paint is just smooth and easy to spray and when the switch was made, my job became more difficult," said Todd.

It was then that he decided it was time to open his own body shop, T&C Paint Worx, in southeast Michigan, working exclusively with BASF paint, specially the BASF Diamont series. After a few great years, the recession began to slow down business and Todd welcomed his first daughter. Looking for stability, Todd considered options for a career change.

One day, while literally waiting for paint to dry, Todd filled out an application for a sales representative position in the refinish department at BASF. His initial interview took place, appropriately, among all of the classic cars at the 2007 Woodward Dream Cruise.

His dedication and passion for the BASF refinish paint brands landed him the job.

"I have the background in refinish and I can solve most issues right on the spot, in the shop," said Todd.

Chevy Bel Air BASF Paint
In front of his masterpiece, Todd shows off the 1956 Chevy Bel Air featuring BASF paint dubbed "Tangerine Sunrise."

Last year, Todd's story came full circle when one of his last masterpieces built in his shop was shown at the 2013 Woodward Dream Cruise in BASF's booth - a full restoration of a 1956 Chevy Bel Air with a new paint job in a custom orange hue he dubbed "Tangerine Sunrise."

The final restoration

As a busy dad of two daughters now, Todd doesn't get as much time in the shop as he used to. But he does have one final project, his father's Chevy pickup truck that inspired his love of cars so long ago.

"We are giving it a new lease on life," he said.

He has already restored the frame of the truck and the cab and a few other parts are in process.  Some new additions have also been made including a new Corvette motor and an updated chassis with Mustang suspension.

Girls Chevy pick-up BASF paint

"Once it's finished, it will be better than a brand new pickup truck from 1951," said Todd proudly.

There is little question about the kind of paint this truck will feature when it's complete.