When Hank “Doc” DePetro’s Ford pickup truck was originally manufactured, a paint job in Denver Broncos colors wasn’t an option.
It’s not that the auto body advancements at the time didn’t allow a simple orange-and-blue color scheme.
Joshua Polson /email@example.com | The Greeley Tribune
Hank DePetro stands alongside his 1949 classic Ford at his home in Greeley. DePetro had an auto body class at Aims Community College paint the classic pickup with a Denver Broncos theme.
Rather, the Broncos didn’t exist when DePetro’s truck was manufactured.
Yet, 55 years after the 1949 Ford was built, and 35 years after the 72-year-old DePetro bought the vehicle, the truck is splashed in Broncos blue — with a little bit of orange sprinkled in — just as the Broncos prepare for the most critical stretch of their season.
Although DePetro surely will be planted right in front of a television set at 2:40 p.m. Sunday when the Broncos play host to the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game, odds are no one will show more spirit in the days before and after the game than DePetro, who proudly strolls through the streets of Greeley in his unique classic truck.
With the aid of Aims Community College auto body classes and the District 6 special education students DePetro has taught throughout the years, DePetro has painted and decorated his vehicle with a Broncos theme for the past seven years.
DePetro — who spent 30 years as a school psychologist and educator for District 6 and the University of Northern Colorado — said when he hits the streets in his truck, “I get high-fives and (people saying) ‘Go Broncos, go Broncos.’ ”DePetro didn’t hesitate when asked to recall his favorite memory of driving his Broncos-mobile around town.
“There was a lady with two grandkids, and she said she was from Seattle,” DePetro said. “She said, ‘my daughter and all the family are Bronco fans. I’m just wondering if my grandkids could get up in your truck so I can take a picture?’ ”DePetro happily obliged.
He drapes his house — built in 1938 — in Broncos memorabilia. He also never shies away from decking himself out in orange-and-blue gear.
But, it is his blue-coated pickup that really captures peoples’ attention.
The vehicle has become a close companion of DePetro since he stumbled upon the truck nearly four decades ago.
“I was looking for something to rebuild, because I sold a 1937 Chevy, and I was (wondering) ‘Why did I do that?’ ” DePetro said. “So, I’m looking in the classifieds of The Tribune and just in a two-liner classified, it said ‘ old 1949 Ford truck. $200.’ ”
DePetro bought the truck from a farmer who lived near Kersey.
DePetro said the Ford wasn’t in the greatest shape — to say the least.
Joshua Polsonfirstname.lastname@example.org | The Greeley Tribune
Hank DePetro holds up a photo of what the classic Ford pickup looked like originally. The truck will have more work done as students finish the interior.
“It was really pretty bad — rust, holes, dents,” said DePetro, who is originally from Pueblo. “Apparently the guy used it on a farm to pull a plow. The seat was clear down to the springs. Apparently mice and so on got in there. The rims were total rust. The tires that were on it were just rotted out. And I looked at it and I thought, ‘Do you really want to do this?’ ”
Just as John Elway has rebuilt the Broncos into a legitimate Super Bowl contender, DePetro spent years breathing new life into the old pickup truck. And now, like the Broncos’ grizzled veteran quarterback Peyton Manning, DePetro’s truck may be old, but it’s far from a clunker.
DePetro has made a habit of starting his truck every day during this recent cold snap. All he needs to do is pull out the choke valve, ease down on the gas pedal, and the engine starts right up.
When he first purchased the truck, DePetro — on the school district’s dime — was attending classes at Aims. One of his classes was an auto body class that gave DePetro the means and materials to fix up the truck.
“It started there, and it began to be transformed from this old, rusty truck to what started to look like it was for real,” DePetro said. “And the more we did, the more real it became.”
We would like to thank The Greeley Tribune for giving Autobody News permission to reprint this article.