ST. GEORGE — Scott Gubler was headed for the auto shop to have the bumper repaired on his restored 1952 Chevy pickup when the truck caught fire Tuesday just before 9 a.m.
After Gubler managed to get the truck to the parking lot of a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints church, St. George firefighters worked to extinguish the fire.
As smoke billowed onto the street, Gubler, who’d just put a new battery in the truck before leaving, pulled into the parking lot of the church on Rosewood Circle, not far from Brigham Road. Several onlookers also pulled over.
Traffic was backed up as two police cars arrived at the scene and four bystanders tried to quench the flames with a small fire extinguisher. Personnel with the St. George Fire Department showed up a few minutes later. They put out the fire, but not before the truck’s chassis was charred.
Gubler said when he extracted his registration from the glove compartment to hand it to first responders, the document was almost completely singed.
A few of Gubler’s employees showed up as the Chevy, which was blocking the entry to the church, was towed to a parking space. It will next be towed to the garage of the owner, who plans to repair the truck.
Gubler, 69, figures the fire started after the truck’s transmission failed.
“I’m surprised the wheels didn’t melt,” he said, then added, “things happen.”
Gubler and the truck share a birthday, May 1952, as well as a lot of history. He said he even learned to drive in the Chevy when he was only 7 years old. The truck had long been resting – and rusting – on his dad’s farm until about five years ago. Then Gubler’s father said he was going to have the car demolished.
“He was gonna crush it,” Gubler said. “I said, ‘I’ll play with it.’”
Gubler did more than play, he said, he brought the truck back to life. He finished the job with a silver paint-job after seeing an old Chevy that color in a magazine.
Officer David Allred with St. George Police expressed regret over the near-destruction of a classic.
“(Gubler) showed me pictures of how he took it from an old rusty frame … and this beautiful piece of machinery unfortunately caught on fire,” he said. “Luckily a lot of bystanders stopped and were able to help him keep the fire under control until the Fire Department arrived.”
Officer Allred praised the driver’s composure.
“He was making jokes earlier – I think he was trying to find the humor in the situation,” he said. “I think the only injury is his heart’s a little broken now.”
Over the years, Gubler said he put a lot of time, money and love into the restoration and upkeep of his truck. To describe the fire as a setback would be an understatement.
“We’ve been taking it to shows for years and its won awards,” said Ethan Landers, an employee of Gubler’s. “We were going to another show in a couple of weeks. We’re not going now.”
St. George News reporter Chris Reed contributed to this story.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.