Truck Toyz Unlimited has a reputation in Connecticut for being the place to go for automotive customization. Their Instagram feed is full of handsome square-body pickups and TJ Wranglers that have been given the shop’s #Ordinary2Extreme treatment. But it isn’t just modern day four-wheel drives that the Truck Toyz crew turns out. And there may be no better example of that than when shop owner Rich Villar decided to take on a forgotten American classic: a 1930 REO Flying Cloud.
The Bee’s Knees
The Flying Cloud was a product of the REO Motor Car Company, the second venture of Oldsmobile founder Ransom E. Olds. Flying Clouds first floated down streets in 1927. While it was a successful model in its day, the lifeline of REO passenger cars was cut short by the economic stain of the Great Depression, and production halted in 1936. So, when an acquaintance of Villar had a 1930 Flying Cloud in storage, he knew he had to be persistent in his pursuit of this rare find.
“I wanted that modern-day gangster look. The first day I saw it I envisioned what it could look like, so I begged the owner to sell it to me,” said Villar. “He said no.” But Villar persisted. “Two years later I asked him again as it sat in his barn, two years older, and again his reply was no.” Villar would not give up. “Sadly, I walked away. Then a few years went by and I stopped in and saw it on a trailer with a canopy over it and said, ‘Dude just sell me that thing!’ And to my surprise, he said yes!”
One of the stipulations of the seller was that Truck Toyz not “cut it up”, to which Villar agreed. However, if you know anything about Villar, the temptation turned out to be too great. “We unloaded it in the shop, put it on the lift, and the first thing I did was tape it off and chop the roof,” he said with a chuckle.
A Minor Deceit
Anyone who was expecting this ride not to be altered is clearly not familiar with the Truck Toyz portfolio of work. And the changes certainly did not stop at roof removal. Most of the inner workings are a homemade mash-up of trial-and-error parts to see what would work, since there can be difficulty finding parts for a vehicle this seasoned. “It’s kind of a Rat Rod,” Villar joked. “Put things together and make it work.”
And they certainly did make it work. For starters, the power comes from a V8 Chevrolet 454 big block, with an Edelbrock multiport fuel injection system. The factory headlights have been converted to Sylvania LEDs. Toyo tires and XD wheels help give that aggressive, yet modern, flourish to this timeless classic. And the interior is something to behold, with Bestop Wrangler seats and oak wood floors and headliner. The theme of this ride (known by everyone as “Bootleg”–it’s even on the license plate) is a callback to the Prohibition Era that birthed it. The inside is full of moonshine signs and paraphernalia gathered from across the internet. Its Lokar shifter even has a knob made of beer taps.
While not necessarily a traditional show car, Villar loves driving Bootleg and showing ‘er off. And the attention she draws, well…
“Old timers will come out and just stand around it,” he said. “Next thing you know, they’re still there looking at it a half an hour later.”
Worth the Work
Villar figures that his investment in Bootleg is around $10,000, including the $3,000 he originally paid to take it home. While the Flying Cloud was in the Truck Toyz shop for over a year, he estimates that around 120 hours of labor went into the restoration over the course of 3-4 months. Trusty tech, Dustin, pulled up his sleeves after work hours to help Villar make this dream a reality.
With all the time, talent, and details that went into Bootleg, there are absolutely no plans to get rid of it anytime soon. “That’ll stay here,” asserted Villar. “We’ll play with it, and refine it, and just have fun with it.”
It will please all drivers to know that Bootleg won’t just be relegated to a showroom, that Villar and his wife love to get out on the open road and put that big block Chevy engine to use. “She [Bootleg] likes to cruise at 80 and pass by all of today’s newer cars and turn heads.” And who are we to stop her? Bootleg will be 90 in a few short years—it’s good to see her so active. Most senior citizens are lucky to be moving around at that age, let alone speeding. Pedal to the floor, Bootleg. More power to ya!