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Father restores 1966 truck in memory of son killed in accident

Thursday, April 3, 2008, is a date forever seared into the memory of Bryant Hunt.

That morning, he and his wife, Treva, lost a son, and daughter Dana lost a brother when Tyler Wayne Hunt, a popular high school baseball and football player, lost his life in a tragic traffic accident.

Forever a Comet and forever a fan of the North Carolina Tarheels, Tyler Hunt’s favorite colors were Comet blue and Carolina blue, and now Bryant Hunt has a means to honor and remember his son with a restored 1966 Carolina blue Chevrolet pickup truck.

Call it a labor of love, call it a testament to a man’s faith in his family and community, but the project is now complete, save for a couple of minor details. 

He and his son started working on the truck when Tyler was in the 10th grade, according to Hunt.

“The truck is a vehicle my third cousin owned for 35 years, and his health got to where he was unable to drive,” explained Hunt.

“We drove it away from his house and had plans to restore it.”

The original 6-cylinder engine was replaced with a 350 engine, and he replaced the original stick shift with an automatic transmission, Hunt explained.

That was something he and his son talked about from the beginning.

“I was going to get the truck restored and have it for Tyler when he graduated.”

The family has preserved many of Tyler Hunt’s personal effects, including his bat bag and personally designed baseball cleats, with the mud still clinging to them from his last appearance on the mound the evening before his death.

“His shoes were customized,” Hunt explained.  “He got on the computer and customized the paint color and his name on there.”

Round rear view mirrors with the design of a baseball adorn both sides of the Carolina blue pickup, and Hunt’s football (50) and baseball (20) uniform numbers along with the numbers 66, representing his June 6 birthday are embroidered on the front seat.

“This truck was an expression of his love for baseball and football, and the color of the truck is a combination of the Tarheels and the Comets,” explained Hunt.

“Tyler unfortunately was unable to drive it due to the accident, but other features I’ve added to customize Tyler into it are custom baseball mirrors, embroidery on the seats with Tyler’s name, the numbers 66 - the year of the truck and Tyler’s birthday, which was June 6 - and on the center of the seat is a UNC basketball display which shows his love of the Tarheels basketball team.”

The truck also has power steering, Hunt added, and in the bed of the truck one can find a blue color in the wood grain, which is supposed to indicate the truck bleeding Carolina blue.

“He had a great love for baseball and football, and he really enjoyed everything at the school,” said Hunt.

“It’s a good display of family love and love for the community which is expressed in this project, with other people helping from the painting to the tires to the upholstery.”

Those volunteering their services to help restore the truck included Joe Brisco, Marvin Tuck, Jay Henderson, Jimmy Wilborn, Jimmy Reaves, Tom Pittard and the late Steve Henderson.

“Right after Christmas we would start our baseball practice for the year, and we would drive it to the Comets field to practice,” recalled Hunt with a glance toward the facility his son loved so much.

“It was in its original condition at that time, and the color was green with a white top.”

“I had a cousin of mine, Marvin Tuck, who did a majority of the body work, painting and that type of thing,” said Hunt, who labored on the truck himself.

“It’ll be left to Dana. It will be her vehicle forever, and there are a few other things I want to add to the truck, Tyler’s name on the driver’s door, and Waverly DeJarnette, my third cousin who originally owned the truck, his name will be displayed on the passenger door.”

Hunt thinks his son would be grinning from ear to ear if he were here to see the truck.

“Tyler being able to drive the truck now would be the only thing left to make the whole story complete,” he added.

Hunt has entered the truck in several car shows, and he’s looking forward to driving it in the South Boston Christmas parade this year.

“That was one of my goals last year, but it wasn’t complete in time for that,” he said.

Always a goal-oriented person, Tyler Hunt aspired to complete his high school education and enroll at the University of North Carolina where he hoped to play baseball, according to his father.

“Tyler had been to basketball camp down there six years and really loved that experience,” Hunt said. 

“During that time he was able to play basketball with one of Michael Jordan’s sons, and that really touched him.

“On family vacations we would go to a different major league baseball park each summer.

“We had some good experiences doing that.”

Hunt turned his gaze to the baseball diamond where his son pitched his final game.

The circle is now complete in so many ways, he pointed out.

“Tyler always completed his goals quick in life and in school,” recalled Hunt.

“He’s at his heavenly home plate waiting for me to slide in and greet him some day.

“That will make things complete.”

“It’s the way life is, it will throw you a curve ball at any time,” Hunt concluded.

“I feel every time I ride in this truck I have Tyler with me, and that really gets me through each day.”