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1952 Chevrolet UTE


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WOW! What is this? It is a car or a truck? Surprise. It is neither.

This is an “American made” 1952 Australian UTE!

It’s probably the only one of its type in the world. The owner and restorer is John Smith of Tonganoxie, Kansas.

We first saw this special vehicle displayed at the Mid-West All Truck Nationals on September 6, 2014. What an attention getter!!

This all began in the 1960’s when John drove a much worn 1952 Chevrolet Sedan for almost 10 years. He was personally involved in all the repairs that were required. He knew all the in’s & outs of the 1952. Now fast forward more than 50 years. John is nearing retirement and keeps thinking about the 1952 he once owned. Wouldn’t it be great to own another 1952?

He could restore it just like the one in his memories of the 1960’s. So he spent much time searching.

And then it happened. In an Australian movie, John saw a 1952 Australian unibody UTE used as their regular transportation. It was love at first sight! The front and mechanicals were all the 1952 Chevy car he remembered but the rear was a pickup truck.

Soon frustration began when he could not find a 1952 UTE imported from Australia. The time and money required to visit that country, buy a UTE, have it delivered to the USA, and change it to left hand drive was beyond consideration. Therefore, the next step is called by many “American Ingenuity”. John would make his own UTE in his own garage in the Heart of America!

Thus, many hours were spent just planning how this could be accomplished. It finally began to come together when he saw an original unrestored 1952 Chevrolet with a US made sedan delivery body and chassis. This is like a Chevy car station wagon without quarter panel windows. They also have a side hinge single rear door for easily loading merchandise. Most were for commercial use.

He said “I think I can make this into an Australian UTE”. It took three years in uncharted waters (not been there before) to create the show truck in the following photos. He started with a 1952 sedan delivery and restored most of it (similar to a sedan). The rear suspension was upgraded and the front mechanicals now have Mustang II suspension which allows for power steering and disc brakes.

The engine is from a 1989 Chevy Camaro I-Rock 350 cubic inch V8. Transmission is the very popular 700-R4 with overdrive. Of course, the UTE now has air conditioning, cruise control and power brakes.

The above updated mechanicals he used are not easy to install however, the availability of these parts are not difficult to locate from street rod suppliers. It was the creation of a UTE from the sedan delivery body that was the automobile challenge of his life! So carefully the body panels had to be cut and welded. No mistakes allowed. Compared to the Model A Fords he had once restored this was over twice the project.

The most difficult project was making the tailgate. Sedan delivery bodies have a single door that opens sideways. This door had to be shortened and hinged at the bottom to the body floor to transform it into a useable tail gate. Even the original wood floor in the sedan delivery (now the truck bed) is a ribbed metal creation. What a project! This would be impossible for most. Here, John received assistance from a very talented body expert, Carey Ditty near his town.

Another very big challenge was to make the back of the cab from the top of the sedan delivery door. The sedan delivery rear window and surrounding metal was moved forward to become the stationary rear cab window used in John’s Australian UTE. Not for the average body person’s talents. John had to have some help on this major project from a very skilled “metal bender”.

To keep it looking 1952 on the outside, John used the original 15” wheels which hold pure Chevrolet hub caps. Note the original factory side trim. It certainly makes it appear like a nice restored 62 year old deluxe Chevrolet.

So there you have a basic overview of three years of major challenges for John Smith. Look and admire a one of a kind 1952 Chevrolet. For our Feature Truck of the Month, we will call it a truck just like the Australians do.

We understand the Aussies made these in their own General Motors assembly plant from 1936 through 1952.

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All new chrome!

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Nicely Restored Emblem

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Correct trim, wheels and hubcaps

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The most difficult to make!

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Floor mat over new floor

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Spare tire behind passenger seat

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Power windows and no wing vents (Big Job)

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The Beginning!

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It’s mostly there except front metal!

You may contact John Smith at nstarrsmith@gmail.com

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