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1947 Chevrolet 1 1/2 ton Pickup-Open Express



After featuring a truck of the month on our website for 15 years from over the world, we decided to do something a little different. For March we are featuring one of our own trucks! Sometimes, it’s fun to “blow your own horn”.

It was 25 years ago and our growing GM truck parts business had been progressing nicely for 10 years. About then we received a tip from a customer on a very unusual tired pickup seen stored in a midtown Kansas City, Missouri back yard. He said it was a step side bed pickup but it was so large! I decided to take a look to see what homemade truck was in that yard.

WOW! It was a real factory built pickup but was so oversized it looked gangly. It was pure 1946-early 1947 because of its updated front bumper, however the Chevrolet Salesman Data Book for that year did not recognize this model. Strange! We looked back to the 1941 data book and there it was. A 134 ½ wheel base pickup with a 108” long bed, on a 1 ½ ton chassis.

The back yard truck was totally unrestored and certainly had been used for work duties as GM had made it. Grill gone, little paint, no seats, bed wood missing. It would not be allowed to be in many neighborhoods without a garage to hide it.

Because it was so unusual (maybe the only one to survive) I sure wanted it in our collection. Yes, the restoration would be expensive but to have about the only one remaining would make it worthwhile.

A note hung on the home’s front door fortunately got a call. The owner had found it a few years before near Dodge City, Kansas and was told it was a harvest truck used annually during wheat and corn hauling. This may be correct because it had been given an aftermarket tilt assembly (now removed) for raising the bed to dump the contents much easier. He kept postponing the restoration because of the expense and the lack of an extra garage.

Because of these obstacles we reached an agreeable price and it was hauled to our shop the next day. Within several months, the total restoration began when its bare frame was setting on buckets.

The mechanics of this truck are totally 1 ½ ton. The engine has the extra horsepower of an original low oil pressure 235 six cylinder engine with standard 4 speed non-synchronized transmission, single speed differential, and 20 inch split rim wheels. NOTE: The silver zinc plating on the wheel’s lock rings. GM did this to help prevent rust from sticking the ring to the wheel.

Color: Boatswain blue with black fenders. Brown vinyl non-pleated seats. No accessories. The title shows 1947. Thus, produced somewhere in the final 4 months of this Open Express body design. It is the last of the 12 year production of this special bed style.

BED STATISTICS (OPEN EXPRESS)

      • 1. This design was first introduced in 1934 and referred to as an Open Express.
      • 2. Used on both a 1 and 1 ½ ton chassis in the final years
      • 3. 4 stake pockets on each side
      • 4. 4 inches wider than a conventional 1946 ½ and ¾ ton.
      • a. Thus a totally different width tailgate and front bed panel
      • 5. Bed length 108 inches
      • 6. Narrow wheel width and very low body mounting requires narrow “tubs” on inner bedsides.

Page 157 in the 1941 Salesman’s Data Book Sales is the only reference to the dual rear fender 1 ½ ton pickup but no Photo! The 1942 sales brochure shows the drawing of this “Open Express” with single rear wheels. The dual pickup is an option. The term rear dual wheels also are only in the text.

Why did GM offer a 1 ½ ton pickup? Why not?

They already had their very popular 1 ½ chassis with many different beds. The 9 foot box was first offered in 1934 so the chassis and bed were both available. No new tooling! A minor gamble! If it found a few owners, then more sales would be created for the Chevrolet Division and their dealers.

Setting on a 1 ½ ton chassis, it would have been difficult to overload this long 9 foot bed. With the manufacture’s gross weight of about 13,000 pounds, some very heavy merchandise would be needed to ever overload it.

INTERESTING ON REAR FENDERS. Because this duel rear fender pickup was such a slow seller, GM did not change these wide fenders after 1938. Our 1947 feature truck still uses the early fenders. The ridge around the wheel well opening is 1937-38 and match the 1937-38 front fenders. They do not match the non-ridge front fenders of the 1939-46! Just a matter of economics. These were truly work trucks. Owners has no interest if the rear fenders were 1938 or 1946.

NOTE: What happens when wide rear fenders are added to cover the 1 ½ ton dual rear wheels?

Now is where it becomes “very” interesting! The long narrow running boards required with single rear wheels will not reach to full width of the dual fender. Therefore, GM made a special running board extension just for the dual rear fenders.

They are connected to a stock 1 ½ ton running board that extends to the back edge of the cab. This extension widens to connect to the rear dual fender. No doubt, this was a big investment even for General Motors considering the low sales volume that was anticipated.

However, this extension was a must. It must be there for a person to stand on them and reach into the bed. The attached photos will make the configuration easier to understand.

SLOW SALES! No doubt retail sales were always extremely slow. The dealer price would have been slightly above the flat bed with wood sides and it could not carry more volume. Gross weight limits would have been the same when both used the same rear leaf springs.

TWO POPULAR USES:

1.  If the Kansas City owner was correct and it was used near Dodge City, Kansas during the harvest season. Why?  That is because where you found wheat country in the US and Canada, you found numerous Chevrolet Open Express Pickups.  They were natural to carry heavy wheat from the combine to the grain elevator in town.  The 9 foot bed on a 1 1/2ton chassis could not be overloaded with wheat especially with the dual rear 20″ tires of the 1 1/2 ton!  The bed was grain tight so very little wheat was lost.

The open express would have been well suited for small heavy loads such as bricks and masonry related products.

2.  RARETY. As this pickup was built just for work, almost none exist 70 years later. If you paid the extra 1 ½ ton price, then you worked it to justify the price. Few got stored in a barn or garage like a ½ ton! When they finally reached a salvage yard, their value in pure weight made them a first line candidate for recycling at the crusher. Are there any other survivors? We have only seen one!!  An unrestored 1941 owned by Dalton Brack.

YEARS AVAILABLE. This bed introduced in 1934 (also on a 1 ton chassis toward the later production years). Referred to as an “Open Express” because of its exceptional low body mounting and heavier gauge steel bed sides. So low that tubs in the bedside must be provided to protect it from the inner tires

The following photos show some data we had available on the early and late Open Express series.


1934

1939

1941


AND NOW PHOTOS OF OUR 1947 OPEN EXPRESS


Ready for Hauling!


Not as Fast as it Looks!


Sitting High on 20″ Wheels


Dual Rears Require Wide Fenders


The Retired Worker


Much Different Bed Construction than a 1/2 or 3/4 Ton Pickup


THE END!

GARAGE PHOTOS

In storage 5 years! Pardon the dust on the sheet metal.


Running Board Extensions at Rear


Portions of the Complete Board at Front


Correct Dash


Hammered Paint on Interior


Done as GM Made it


It’s all There as When New


Like GM Did it!


Even Cotton Covered Wiring


A Better View of Boatswain Blue


Dual or Single Wheel Fenders Connect to the Bed Lip


Correctly Restored

You can contact Jim Carter at jcarter@oldchevytrucks.com

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