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Illuminating the 1939-46 Panel Truck Interior

Jim Winter’s 1941 Panel Truck

As an aid to delivery drivers working after dark, GM provided an overhead “reading light” on the headliner bow between the front seats. (Same place with or without the accessory right side seat) Its on-off switch is on the wood plank sheet panel metal protector at the left of the driver’s shoulder.

CARGO LIGHT: Because only some panel truck owners made deliveries in the dark, GM made their rear interior cargo light; a dealer installed accessory. Jim Winters of Rochester, MN, found one of these very rear Guide Cargo Lights at a local swap meet and installed it in his show quality 1941 Chevrolet ½ ton panel truck.  It was in the original Chevrolet box with a one foot square instruction sheet and the wiring harness that would reach to the headlight switch.

LEFT REAR DOOR POST LIGHT SWITCH: The switch button at the bottom in the photo comes with all panel trucks through at least 1955. It was GM’s idea that the original single left door taillight would not operate when the door was open.  Thus, the “spring buttons”.

The almost matching “spring button” plate on the top of the two and it was in the cargo light kit. This harness reaches the park light switch.  GM designed this light just right for panel truck making deliveries!  The harness connects to the parking light terminal on the headlight switch.  In this way when the driver needs the cargo light on at night during a delivery, the park lights are also on, to be better seen when it is parked beside the road.

A USED ORIGINAL

                The only one we have found in 30 years!  It’s lost its lens

SURPRISE: To make it easier to install for the Chevrolet dealer’s employee, Jim discovered the mounting hole was in his rear top bow ready for the included self-taping attaching screw. Its light is activated by a wire from the accessory harness in this kit. When the headlight switch knob is pulled to park position, the cargo light is activated.

WHY A 1947?

This pre-war body design was sold through about May 1946. Then the 1947-53 was introduced. Thus, we have a split year with an early and late 1947.

READ ON if you have an interest in why the panel truck was so popular.

BACK IN THE DAY, seeing the interior merchandise in a panel truck at night was a necessity. Most of these trucks were purchased for transporting merchandise from retail stores to residential homes. In the time of one-family cars, (or no vehicle) and as the days became shorter in winter, the panel truck was important. Merchants realized that company profits would be increased if their products were taken direct to the consumer. With a phone call the buyer made arrangements for a delivery.  The panel truck was used so much for delivering groceries plus pickup and drop off laundry and dry-cleaning.  The stay at home mom needed this type of service and the panel truck brought merchandise right to the door.  Some delivery people even carried it into the home as an extra service.

Of course, the wide metal panel on the panel truck sides was a perfect place for advertising the store name. The light truck manufacturers picked up on this need very quickly.  During World War II, with the lady of the house working in war production plants, she had limited time for shopping, and clothes cleaning, plus the children needed attention.

You can always contact Jim Winters at: jewinters1@yahoo.com

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