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Wax Your Rusty Truck!

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Many truck owners have chosen to leave their vehicle’s old paint or rusty surface just as they found it setting in a back lot or farm field. Then the mechanicals are restored to new condition for safety and dependability. They now are called a “RAT-ROD”.

Enter now a great way to protect the aged metal surface and keep that old look. At a recent swap meet we met Dave Allder in Nebraska. He introduced us to a process that keeps the old appearance with an added dull shine. The appearance of his 1929 Ford Model AA big truck really draws attention and trophies at local special interest car shows. Of course, this is done at a fraction of the cost of patching, preparation, and painting the metal surface. Here are some steps that will make the rusty exterior metal surface a real eye catcher.

  1. Supplies: A can of Johnson Paste Wax (found in a flat yellow can in most medium size hardware stores. It has been popular in this type can in households since the 1940’s).  A hot hair dryer and grease free wiping rags.
  2. Clean metal surface of all dust and dirt. Let dry.
  3. For best results, go over the dry panel first by buffing the rust with a “fine” grade brush on an electric drill.
  4. Heat one panel at a time with a heavy duty hair dryer or commercial heat gun. If a panel is heated with the sun on a summer 100 degree day, you can forget the electric heat gun!
  5. Important: While panel is hot, apply Johnson Wax evenly with a dry cloth.
  6. Allow to dry before removing the haze with a dry rag!
  7. Now you have a great protected panel with a satin sheen. It will make people wonder, “How did this happen”? It looks so nice!
  8. For better results, experiment with some rusty metal to learn the technique before you really get serious with the real project.


These photos show why Dave’s truck gets so much attention at local shows. Also attached is a headlight bucket from a 1941-46 Chevy truck.  The close-up shows 50% hot waxed and the remainder as it was found in a lot behind a barn.  Not a great picture due to a poor camera but it does show the small panel before and after.

You can contact Dave Allder @ dave.allder@gmail.com

Before – As Dave found it.

After – The total waxing is completed

Left side: As most find older untreated bare metal
Right side: After the hot wax process

COE Shift Lever

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

As vehicle owners begin to use their truck (cars as well) they report to local dealers of developing problems. Many things show up in long field use and not during short laboratory tests.
An excellent example is the 4 speed shift lever on the 1947-55 Chevrolet and GMC Cab over Engine “COE”. It was found that wear in the lower end of the vertical lever would develop. Even a little wear moved the top end of the lever closer to the dash until finally a drivers knuckle could actually touch the dash!
By 1950, a factory correction was made. The lever was shortened and moved away from the dash. Photos by Kent Zimmerman – Mesa, Arizona
1947 – 50
1951 – 55

Photos by Kent Zimmerman, Mesa, Arizona

The Demise of 1935 High Cab Pickups

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

The Great Depression has reached a level not ever expected. About 25% of the country’s work force is without income. The Chevrolet Motor Company introduces a less expensive automobile (The Standard) to try to stop vehicle sales from their gradual downward spiral.

The 1935 1/2 ton pickup is kept as basic as possible to still be rated as a 1/2 ton and continues to have an actual bed with sides and a tailgate. In some countries, to lower costs, only a flat wood deck was provided on the new pickups. In the US, competition prevented the pickup from being this basic. Manufacturers were concerned not to go quite that far for fear of losing sales. The cab continued to be sheet metal nailed to a wood frame to create the body’s framework. At that time it was the less expensive method of cab construction.

The 1935 cabs were so basic they offered no place for a glove box, heater, or radio.  Even the grills were black and not chrome.  If you bought a pickup in 1935 it was because you had a hauling need as they were not a weekend pleasure vehicle. From the very beginning, during the Great Depression, and even later they were for work responsibilities.

Their hauling ability was the factor. The Chevrolet dealers understood during the depression years not to stock miscellaneous non-essential replacement parts for pickups. Owners would not purchase them. If a pickup rear fender was bent against a tire by a farmer backing into a low stump, it was hammered away from the tire. It may result in just a welded crack. If a hubcap was lost, it was not replaced. These problems did not affect it hauling ability and money during the depression was in short supply! It was the repair of mechanical items that was the priority. So these everyday 1935 workers continued their daily tasks on farms and for small businesses in towns and cities even with body damage, broken glass, noisy exhaust, leaking radiators, etc.

Then the worst thing happened! The United States entered World War II in 1941 and almost all small truck production stopped. Yes, these little basic 1935 1/2 ton’s continued to do their daily work. No replacement pickups were there to allow them to be just a replacement standby. If major body damage occurred, they were sent to a salvage yard and soon became recycled for the metal needed for the war effort. Of course, their rubber tires were always kept from salvage and could be quickly sold to waiting buyers. New tires were not available.

During years after WWII, the returning veterans demanded new and more modern houses, appliances, cars, and trucks. It became the largest boom time in our nation’s history. Many older material things reminded the middle age generation of the prior hard times in the country. The new was in! More disposable income in the US was available than ever before. Factories found it difficult to keep up with the demand for new cars and pickups. What did this do to the little 1935 1/2 ton? It was the end for most of the remaining survivors! If they could drive it, it could at least be the down payment on a new pickup and the dealer would probably scrap them.

Another item that created the death of even a better 1935 was the wood frame that held their cab together. Most of these work trucks had no garage or barn for protection from the weather. To replace the rotting wood in a 15 year old cab was not a consideration.

It gets worse! As the price of scrap increased, those searching for metal looked for anything available. When you need money and have no appreciation of a very tired 1935 1/2 ton, it becomes a prime candidate for the crusher.

It gets even worse! If somehow an actual real 1935 is found by an excited restorer years later, his high hopes for its rebuilding fades away. He discovers the price of a cab wood kit can be near $3,000.00 and replacement metal body parts usually must be handmade.

The following photos show a few of the remaining survivors. The owners of their ground up restoration will assure you the expense and time to make them correct far exceeds even a pickup two years newer with its all metal body.

Owner: Roger Sorenson La Crosse, Wisconsin
Owner: Richard Wright Westtown, New York

Owner: Jim Johnston Springfield, Oregon

Firewall Identification

Monday, August 20th, 2012

When finding a 1946 and older Chevy/GMC truck cab, identification may be difficult. Here is a quick way to come very close to the correct year.

The stamped stiffeners on the firewall tell the story.

No Stiffeners
Two Vertical Stiffeners
Cross Design Stiffeners

1937-1946 Deluxe Heaters

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Keeping the passenger area warm in cars and trucks during the winter was always a problem in the early years. Not only were the heater fans and cores small but the vehicles used recirculator heaters. Thus, the air in the cab was recirculated rather than using dry outside cold air being brought inside and warmed. This helped for quicker warming but with more passengers, the additional humidity from breathing caused the windows to fog inside. A wiping cloth would have been needed to clear the windshield.

To address this issue, GM provided an extra feature with the pictured “deluxe” heater. A blower motor attached to the top of the standard heater made it a “deluxe” model. This separate optional motor on top forced warm air into the defroster nozzles and onto the windshield. There were two switches under the dash, one for each motor. In colder climates, it is doubtful the small heater core could supply warm air from the two motors both at the same time! Although this is antiquated by today’s standards, it did allow some relief on colder days.

GM Deluxe Heater 1
Optional Defroster Motor on Top-Estimated 1939
Front GM Deluxe Heater
GM deluxe Heater 2
Air intake, back view ‘ Estimated 1939
GM deluxe Heater 2
Optional Defroster Assembly- Estimated 1939
Optional Defroster Assembly- Estimated 1939


WWII Cab Changes

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

With the US entry into World War II, trucks were quickly modified to be successful for military use. Pre-existing cabs, frames, and mechanical components were altered to be more usable when in everyday work duties or in battle.  NOTE:  The Chevrolet cab remains almost the same as those on civilian trucks.

WWII Cab 1
This photo shows a large military truck that was built by the Chevrolet Division of General Motors about 1941.  The items of much interest are the changes made for use overseas and when the truck was in the field.

WWII Cab 2

The horn button is of a very heavy duty basic design, not like on most civilian trucks.  Only the civilian ‘cab-over-engine’ body carried this style horn button on non-military vehicles.


Note: This is a civilian Chevrolet cab with many modifications. The windshield frame is operated differently. Its hinges are on the outside for easy repair. There is no crank-out assembly that is known for their short life. The frame is opened manually much like the trucks before 1936. The crank handle hole is not even punched in the dash panel.

WWII Cab 5

The crank handle hole is not punched in the dash panel.  The windshield frame is secured in the closed position by a simple wedge handle.

WWII Cab 6

The cab rear window is well protected with an exterior steel grill. We suspect many private owners would have liked this extra on their domestic trucks.

WWII Cab 6

The inside door and window handles are not die-cast due to the war time shortage of zinc. They are made of a steel stamping covered with a dull Bakelite molded material. This usually shrinks and cracks within a few years.

WWII Cab 7

The removable hood side panels are of extra thickness to protect the engine from enemy rifle fire.  The Chevrolet lettering was removed after 1941 to stop extra advertising.

WWII Cab 9

The windshield and hood have exterior hinges for easy accessibility if damaged overseas.

WWII Accelerator Pedal

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the war years, the US was plagued with a shortage of rubber. The Japanese occupied most of the islands that grew rubber producing plants. The majority of the rubber the U.S. could obtain was sent to the war effort.

WWII Pedal 1

Thus, manufacturers across the country were required to eliminate rubber and find substitutes. General Motors also felt the pressures on these non-war products. One of the more notable changed items was the redesigning of accelerator pedals on their trucks. All the rubber that had provided a non slip surface was removed. As a substitute, the metal surface was given three sharp edge slots. In this way the drivers shoe sole would not slip on the pedal surface. An excellent new design. (when you have a lemon, make lemonade).

WWII Pedal 2

No Pedal Pads

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Maybe the rubber was of lesser quality. Maybe the GM truck division was saving money. For some reason Chevrolet and GMC trucks were not designed for rubber brake and clutch pads.

No Pedal Pads 1

To keep the driver’s foot from slipping on them, these pedals are equipped with small “bumps” in the metal. This gives many years of use by the soles of the driver’s shoes.

No Pedal Pads 2

These bumps are molded in the pedals during production.

1940-1946 Dash Trim

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

A unique feature on GM truck cabs became standard equipment between 1940 and 1946. Before and after this, truck cabs were very basic. As they were made for work, almost no extras were on them. The idea was to keep manufacturing cost very low. There was much competition with other makes trying to also keep their sale price as low as possible.

Dash Trim 1

Therefore, it was a surprise in 1940 when GM trucks introduced an unusual feature on their commercial vehicle cabs. This was hammered paint plus a three piece set of narrow decorative horizontal chrome dash trim. It served no particular purpose but added to the appearance of the metal dash. This original trim was chrome on steel, so most show rust after 50 years.

Dash Trim 2

Re-plating of the trim is difficult. It can not handle much polishing before rust pits will leave holes in the trim surface. It is now being reproduced in mirror finished stainless steel. It looks the same but is resistant to rust. Contact Jim Carter Classic Truck Parts or other full stocking truck dealers.

1939-1946 Deluxe Cab

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Deluxe Cab 1

Deluxe cab?  There is none!  Truck cabs during these early years all came the same from the factory. Accessories were dealer installed. You picked the factory installed exterior color and transmission.  The dealership added the requested extras such as heater, inside sun visor right mirror arm, etc.

This changed on the Advance Design Cabs during 1947-55. The pickup had a deluxe cab because it was given factory rear corner windows, a right side sun visor, and door and windshield stainless trim.

1936-1946 Seat Adjuster

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Some beginners tend to place 1936-46 cabs in the same category. Don’t do this! The 1936-38 and 1939-46 are a totally different design. Very little interchanges. The early style provided excellent building blocks for the new design 1939-46 trucks.

One major difference (when viewing a base cab) is the placement of the bottom seat cushion adjusters. On the early design a three prong bracket for a seat adjustment is attached in two places to the back of the cab. See Photo.

Seat Adjuster 1

The new 1939-46 design gives a totally different way the lower cushion adjusts. It sits on four front to back above the gas tank strips. Two of these have small pegs which fit into holes in the cushion bottom. In this way the cushion can be lifted at the front and moved forward or backward.

NOTE: On both body designs the lower and upper cushions connect where they meet. Thus, at least the lower part of the back will move with the lower cushion. Unfortunately, your shoulders and arms will always be same length from the steering wheel.

Seat belts? Unheard of in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Seat Adjuster 2

1936-1939 Glove Box Lock

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

This early glove box lock assembly has a weak point that makes it difficult to find complete. Its die-cast vertical pointer is held in place by a small steel tension spring. After the truck sets outside abandoned several years the spring rusts, breaks, or otherwise looses its tension. This allows the pointer to fall out and the glove box lid will no longer stay closed.

Most all locks you find will be without their pointer. The enclosed photos show a complete lock with pointer as it must be to operate.

Glove Box Lock 1

These locks do not have the ‘push button’ mechanism as the later design.  A small spring button attached to the dash moves. With this style, you pull on the key knob in the door when it is unlocked to overcome this spring button.  You don’t have to use the key to open the door.  Just pull the lock knob.  To lock the glove box door, just turn the key and the pointer moves forward.  The door is now locked.

During the beginning months of this 1936-39 lock, a double sided key blank was used. This blank has not been available for many years. If you need the early style your local locksmith may not be able to provide a key! (And the search begins.)

  • Painting your glove box door? You will need to remove this lock assembly. Here’s how: Turn the key to the right while pulling up on the pointer. You may have to jiggle it as you pull. Out it comes including the small tension spring! Now the large retaining nut can be loosened and the remainder of the assembly can be removed.
  • Lock removing tip from Scott Phaneuf, Hatfield, MA.

Glove Box Lock 2

Glove Box Lock 3

1936-1938 Cab Windlace

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

It is so unusual to find an unmolested mid 30s truck! When this all original 21,000 mile 1937 GMC appeared at a recent New England truck show, we had to take notice having never seen the correct installation of the small 3/8′ bead cab windlace on an early model. Our camera did some recording.

Left Side Cab Lace

Left Side Cab Lace (Above)

Right Side Cab Lace

Right Side Cab Lace (Above)

Rumors from a few past customers were correct, the attaching position at the upper front door corner changes. Take note of the way the two pointed windlace ends meet when the door is closed. On the top and back side of the door opening the windlace is attached to the cab. At the front, the vertical piece is secured to the door edge

Gap Cab Lace

Note the gap between the two pointed ends of the welt. Some shrinkage after 70 years.

1936 Cabs

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

1936 Cabs

Three times during Chevrolet truck history there were mid-year body changes. This was in 1936, 1947, and 1955. These changes involved very few modifications to the bed and mechanical components, but it was the cabs that received the near total facelifts.

In mid 1936 a major cab change occurred. Prior, they are referred to as high cab (mid 1936 and older) and later the low cab (mid 1936 and newer). The earlier style is a more square cab and has few style differences from trucks of the 1920’s. Structurally, they used internal wood frames to which much of the sheet metal was attached with nails and screws. This makes a strong, solid quiet cab when new but often results in a shortened life as dampness, dry rot, and loose fasteners take their toll.

A few other specifics on the 1936 high cab.

  • 3 Door Hinges
  • Rectangular Rear Window Frame
  • Windshield Frame has two lower rounded corners and two upper square corners
  • Windshield Frame is swing out manually with a slide on each side. A hand turned screw tightens down on the side to hold the frame open
  • Built in Body Exterior Sun Visor over Windshield (see diagram)

The newer low cab reflects the modern rounded body, a styling that had been introduced in all mid 30’s cars and most of the competition’s trucks. The only cab wood remaining was two front vertical internal posts and two horizontal side sections to help reinforce the door weight.

A few other specifics on the 1936 low cab

  • 2 Door Hinges
  • Round Corners on Rear Window
  • Windshield Fram opened bt crank handle in center of dash
  • Windshield Glass 12″ high with all four corners rounded
  • No changes in the cream colored dash guages