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1956-59 Chevrolet GMC Suburban, Panel Truck Taillight

Friday, January 6th, 2017

General Motor’s method of saving tooling cost on commercial vehicles shows up in the production of these tail light assemblies. By the mid 50’s years the increase demand for turn signals, two taillights were required on the panel truck and Suburban’s. GM built them right and left, installed in the body, at the factory for the first time.

These were made so one light fit the right and left side. They were turned 180 degree and they would interchange. The red lens was also turned in the housing at 180 degrees. It got the job done with half the tooling.

Surprise! These are now produced new in pairs at Jim Carter Truck Parts and other full stocking early GM truck dealers.


Halogen Lights vs. Generator Charging

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

With the introduction of Halogen headlights, night driving is a little safer due to more illumination. However, this improvement comes with a negative for those still using a generator for their electrical charging system.

To get the extra lighting from Halogen bulbs, the available amperage should be about 60. This will come from an alternator systems which has a charging ability of at least 75. If you are still using your original 6 or 12 volt generator, as was on most pre 1963 vehicles, the available amperage is approximately 45 at normal driving speed.

Therefore, with a generator charging system, there is not the amperage created to get the proper Halogen lighting. When at engine idle speed the lights dim much like the generator lighting systems. When at faster RPM, the advantage of Halogens is not reached.

Suggestion: Keep your original headlights when you have a 6 or 12 volt generator.

1955-58 Cameo Taillight Lens Securing Plates

Friday, April 29th, 2016

Most are badly rusted and are not usable! A small metal plate was once used to secure the red taillight lens and clear back up light lens against the long gasket that fits inside the taillight housing. A machine screw pulls this plate against the two plastic lenses behind the reflector to stop inside water leaks.

When the metal plate deteriorates, water seeps inside the lens (particularly the lower clear back-up light lens) keeping the gasket always wet and in colder climate freezing any water accumulation.

We recently received an excellent original used plate from Scott Phaneuf of Hatfield, MA and we are having them reproduced just like GM’s.

NOTE: Check your Chevrolet Cameo or GMC Suburban carrier taillights. This metal plate is important to prevent lens and gasket deterioration!

We will soon offer these plates and machine screw. This screw threads into the large housing behind the red reflector. Available in late May 2016. Call and order now with no money down. When they arrive you will be invoiced! Cost per pair $6.90 + postage, Part # MS527


1960-1961 Parking Lights

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

The most unique feature of the 1960-1961 Chevy / GMC Truck is the design of their hood. It is not in any way similar to the year before. Whether you like it or not, there is no other vehicle with an appearance like this Chevy and GMC Truck. As GM was known for saving on tooling costs (especially with trucks) this is a perfect example. The large sheet metal hood is the same on GMC and Chevrolet trucks but the parking light housings are different!
Look at the attached photos. You will see how GM gave each of their two brands a different look while keeping the same hood.

1960-61 Parking Lights -1 1960-61 Parking Lights

Chevrolet                                                                                 GMC


Suburban Back Up Lights

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

For those on a quest for near unobtainable GM options, this one will provide years of searching. During the mid 1950’s, backup lights began to show growing popularity and were occasionally seen on pickup trucks near each rear fender.

The limited production 1955-56 Suburban was no exception but the location for its backup light was unusual. Their single center tailgate running light was given this attachment on its right side. The foot on this small backup light was curved to secure just right to the round tail light housing. The photo below shows this option as it was installed by GM.

Activating the light on a factory column shift three speed or Hydramatic was relatively easy. The switch attaches to the shift linkage levers on the steering column.

The 4-speed transmission backup light switch must be totally different as there is no external linkage. This photo is of this very unusual switch attached to the base of the floor shift lever.

suburban back up light 1

suburban back up light 2

suburban back up light 3

Step Side Tail Lights

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

step side tail lights

The differences between these two series of tail lights is an excellent example of lowering costs during production. To keep competitive, manufacturers will always consider making products of equivalent quality, but at lower prices.

In 1960-1966, GM, as well as several aftermarket companies, used a redesigned tail light lens and eliminated the need for the earlier metal bezel. The new plastic lens wrapped around the front edge of the same metal housing making it one piece. This new lens was created so it could also replace the previous 1955-1959 lens and bezel combination. Therefore, as supplies of 1955-1959 lenses were used up, dealership parts departments would offer the later style lens as a stepside replacement. This made the original 1955-1959 taillight the 1960-1966 type.

The black housing and wiring are the same from 1955 through 1966.

Ignition Cylinder Light

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

ignition cylinder light

The 1955-59 Chevrolet and GMC originally came with a non-metal shield to direct light into the ignition switch to the key slot. This shield is almost always missing after fifty years. Most shrink after twenty years and fall from the switch. The accompanying photos show this snap-in shield in place. Even the die cast opening is notched on all switches to hold this non-metal plate. The illumination from the snap-in light bulb socket directs the illumination through the small lower opening, then to a hole in the switch, and finally to the key slot in the ignition cylinder. When the driver enters a 1955-1959 GM truck at night, he pulls the headlight switch and the illuminated key slot shows where to place the key.

1966 Stepside Back Up Lights

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The rear stepside fenders on the 1955 through 1966 are usually considered the same. The reproductions on both metal and fiberglass are listed in catalogs and related advertisements as being identical on the right and identical on the left.

Not true if you are a perfectionist! In 1966 Federal automotive regulation required all cars and light trucks to have back-up lights. Thus, GM modified this fender with a stamped indention to better fit the required back-up light assembly.

1966 stepside back up light

1960-1966 Back Up Lights

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

To keep vehicles base price low, GM made many items dealer accessories. If the buyer required extras, the dealer was the installer. This created less complications on the assembly line and added more income for dealerships.

One of these extras was back-up lights on the 1960-1966 Fleetside pickup. After 35 years they have become very rare due to their location below the taillight assembly. They were always subjected to water and salt. Corrosion of the chrome outer die cast bezel is a normal result of trucks used regularly.

The adjacent photos show the light assembly before installation plus their correct location on the pickup box.

1960 1969 back up lights 1

1960 1969 back up lights 2

1960 1969 back up lights 3

1960 1969 back up lights 4

1960 1969 back up lights 5

Park Light Lens, Amber or Clear

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

When viewing older GM cars and trucks we see both colors of park light lenses. There seems to be no consistency that gives us the proof of what is actually correct, however, it is easy as remembering a year.

Beginning in 1963, federal regulations required park lights to show an amber color. Today, companies reproducing original clear lenses find it easy to run more in the same die using an amber additive. Therefore, in GM trucks most 1954-62 clear lenses now can be found marketed with an equivalent amber style.

One exception is the 1969-1970 Chevrolet truck. Originally it came new with clear lens but behind them are amber park light bulbs giving the required color appearance when illuminated.

4 Speed Back Up Light Switch

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Four Speed Backup Light Switch – They Did Exist!

4 Speed Back Up Light Switch

The first design of the 4-speed synchronized truck transmission, introduced in 1948, was used through about 1965. About mid series, when the dealer installed backup light increased in popularity, a special switch was attached to the base of the floor shift lever. This was the only location possible as there is no external linkage on a 4-speed.

No doubt regular floor contact with shoes and boots shortened the life of this small electrical switch.

Buy Parts for 1934 to 1946 Trucks

1955-1959 Panel Tail Lights

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The new Task-Force truck design was introduced in mid 1955. For some reason the panel truck carried the same left tail light as the Advance Design used from 1947 through mid 1955. This is strange as the new body was designed to hold a right and left tail light.

Even more unusual was that GM provided a kit for dealer installation when the customer asked for the accessory turn signals. The dealer (not the factory) actually cut a square hole in the body panels to place the two lights. The result in mid 1955 was dealer installed turn signals (by customer request) and the assembly on the left door by the factory.

In 1956 GM began with the lights on either side and this has continued through the years. The left door in 1956-1959 held just the license light assembly.

1955 1959 panel tail light 1

The factory 1955 Panel with the single light on the door. (above)

Click on images below to enlarge

1955 with optional dealer installed turn signals (owned by George VanOrden of Fulks Run, Virginia)
Close Up of 1955 door and corner with accessory turn signals.
Tail Light in Hand… Notice the body shop cut to make room for the optional tail lights. These cuts were discovered by George VanOrden during a ground up restoration of his all original 1955 panel.


1955 1959 panel tail light 2

1956-1959 Factory installed dual tail lights. (above)