Owner: Steve Jones
In the search for unusual trucks to place in our monthly feature, we came to a stop when we found this 1949 Chevrolet ½ ton. Though not restored original, it looks on the outside much like what would have been seen on the road in the early 1950’s.
The owner and restorer is Steve Jones of Manawatu, New Zealand. Steve says this over two year project finished even better than planned. The following is a basic summary of what became a very large project. For further details, contact Steve at: Chevytrucks49@e3.net.nz
Locating this type truck to rebuild was difficult on the islands of New Zealand. The country is ‘down under’ (below the equator) and finding this GM body style became Steve’s challenge. He began to feel lucky if he could just find one for sale.
Finally, Steve found a 1949 Chevy ½ ton with no motor or transmission and an excess of cab rust. With little negotiations, the truck was bought. Steve knew it would be just what he had in his plans once the rebuilding was completed.
The long frame rails were not altered in this rebuilding and all the sheet metal is like it left the assembly plant in Petone, New Zealand in 1949. Yet, the hidden changes are many! The engine is a GM 350 V-8 and the automatic transmission is an overdrive turbo 700R4 from a 1993 Holden (GM in Australia). Also, from that car is a 3.08 ratio differential with disc brakes. The total package gives good vehicle speed at lower engine RPM.
The front rack and pinion assembly comes from a later model XJ6 Jaguar sedan. Steve was quite surprised to find the complete assembly fit the 1949 with very little alteration. It provides disc brakes with four pistons on each front rotor. A vacuum booster for the power brakes is bolted to the left frame rail. The original steering wheel with upper column remains 1949.
Steve used two u-joints and special brackets where he cut his original column just below the floor. In this way the lower Jaguar column can be connected under the hood and out of view. Even the accelerator pedal is pure 1949. He made skillful cuts, bends, and welds to keep the early accelerator pedal assembly which moves the four barrel carburetor linkage of the GM V-8. Remember, this little New Zealand ½ ton has always been right hand drive! The accelerator linkage must run horizontally from beside the right inner fender along the outside of the firewall through brackets to reach the left side of the carburetor throttle rod. Quite a design even for General Motors!
After these difficult mechanical changes, Steve began with the sheet metal. He knew it would be difficult to locate replacement metal in New Zealand. The excess rust would require all fenders, replacing the rusted front cowl panels, and adding a new bed. These items would have to be imported from the United States.
Many items on this New Zealand right hand drive 1949 are unusual to owners of US made Chevrolet early trucks. The most interesting area is the dash. See photo. Not only are the gauge position reversed but look at the top. There is no openings for a radio! Even the speaker grill is without slots for the radio sound. (It is actually a glove box door cut shorter. ) The holes for the ignition switch and cigarette lighter are the same, however the use is reversed.
When you think your GM truck restoration project is requiring more work than you expected, think of Steve Jones in New Zealand. His ’49 is now near show quality and probably one of a kind in this smaller country. Steve’s comment: Never give up!
Far Right: Similar Truck Owned by Graham Stewert, Wyndham, New Zealand