During the recent 2014 annual convention of the American Truck Historical Society in Springfield, Missouri, hundreds of large and small trucks from over the US were in sight! This number is only found at this once a year convention in a different city each year.
As people walked through rows of so many older trucks several seemed to be at the top for getting the most attention. With several there was just something more special. Colors, workmanship and a unique body style combined to create these more popular trucks.
From this top group, it was easy to pick our Feature Truck of the Month for July – a pristine 1950 Chevrolet Cab Over Engine (COE) with optional power lift grain bed. Wheel base 158”, (see the 5700 emblems on the hood) and the factory color of mariner blue. The proud owner and restorer is Kent Zimmerman of Mesa, Arizona.
Kent retired 5 months before as a 30 year career pathologist in a local medical facility. His retirement gift to himself was to transport his now new COE to the largest truck convention in the world.
As an outlet from his sometimes strenuous job, Kent has enjoyed collecting and repairing older trucks. During his career, he has obtained: 1942 Chevy ½ ton, 1947 Diamond T and 1951 Chevrolet ½ ton.
The more he became involved with trucks the more his attention moved to Chevrolet COE trucks. Their appearance and good parts availability convinced him. He wanted one! His two year hunt was for an all original COE that had very few modifications. He looked at so many either personally or in photos.
His discovery was in western Minnesota near Fargo, South Dakota (a long way from home in Arizona). It had been a grain farm truck used mostly at harvest time each year in Eastern South Dakota.
When Kent saw the COE for sale it was love at first sight! He not only wanted to own it but made a decision to turn it into a new 65 year old. It would not be work but rather relaxation from a very responsible position as a pathologist. One of the attached photos show it on its way home to Arizona.
Once it was home, the planning for the restoration began. Parts were gathered, rebuilding contacts were found and more detailed studying was done to help lessen mistakes.
Piece by piece the disassembly occurred. Most of the COE was pure untouched. As a seasonal harvest truck most of its life had been in the owner’s barn off season. Much wear was certainly showing but most items were still in place as they left the factory in 1950. The more Kent got into the project, the more he enjoyed his first full restoration project. Of course, his workshop became covered with COE parts as the project continued. Even some items were hanging from the building rafters.
To restore the Load King Grain bed just as it had been since new, Kent was in luck. The metal black band around the wood floor was mostly repairable but any part that moved needed to be refabricated such as the hinges that are part of the bed tilting. There was enough wood still there for patterns. It could be replaced just like it was produced 60 years ago! One change: He made it 8” shorter so he could then use a center factory rear view mirror in the cab.
The bed decals showed just enough lettering and color to make perfect new ones. See the before and after photos. The Load King Co. of Sioux City, Iowa would be proud!
The bed also had a lift powered by a 1950 Lundell hydraulic cylinder. Kent’s surprise was that it operated perfectly even after setting in the Arizona desert heat for 3 years until it was checked. The exterior cylinder assembly was totally restored and special made Lundell decals were created.
Yes, this grain truck even came with the General Motors 2 speed vacuum operated differential for more hauling capacity. Unfortunately, it gives the truck a lower speed gear for work and not a higher speed for the road.
The interior. WOW! Look what a professional pathologist can do on his time off. It is a rare Advance Design truck interior that is restored with such perfection. Even the handle on the hand brake lever has been re-chromed. The horizontal ridges on the radio speaker grill and glove box door blend together perfectly. The seats are covered with the proper Spanish Grain Maroon Vinyl.
Looking deeper into the mechanicals, Kent discovered the 235 low oil pressure engine in an original COE had been replaced in prior years with an upper power range 235 cubic inch high pressure engine from a 1958 Chevrolet. It appears to have been professionally rebuilt by someone earlier. Kent tested the compression, vacuum and plastigaged the bearings. All were found to be within specs, therefore with a reassembly plus a major cleanup and detailing it was almost new. The ease of exchange requires no motor mount altering. He used a short shaft water pump and eliminated the cutting of the upper air dam. Kent is very satisfied finding a larger six cylinder engine that gives this COE the power and the additional speed it needs on most of today’s better roads. On the level it can reach 55 mph. This truck even retains its 6 volt system. With the proper 6 volt extra grounding, it starts just like in 1950. (With no effort)
A unique upgrade are the wheels. Kent chose to replace the factory split rims with non-splits. He sent the truck’s wheels to a specialized California Company. To the original centers they attached 22.5 inch outer rims. Low profile Goodyear radial tires gave the COE the same height as GM’s 20” split rims. A perfect equivalent! The result is much better road handling.
Because of limited room in the engine compartment, GM was forced to place the oil bath air filter to the lower rear. There is an air tube from the carburetor to this oil bath air filter. Look at the orange decal. Very unusual. Yes, Kent also had these made! Also changed from a conventional truck is the location of the horns, oil filter, hand brake lever, and wiper motor. See Photos!
During our several discussions with Kent, his opinion on restoration was very important. He was very serious when he said “As I sat behind a desk for 30 years and did this major 4 year restoration after hours, it was nothing anyone else couldn’t do. I am an amateur and hope to inspire others to do this”.
Kent feels there are several points should exist for an individual restoration to be successful.
– Most Important! You must really enjoy the restoration process.
– Don’t do it just to get away from your daily routine. You may get tired of the project.
– Remember this is a hobby. If it gets to be a job you should stop and just think about it for a few days.
– Get to know locals that are specialized in different segments of your restoration needs. They are the experts in what will be very difficult for the inexperienced.
– If this fits you’re personally, go for it, and make great memories.
You can contact Kent Zimmerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special Photos of Kent’s COE
Before Kent Zimmerman
After Kent Zimmerman
Correct Cotton Cover Wires. Nice!
Most Controls Close Together
Hand Brake at Left of Pedals
Horn on Firewall. No room on engine!
Electric assist wiper motor & oil filter on firewall
Hood hold open lever
The Lower Door Hinge is Bent by GM to Fit
New oil bath air cleaner decal
Stair Steps to the Cab – Plus New 22.5 Wheel and Tire
Your arm helps pull you up
New Load King Grain Bed
New side view
Authentic New Decal
The bed tilting cylinder is new again
Here’s Looking at You!
Relates to the Long 158″ WB
During mid-September 2015 Kent Zimmerman was at the annual Midwest All Truck National’s in Riverside, Missouri. What made his attendance so unusual was how he got to the show. Being a “real” early Chevy truck enthusiast, he decided to drive there from his home in Mesa, Arizona to the show near Kansas City, Missouri, a distance of 1,200 miles one way.
The decision was made to drive his all original 1951 Chevy ½ ton and come by himself. What a go getter! This little ½ ton has its original 216 cubic inch inline six cylinder engine with Babbitt bearing non-insert rods and close drive shaft. As Kent said “In their day they used these engines and closed drive shafts in cars and trucks all over the USA”. The key is not to push them to freeway speeds. Kent used the back roads, kept speeds to about 55 mph, and enjoyed seeing the countryside. A wonderful adventure!
During a discussion at the Riverside show, Kent had a trouble free trip and had enjoyed every minute of this 2 ½ day drive. The pickup was restored about 25 years ago before Kent bought it. Below are a few photos of this ½ ton setting among the many other trucks at the show.
Pure 1951 in Seacrest Green
Correct 1951-53 taillight bracket that pulls the housing beside stake pocket.
Protects light when bumper is absent.
Left rear fender in Seacrest Green.