We had heard of this special GMC over the years but had not personally talked to the owner or seen the various photos showing it in detail. The owner and person responsible for this creation is Bill Miles of Ashland, Massachusetts. After several conversations with Bill, we knew this pickup should have been a part of our Feature Truck series long before now!
It was created in 1953 and began its life as a long bed ½ ton, not a short bed as most are used to seeing. It was the decision of the General Motors Truck Division to offer a long bed ½ ton (using a ¾ ton bed) during the early years and not make it with heavier suspension, a stronger frame , and low gearing in the ¾ ton differential!
GMC had its own full oil pressure inline six cylinder since 1939. Additional horsepower allowed this extra 12” bed length on a ½ ton (not available on the Chevrolet ½ ton). The gross weight remained 4,800 pounds, the same as the short bed. It was still far below the ¾ ton gross weight of 8,800 pounds. This long bed could still have the higher ratio 4.11 differential and not the lower geared ¾ ton with 4.57 and optional 5.14 but with the same bed. The ½ ton ride was smoother, highway speed increased, and fuel economy improved over a ¾ ton.
Another very unique feature is the factory 4 speed Hydra-Matic transmission. It operates just right and was the first year GMC offered it in a pickup. Photo shows this “big brute” on a table just after its rebuild.
Our feature truck is one of these unique pickups, however with Bill’s help it has been given several additions to operate better on today’s highways. And the big plus: Most of these extras are not visible. Bill’s ½ ton has been given a higher speed and is a pleasure to drive.
To most, it appears as a very nice restored stock GMC pickup that is as was bought new over 60 years ago. It is not!
The following is the data from Bill Miles that personally explains what he added to make it so road worthy and at the same time safer to drive. His reward: 40,000 miles over the US in fun driving since he bought it in the year 2000. Many vacations were scheduled.
YOU WILL REALLY LIKE BILL’S STORY
I purchased my 1953 GMC Hydra Matic long bed half ton in the summer of 2000. At the time, it had a 270 GMC engine with Fentons, 4 wheel drum brakes, the original 4.11 rear gears, and 15 inch bias ply tires that were 27 inches tall.
Over the years, I have installed a 302 engine with a 2 bbl. Holley AA-1 Carburetor, keeping the Fenton Headers, changed the rear gears to 3.55’s, changed the tires to 215/85R 16 inch radials that are 30.5 inches tall, installed front disc brakes with a dual master cylinder, and added an original sway bar.
By changing from the 4.11 and the 15 inch tires, to the 3.55’s and the 16 inch tires(3.5″ more diameter), my engine rpm dropped by approximately 800 at 65 miles per hour.
I kept the 16 gallon fuel tank behind the seat and added a second 16 gallon tank under the rear of the bed, where a spare tire would mount if there was not a side mount. I have a valve on the floor of the cab to switch between tanks. Each tank has a sender that is wired to an On/On switch under the dash. When I flip the switch forward, it reads the seat tank, when I flip it back it reads the rear tank, all from the original gauge.
The two tanks come in handy when I am traveling. In 2009, I shipped the truck to my friend Ken Brown’s home in Yacolt, Washington. Then, my son Connor and I flew to Washington, and drove the truck home to Massachusetts. We were on the road almost a month and drove 5200 miles, visiting San Francisco, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, and other attractions.
I have driven the truck to ATHS (American Truck Historical Society) shows in Syracuse, NY, Baltimore, MD, Auburn, IN, and several times to the ATCA show in Macungie, PA. I have logged about 40,000 miles since I bought the truck in 2000.
In May 2017, I drove to the ATHS show in Des Moines Iowa, then headed south to Nashville, and Lynchburg, Tennessee, then drove north through Bowling Green, KY, toward home. I was on the road for 15 days and traveled 3800 miles. To date, I have driven the truck through 31 states.
You can contact Bill Miles @ email@example.com
Loaded and ready for travel
First year for the optional side mount
The cockpit for traveling. Look at the speed on the speedometer!
Close-up of Hydra-Matic shift and original gauges plus a very old turn signal control.
Only year for the Ram Horn attached to the intake manifold. It requires the new relay on the firewall.
The 302 looks new!
Fresh Hydra-Matic Rebuild. Now that is a heavy weight! Bill’s 1953 in the Background.
Bill showing the “shaft extension” that gives the short bed the extra length to make it a long bed GMC ½ ton. Making this extension saved GMC so much money in designing a total new longer ½ ton drive shaft system. Some may have call it GMC’s “weak link” but it sure has not been the case for Bill Miles.
Setting by the Bowling Green Water Tower near the Corvette Museum.
A day at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
Beside a small local church in West Virginia
3.5 more diameter