It is rare that we see a transformation that has occurred like this 1951 Chevrolet ¾ ton pickup. It was changed from being a parts truck to a national show winner among some very stiff competition. It has become a step above the quality on the day it left the dealership 65 years ago. The owner, Dr. Fred Young of Moorestown, New Jersey is the one initially responsible for it reaching this level.
The adventure began about 15 years ago. Fred’s interest in older vehicles had been growing over the years. To restore an older 1950’s vehicle was what he wanted. It would be a complete change of pace over his daily routine but maybe this is what made it so rewarding!
Why a pickup? Fred was told by a vehicle hobbyist that pickups were less complicated to restore, and would be a good starter vehicle. Who ever said that did not realize how deep Fred and his restoration technician were going to get into this project or the poor condition this new acquisition would be. Greenie, as Fred first called it, was because of its original Seacrest Green color.
It had been on a working farm (used and abused) near Danville, VA for 49 years. The older it got, the less it was taken care of, until it had almost reached the parts truck category.
No windshield (caused interior damage), a metal plate covered the rotten wood and cross sills, 3 fenders a total loss, and enough caked mud and dirt removed to start a 50’ x 50’ vegetable garden. Yes, the farmer had tried to keep the body going by just covering the rust with Bondo. Oops, he had forgot to add enough antifreeze one winter so the truck’s replacement 235 engine (1954-55) had a 10” crack in the block that was spot-welded by the other owner.
A major restoration always begins with disassembly. Fred jumped right into this project with no hesitation. This is what he had been looking forward to before his retirement. He worked on it hours a day discovering the abuse it had experienced. He began with the preliminary restoration work such as paint and dirt removal (a big job), and begin buying the new parts that would be needed soon. With the paint removed to bare metal, Fred renamed Greenie to the Silver Monster! With so many parts now spread over his garage, he began to realize maybe he was beyond his ability as a first time restorer. He wanted to enjoy driving this truck and not just be restoring it during all of his retirement years.
He began to visit the body shops in Danville for help and all four said the same thing. “We do not do restoration work anymore. We have changed over to more profitable insurance work and our employees do not have the skills to satisfy older car’s owners.”
Fortunately, Fred’s research found one of the most knowledgeable persons in the country on 1947-1955 (Advance Design) Chevy/GMC trucks. Bob Alder of Stephentown, New York, has about the top reputations in this field. Bob has his own restoration shop, has built many show trucks, plus behind his building is over 100 early GM trucks for parts and research. Also, he is a tech writer of restoration articles in national magazines on AD trucks. These credentials could not be better! Fred certainly found the best person to finish his pickup and Bob’s shop was only 150 miles away. Better yet, he had a spot open for Fred’s Silver Monster!
With the paint removed, Fred towed it to Bob Adler Restoration Shop with all the parts he had accumulated. Bob did an excellent job over the next 18 months. He even regularly emailed Fred showing him exactly what he was doing every few days. What a nice touch!
The cab was removed immediately and set on a dolly until the chassis was completed. The cracked engine block needed a replacement. No problem for Bob. He went out back to his massive collection of Advanced Design Trucks and picked the correct Thriftmaster 216 cubic inch engine that was pure 1951. What restoration shop in the world could have done this?
The same was the truck’s two doors. They were beyond salvaging. Once again, Bob was about 200 feet from his door collection and made a quick exchange.
Once the 18 month project was complete Fred had a brand new 65 year old truck! Certainly a sight to behold. It was then christened with a new and final name. To Fred it will always go by “Big Red”. It does have some factory options. Fred chose Swift’s Red as the exterior color. This is one of the optional 12 colors that year. The interiors of all 1947-52 trucks were a gray-brown with slight metallic.
White wall tires were a non-factory option. In 1951 any Chevrolet dealer would have been glad to take a new non-sold showroom ready truck down the street to a tire store and exchange for a set of more “attention getting” tires (to get a sale).
One photo below shows this ¾ ton pickup has a 3 speed shift lever on the steering column. Most pickups of this size came with the optional 4 speed floor shift transmission as the plans were to use them for hauling heavier loads. Thus, it is questioned if the very first owner in 1951 was on a farm or the farmer got a sweet lower price but that answer is lost in history.
Fred requested the option chrome grill with Waldorf white back splash bars and stainless around the windshield and door windows. The chrome hood ornament and bumper guards were Chevrolet dealer items and add a little extra sparkle.
While Fred’s “Big Red” was at its very best he decided to take it to serious judging shows in 2012 sponsored by the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America (VCCA). He received more than three major awards over a three year period, including First Junior, Senior, and Preservation awards in their Commercial Class. One of the larger 2013 shows in Lawrence, NY, “Big Red” was recognized as the Best Commercial at the show!
So this is an overview of a very large pickup with humble beginnings; saved from almost being sent to the salvage yard. What a second act for a hardworking truck from Virginia.
Contacts for the above are:
Fred Young – ybarbfred@AOL.com
Bob Adler – bobadler@NYCAP.RR.COM