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1958 Chevrolet ½ ton Short Bed

Yes, you can create a 1950’s show truck at home, however it requires a basic mechanical attitude, enthusiasm, tools and of course a garage or work shed. This little ½ ton now looks about like when it was in the dealer’s show room 60 years ago. It left its home garage only once during its three year ground-up restoration.

The owners and restorers are Dick & Dolores Diestel of Schofield, Wisconsin.

 Truck History:

This 1958 Chevy was discovered in Montana alongside a back road by some hunters from Wisconsin about seven years ago. Rust covered and the bed was missing. See photo.

Seen Along a Roadside

Some would say it was a few steps from the salvage yard! At one time it had been used by a local farmer to mostly carry bags of feed from the town to a nearby cattle operations.

The hunters decided the price was right and took it back to their northern Wisconsin location as a future “fixer-upper!” There it sat untouched for about two years until Dick Diestler found it. He bid the right price and then owned it.


Meet Dick Diestler:

This person is a real go getter and an inspiration to many. Dick is a retired electrician and 81 years old. He acts and looks 20 years younger! Not only does he love retirement but he stays so active. Many would say he stays younger by being active and keeping his brain working.

Dick’s talents are many beyond being a quality electrician in his other life. He is a “Jack of all Trades.” During his employment years he did a few complete restorations after hours; Three 60 year old farm tractors, and older earth moving dozer, and early Jeep, a large retired “big” truck, etc.

One day after his retirement Dick rode with a friend in a nice older truck that had been restored and he was hooked. “I want to restore an over 60 year old GM pickup to be just like I remembered when they were new.” As this big restoration got underway he wondered how he had time to work his regular electrician job and still do a few restorations.

The Restoration:

It was three year project but Dick Diestler loved every minute of it. He had restored non-trucks in the past years so he had a general idea of what would need to be done. Finding parts to replace those not restorable was the big part of the project. It can be quite frustrating trying to find items not being reproduced that you need to continue with the restoration.

He did almost the “total” restoration with little help except for upholstering the two seat cushions. With a welder in his garage Dick cut out and replaced the cab corners, much of the floor, and everything that was rusted beyond repair. Completing the frame restoration, was big considering a few age cracks and much grease accumulation over the years. See these photos Dick realized to make the final painting perfect he would have to do it in a paint booth so he found one at local body shop he could rent one.

The agreement was to rent the booth at their shop for 5 days at $1,000.00. An employee would help him block sand the primer before the Cardinal Red was applied. Yes, Dick Diestler personally did the final spray painting of the red.


The Extras:

He has kept this ½ ton mostly as it left the dealership in 1958 including Cardinal Red paint.

Factory Special order options:

  • The 283 cubic inch V-8 engine that was in the pickup in Montana during its beginning years (Extra cost over the 235 six cylinder engine)
  • 4 Speed Transmission (not the standard 3 speed column unit)
  • A double pulley generator turned by a secondary pulley attached to the crankshaft
  • Chrome grill, bumpers and hubcaps.
  • AM Radio
  • Fresh Air Heater
  • 16’’ Wheels (not the standard 15’’) This helps reduce some engine RPM

Accessories (Non-Chevrolet)

  • The differential gearing was changed from the 3.90 factory ratio to a recently made 3.38 ratio. What a difference 20% increase in higher speed and lower engine RPM on the highway
  • Dual exhaust system gives less back pressure and extra sound difference you cannot get with a catalytic converter.
  • Amber park light lenses replaced the original clear units.

Show Success:

When completed Dick began to wonder just how this ½ ton would be accepted in some car and truck shows. So he and his wife, Dolores, decided they would do local traveling together in Wisconsin. Dolores thought that people at shows might also enjoy seeing and reading about the truck as they walked by other displayed vehicles. Therefore she made a detailed poster with photos and text that is displayed next to the little ½ ton. Wow what an attention getter it has become!

Dick and Dolores can do this together and see much of Wisconsin they would have probably never had visited. It is part of the hobby that Dick had not originally thought about this but what a nice extra. Yes, they now travel together to each show in this 1958. No trailering.

Surprise, the people visiting the shows are in love with this pickup. Judging teams usually place it near the top with other show vehicles.

In two years showing it has received 25 trophies of which 17 were “First” in the show and many, many comments. That says it all. Not bad for a retired guy having fun with his hobby.

One Extra Plus: The Famous Iola, Wisconsin car show and swap meet that attracts 110,000 people each July has given this 1958 a place of honor. It’s one of about 50 special picked vehicles given a displayed area in their large main grassy yard in front the show’s headquarters.

OOPS, one last surprise:

Before this 1958 ½ ton, Dick experimented on a complete restoration on his first GM truck, a 1951 Chevrolet ¾ ton pickup. That is a story in itself! It has received an equal amount of attention at car and truck shows. These two show trucks are always driven, not trailered. Between the two pickups, one end of their family room is filled with all the trophies they have received since Dick’s retirement.

Also see Featured Truck of the Month September 2012. You can contact Dick & Dolores at richarddiestler@charter.net

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