In today’s world, most every early Chevrolet ½ ton has now developed it’s own unique features. Few are exactly like they came from the factory over a half a century ago. Their past owners have added changes just to keep them running. However, in recent years these trucks have been altered in appearance, for safety or for keeping up with traffic on modern highways! The days of owning a 50 year old pickup for hauling farm products or factory merchandise are all but over!
Our Featured Truck this month is a perfect example of what could be done during the early 1960’s when you wanted a very custom ½ ton. Most all these extras are what would have been available 50 years ago when just a few work trucks were beginning to be looked at as having potential to compete with cars for a different appearance.
This very special, one of a kind, 1947 Chevrolet ½ ton deluxe pickup is owned and has been restored under instructions of John Welsh of Lee’s Summit, Missouri. It certainly draws a crowd everywhere it is seen! There is so much to say about this unique custom ½ ton, we will discribe it in sections for easier reading.
Purchased new in mid 1947 by an auto and tractor radiator repair shop in Garden City, Kansas. It was used by the owner to pick up and deliever in the town and surrounding farms. This was its purpose for so many years, even after his business later moved to Glendale, Arizona. There, the owner finally retired and this pickup was stored 12 years in dry-air Arizona.
When it finally came up for sale after many years in storage, the second owner brought it to his home in Lone Jack, Missouri and enjoyed several years of just doing minor upkeep and occassionly driving it as a “fun truck.”
Now, enters John Welsh in the next town in September 2008. It was just what John had been looking for. This pickup had so many early accessories added about 45 years ago that it only needed restoring. John added some items from today’s world that would make it even better than the show stopper it once was.
During it’s many years as a working pickup, the owner made suttle changes and most were left unchanged by John Welsh during the major restoration.
Because the original owner is no longer with us, we have done the detective work and feel very sure this is how was altered about 50 years ago. Very early photos (some included) tell much of the story.
About 10 years after buying it new it was time to freshen up this little ½ ton for better local attention. There was almost no “store bought” extras then for trucks. The owner must have found many of these additions from a local salvage yard. Sixty years later finding these early extras would be almost impossible!
Here’s what we see: From a used 1954 Chevy ½ ton, the owner obtained a then modern step bed (first year for this deeper 1954-1983 Chevy pickup bed) and the 1954 doors with special stainless window-trim and air wing vents for better ventalation. All the remaining 1947 sheetmetal was repainted black.
Early Changes by Original Owner:
So many changes by the first owner still remained when John first saw it. He was really impressed! He just added more items that were not work truck related.
Theses are some of the accessories that appear to have been added during the first upgrade in Kansas.
- Duel side mounts with metal covers. This allowed for advertising by the radiator shop on both sides of the truck.
- Possibly for more hauling capacity the owner replaced the total bed with a 1954 deeper design.
- The pickup has an inside cab hood release lever. Very unusual!
- The original 1947-48 gas tank was exchanged for tank behind the seat. [Suspected reasons for this change are at the end of this article*]
- A non-Chevrolet aftermarket rear bumper wraps around the fenders for protection and allows for extra strength pulling a trailer. A chrome grill guard was also bought new during the owner’s upgrade. Both items are from the aftermarket company “Smash-Hit” made by the Perry Company in Waco, Texas. (John had them restored to look new) Such rare accessories.
- Rare Chevrolet stainless steel fender trim as used on the 1947-55 deluxe panel trucks. The long front fender strip is repeated on the rear fender of the pickup. Nice touch!
- A real pair of authentic hand operated GM spot lights attached to the windshield posts.
- 1947-48 Chevy car standard hood ornament on each front fender. On the deluxe car of that year this touch shows the single hood ornament.
Some of the John Welsh Changes:
This list was provided by John during our first interview. It’s posted below with just a few extra words added to better describe.
- Buckets Seats-converted to original bench seat
- New Electric Fuel Pump
- Rebuilt Carburetor
- Factory Front Sway Bar- Very Rare
- Factory Running Board Safety Treads
- New Rubber Seals for all of the cab
- New Disc and Drum Brakes, Wheel Cylinders, with a Chevrolet 11 inch rotors
- Turned Flywheel & New Clutch
- 6-Volt Battery Changed to 12-Volt
- Heater, cleaned & Lubricated
- 4 Speed Transmission changed to 5 speed overdrive from a Corvette.
- New headliner & Glovebox
- New overhauled 235 engine
- LED Taillights
- Sliding glass rear window.
- Back up lights for obvious reasons
- Rubber pads on the rear bumper are early non GM brake pedal pads. Allows an easier reach to bed cargo.
- 1947 license plate, Legal in Missouri
- Updated with a modern middle stoplight that shows STOP when illuminated.
- Pontiac Steering Wheel painted to match the truck
- The hand pull park brake handle beside shift lever. Used the first seven months of the 1947-55 Advance Design on ½ & ¾ ton pickups.
- The tastefully built oak side boards by Hot Rod Express Restorations are connected at front with wood pegs!
- The countries most popular outside sun visor, a Fulton 800, is painted to match the beige color of the cab top.
- The first owner added two spare tire mounts so he could better advertise his business. John decided to add his own personal touch.
- Not easily visible in a following photo is the interior of the bedsides. Sprayed red over black textured paint. They perfectly match the exterior paint. Great idea!
- John moved the gas tank from behind the seat where the first owner had placed it.
The Mechanical Changes were Major
- The original 216 engine (used over 60 years) was exchanged with a full oil pressure 235 inline six cylinder. Minor corrections required to make it an easy upgrade.
- The factory 4 speed transmission was replaced with a Corvette 5 speed giving the ½ ton an overdrive gear for better highway speed and lower engine RPM’s
- The Chevrolet car differential raises the gear ratio to also give better road speed
- The front brakes are now the modern disc design for faster emergency stops. To do this a total front suspension from a mid-1980’s Ford Mustang II replaced the 1947 front straight axle. Thus, the pickup now has coil springs! The smaller “Mustang rotors were exchanged with Chevrolet eleven inch kit currently available. Now this light weight ½ ton “really stops.”
- A late model dual chamber under the cab master cylinder is also a big safety factor! Losing fluid to either the front or rear wheels and you still have the ability to stop.
This pickup’s second restoration was completed in 2015, after over a year in the process. Much heavy work was done by “Hot Rod Express” in Blue Springs, MO. This is one of the premier restoration facilities in the Mid-West. Contact at the end of the article.
Here is a one of a kind 70 year old ½ ton that is admired on the road and at truck and car shows. Its combination of 235 six cylinder, 5 speed overdrive and higher differential gearing allows it to easily cruise at 60 mph. It can now get traffic tickets like other newer vehicles!
The color is 4-stage Candy Apple red with clear coat and beige top. Application for “professionals only” to get this deep metallic appearance.
The following photos show the many areas of John’s special truck. Hope you enjoy them as much as John did in creating his special 1947 deluxe pickup. A few like it may have been seen in the 1960’s.
*The following mentioned in an earlier paragraph*
The 1947-48 ½ tons all had an under bed gas tank. To make this happen GM had to fit between the cab and rear axle. The only way to keep an 18 gallon capacity was to extend the tank bottom closer to the road surface.
A General Motors mistake! Lowering the tank caused contact with the ground and rocks when the wheels sank deep in ruts on a mud road. Dents caused leaks.
The answer in the 1960’s was replacement 1954 tank from the first restoration which was behind the seat that year. John decided to remove this tank during his major restoration with a flat tank behind the rear axle. Thus, the gas tank spout in the middle of the accessory rear bumper. Problem solved for our Featured Truck of the Month.
Much of the recent restoration was done under John’s guidance by: Hot Rod Express in Blue Springs, MO. Phone 816-224-9597