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1953 “Canadian Built” GMC ½ Ton

Our regular readers of the Feature Truck of the Month Series know we try to find early GM trucks that are just a little different for an article. Our choice this month certainly fills these qualifications. A 1953 GMC ½ ton owned and totally restored by Allan Fisher of Vulcan, Alberta, Canada. Certainly a rare GMC 1/2 ton, plus it often pulls one of the few remaining 1956 Mercury 12 foot camper trailers in existence. Yes, also a “ground up” restoration by Allan. What an attention getter wherever this pair is seen!

A few comments on the Canadian built GMC’S that might be of interest to owners of those assembled in the U.S.A.

-The Canadian GMC pickups were assembled in Oshawa, Ontario.-They did not have the usual full oil pressure engines in the states such as 228, 248, and 270 cubic inch six cylinder engines. They came with the low oil pressure engine used in Chevrolet cars and trucks: a 216 inline six cylinder.

We were fortunate to receive an article on Allan’s GMC and Mercury trailer from his files on his two special vehicles that you might have seen on the highways in the 1950’s. Here it is for your enjoyment:


1953 GMC a real survivor: Some History This ‘53 GMC was sold in a small town in southern Alberta which had two automotive dealers. One a GMC dealer and the other a Ford dealer. In a short few years this GM was traded in to the Ford dealer. The Ford dealer also had a J.I. Case dealership for farm equipment. The good traded in GMC was painted Case orange (as it is today) and was used as a sales truck for the Case dealership in the late ‘50s. When the salesman who used the truck retired he got the GMC. It then went to his farming relatives where it hauled many 50 lb. bags of fertilizer for spring seeding. When seeding was finished back inside to keep the leftover fertilizer dry until next spring. When bags were not used anymore the old truck just sat inside forgotten. It was luck to be talking trucks over coffee when the owner of the GMC said he had a truck that was taking up space and should be gone to a new owner. I went to look at it. It was hard to see at the back of a building in the dark. But looked not bad from what I could see so made a deal and got it home only 30 miles. I put it in a building in my yard at the back in the dark and left it for another day. Five years later, time to get the old GMC out and start a cleanup. Out into the light with a careful look at it no rust any place these old trucks usually rust. Paint good for its age. “Orange” with little body damage. A good cleaning with the mouse nests gone it is a much better truck than I first thought. Now it was time to make a plan to save this good old truck. It is too nice original to hot rod but that would get it back on the road and could be driven but the cost is not cheap. A real good start for a back to very original truck but only good for driving in the summer and with faster highways it would not get driven much. Last and best I think for me is a driver that can be used for fun and light work. Upgraded for safety and faster roads at a reasonable cost so work began. First a better 6 cylinder pressure oiled engine. (GM 235 or 261) I found a GM 261 six that was to be in good shape and it really was so I cleaned it up and it bolts in. A better shifting transmission Saginaw four speed seemed best. It bolts to the engine. Rear diff. is a ten bolt GM out of a mid-size car (right width) drive shaft fits too. Steering was good put in manual disk brakes on front, (all parts in a kit) GM drums rear. Wheels changed to five bolt 15” with radial tires Changed to all 12v for better lights etc. All this upgrade were done in my backyard shop and all just bolt on.

1 1/2 years later: How is it to drive? A real treat to get out on the road. I can keep up with traffic, rides and handles well. Steers well, brakes well, no need for power brakes. But had to get the rear end ratio changed so now the 6 cyl. Run at 2850 rpm 60 mph. There were many other smaller things to do to make this truck work but all worth it. If you drive lots in town power steering would be nice. I have a 12’ canned ham travel trailer that this little truck with GM 261 engine pulls just great. This big 6 uses lots of gas, the 235 may be better for just a everyday driver. I hope this may inspire someone to start a old truck project. Just start with the truck you have it will still be fun and safe to drive. One warning you will fall in love (as I have) with these Old trucks as they become part of your life. There are many other details that I could share with someone who wants to build a truck. Contact Allen Fisher at: afishead@telusplanet.net

Like father, like son: While all of Allan’s GMC restoration was taking place, his son David (in high school) took notice! Very interesting on what could be done!

Thus, he bought a 1950 GMC truck from a farmer where he had been doing after hours work. He did the basics to make it more “road worthy” and so much cleaning and surface upgrading. Then, he had his own personal transportation to school every day.

After graduation he found a good paying job in Calgary, 60 miles away. Disposable income allowed him to get serious in his 1950 GMC upgrading. Now it has a very nice appearance, much like 70 years ago. Exception: Lift the hood and there is a Chevy small block V-8 engine.

For those that are curious of what Allan’s ½ ton pulls on occasional weekend get-away camping trips, read on!

He came across this 12 foot trailer by accident seven years ago somewhere in Alberta. An I.D. plate was stamped Mercury, El Monte, California. This forlorn forgotten trailer looked very interesting. After all, Allan liked camping as well as his newly restored GMC. Somehow, wouldn’t that make a perfect pair?

Allan was on a roll after creating his “new” ‘53 GMC so he was ready to get into this totally different type project. All the wood floor top and side wood framing was a total loss due to some roof leaks during long outside storage. Oh well, the patterns were there. Only the metal windows and roof vents were salvageable.

The metal exterior paneling was also a loss. No cleaning, polishing, or straightening would make it the way that Allan wanted it to match his GMC quality.

So luckily, he found a company in Calgary, 60 miles away that had machinery to add the original ridges on new trailer paneling. (This company has employees just repairing trailers from improper backing and wrecks on the road.) The workmen took an immediate interest in this 70 year old Mercury trailer. This was a real challenge to professionals that only repair late model trailers. The result: It may be better than in 1956. Even the depth and height of the ridges was just like the Mercury factory sold it.

Important inside restorable parts were the table, sink, clothing wardrobe, small built-in kitchen stove, and the upper kitchen cabinets.

Big Compliment: Allan Fisher did the total trailer restoration including all the needed woodwork. At least, the metal frame and axle just required major rust removal, re-coating in black and new wheel bearings.

Under Construction

Public Recognition: After this 2-year trailer restoration, Allan heard about an annual “Early Trailer Rally” that would hold its 2nd yearly meeting about 30 miles away. Of course, he had to go with the GMC as the puller! About 30 older trailers were in attendance. Allan received their “Honorable Mention” reward. Not bad for a new guy in the trailer world!

For those that have more interest in the vintage Mercury camper trailers click Google on “Mercury Camper Trailer”.

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