If you like the 70 year old body designs with the “creature comforts” of a modern vehicle, our feature truck this month might really catch you attention. It may appear very old but on a freeway it can reach a speed far above the legal limits!
This eye catching stand out in a crowd 1942 Chevy pickup is owned by Bill Sanders of Crossville, Tennessee. What a creation! After 2 ½ years of building it has just been on the road only a month to check for little problems that need corrections. So far, nothing has shown up that cannot be easily repaired.
Bill has been involved in other vehicle restorations but this is the first time using a late model drive train. His brother had stored this cab, bed, and front sheet metal for many years with no steps taken to restore it. So, one day, Bill got the opportunity to buy it. It was soon brought to his home but in pieces. No frame or related suspension, motor, transmission or differential. So what now? Either gather original parts and create a “frame off” original or do what he has sometimes seen at local car shows.
A VINTAGE LOOK WITH LATE MODEL MECHANICALS
After much research and talking to others. Bill’s discovered a US Company that manufactures conversion kits designed to attach a 1939-46 Chevrolet ½ ton body to a Chevy S-10 pickup chassis. Why an S-10?
They are almost the correct wheel base as Bills 1942 and have a full frame to secure the older sheet metal and extra weight that may be hauled. S-10’s have repair parts readily available and they come from the factory with options like automatic transmission, independent front suspension, power steering, power brakes and air conditioning.
The company “Code 504” will even get involved to help you adapt your S-10 Chassis to hold a late model Chevrolet V-8 or most any tech question during the installation.
Bill was hooked! This is what he wanted. A good friend with experience in this type work was retired but decided being off work was not for him. Bill found him at just the right time. Thus, John Leech, also of Crossville, Tennessee and Bill Sanders became partners.
Together Bill and John with 2 ½ years created the finished product. John did the chassis rebuilding on a 1979 S-10, adding the “Code 504” kit, and restored much of the 1942 body. Bill says he became John’s assistant. John’s so many years in mechanical repair business made him a natural on what needed to be done.
The easy part was replacing the worn out ½ ton bed. Fortunately, all bed parts are available and they fit and took just like the originals. No repair panels required. Mostly a light sanding, paint and the detailed assembly was needed.
The 1942 sheet metal was another story. It had been so abused over the many years! Few, items are being reproduced and it became a hunt to locate better used replacement parts. Thank goodness for John Leech!
The updated modern mechanicals from the radiator to the differential were not difficult to obtain. You just need some deep money pockets to take position and then get them to all line up together.
A few of the major items were a 350 Chevy V-8, 400 turbo transmission, (both from a 1975 Corvette) GM power steering and brakes, air conditioning, plus tilt steering column. Of course, the extra chrome and polished aluminum made the engine compartment a real standout.
Owners of special interest older vehicles are never completely done. Bill has some ideas that may take place in the future.
For sure, he plans on this to be a tribute to US Army Special Forces that include:
Delta Force * Green Berets * Army Rangers (Bill’s son-in-law is a Green Beret and this had made a deep impression on his feelings for our US military).
He might even install an exact copy of a 50 caliber machine gun and mount it in the bed for local parades. What a parade eye catcher! A non-military vehicle with a large machine gun!
Bill is even thinking of calling it his Hillbilly Humvee.
Special bed side boards will announce this fact during parades!
Here is a Feature Truck of the Month that was truly saved from the salvage yard. It had been outside deteriorating over 20 years behind the out of business Dellwood Dairy in Copiague New York (on Long Island). Because of some mechanical problems it had been left in the back lot of the abandon dairy.
Now enters Vinny Tumminia of nearby Lindenhurst that had once worked for the dairy making daily milk deliveries in the neighborhoods. (We would have called him a milkman) On his way to his US Post Office job each day he passes the empty dairy building and always notices the tired ½ ton in their back lot. It brought memories of his younger days as a dairy delivery person. He dropped off milk and related products on front steps of homes between 3 am and 9 am so the glass bottles were always there when the customer got up in the morning.
One day after passing the empty dairy building on the way to the post office, it just hit him. Now with just a little disposable income, why not try to buy the old delivery truck, get it running and use it for driving to work? (Just for old time memories).
Therefore, one Saturday Vinny began to hunt for the widow of the once owner of the dairy. The search was successful and he became the pickup’s second owner for $200.00. It was towed to his home the next day.
Vinny’s excitement now began to grow! The more he looked at it the more he wanted it better than a very rough driver to get to work. He had seen 1965 Chevy ½ ton’s at local car and truck shows and they were so nice. He would change course, take his time, and as money permitted restore it to be new again!
As parts were removed, another item was usually found that also needed attention. When he got down to totally worn out body mounts and the cab needing lifting to replace them plus bed wood and cross sills a total loss, it was time to get to the bare frame rails. Thus, this would now be his oversized model kit.
The pickup’s condition even got worse when rubber parts of a few old floor mats were removed. Surprise! Water had been in the cab so many years from a damaged windows. All floors and rocker panels had to be replaced. That was in addition to both cab corners that he already knew about. Six months in the body shop. (As Vinny said, he saved it from the crusher!)
The frame became even better than new. It was transported locally to be sand blasted and then to a powder coating company.
On weekends and many evenings each week for three years, Vinny was in his garage building his new truck. In the first year he knew it could not stop the project. The pickup was in so many pieces in his 12’ x 24’ garage and in the back yard. To try to sell it at that time would have brought him scrap metal price per pound for abut the $200.00 he had first invested. This wasn’t going to happen but he sure hoped he did not accidently walk out in front of a bus! His very supportive wife, Elizabeth would even have an additional loss, with iron parts filling the garage and yard. Where would she sell all of that stuff? Three years later it was beautiful. It became Vinny and Elizabeth’s new 1965, ready for Sunday drives and local weekend car shows. Factory available upgrades were added as chrome bumpers and grill. The largest expense was eliminating the factory 250 six cylinder engine plus 3 speed column shift transmission. The replacement was an optional factory 283 V-8 and 4 speed transmission that he found in Central Kansas. It was all shipped by truck line to his home in New York.
Color is Teal Green and updated modern deluxe wheels make the total package just right.
CHANGE IN LIFE 2004
After many years outside delivering the US mail in New York, the cold winters became less enjoyable. Many below zero days and snow blowing sideways was becoming a real challenge! So because most towns have a post office he was able to transfer his job to the south. Vinny and Elizabeth now live in Melbourne, Florida. What a change! Their “new” little ½ ton now goes to car shows in winter more than summer. They had it hauled from New York in a large enclosed truck. No extra miles place on the odometer. This ½ ton has never had it so good.
What’s the future plans for another restoration? They just completed a 3 car garage behind their Florida home. We suspect he wants to be ready, just in case another special vehicle comes up for sale.
How did Vinny have the confidence to think he could build this 1965 (destined for the crusher) with never doing a restoration before? There was a reason. Check the following and see how his early years made it all possible. This is
The Rest of the Story.
School is out for summer and 11 year old Vinny Tumminia is usually riding his bicycle around the neighborhood. By chance he stops by a local auto repair shop and asks if he can now mow their over grown yard. (A little spending money is always nice).
To Vinny’s surprise the owner Richard Fellner said yes. The mowing was done so well, Richard said “See you next week and you can mow it again”.
This began a 3 year relationship that molded Vinny’s interests in life. Soon he was sweeping the shop, carrying out trash, and doing misc. clean-up projects in this repair shop near his home. Richard was impressed with Vinny’s upbeat attitude, wanting to learn about cars, and being on time when it was necessary. This opened a new world for Vinny. He loved every minute of being in Richard’s shop.
Then a great opportunity occurred the next summer. The shop’s one employee left for another job and Richard needed help until he could find a replacement. Vinny was ready to tackle any auto repair. He just needed guidance. In addition to continued yard mowing, Richard taught him light jobs like oil changes, tire rotation and lubrication of car and pickup suspension, etc. Vinny was like a sponge and he did not forget!
This would be his summer and after school enjoyment and very close to his home. He would even help Richard on numerous more difficult repairs like replacing a clutch, pulling an engine head and removing a radiator. Of course, Vinny became the number one mechanic for his family’s sedan.
Thus, a 1965 Chevy ½ ton setting for 20 years did not scare him. He already knew how to replace parts and how to diagnose problems.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
It is so interesting how one little occurrence can point us in a different direction for life!
This is certainly such an example as Vinny ask to mow a yard!
When light trucks appeared on the scene about 100 years ago, they were created for only one reason: WORK. This remained their primary use through at least the 1960’s.
Move up another 55 years and today we find the majority of light trucks purchased for another reason: FUN, PLEASURE, and TRANSPORTING PEOPLE. Even the traditional 8 foot ½ ton bed has been mostly replaced with a 5 passenger cab in front of a 6 foot bed. Hauling is less important than carrying friends and family.
Now enter a related newer segment of this trend. It is a spin-off of our current love for trucks and probably why you are reading this article. Of course, it is the enjoyment of owning and rebuilding an old hauler that once was parked and forgotten on a Friday evening when work duties were finished. Then the family sedan or even a sporty coupe or convertible became the weekend transportation.
In regards to his enjoyment of older trucks, few early pickup enthusiasts can be a better example of our country’s new love affair than Jim Shaw of Marshfield, Wisconsin. When you first see Jim’s 1941 ½ ton you think “It all flows together just right but is still very different. Pickup was a limited production or experimental model that General Motors had considered for production!” Here is Jim’s story:
He purchased this ½ ton about 14 years ago in central Wisconsin. It had spent most of its life totally on a local farm. In fact for its last 20 years it had not been even licensed. The title was lost, probably because the farmer never needed it beyond his property use.
Jim immediately decided to keep its attractive 1941 appearance but add some mechanical modifications that would give it a better cruising speed on modern highways, stop quickly and safer, plus be more comfortable to drive. Though the updates were kept hidden, the most eye-catching feature is the all metal bed.
He was just the right person to create this special pickup. Researching, attending auto shows and swap meets allowed him to be so successful putting this project together.
When it came to replacing the very poor condition pickup bed it was the cost that made this unique ½ ton bed come into being. Jim added the new bed price plus shipping and all came to a stop. He is a metal worker by trade. Some left over metal was free at his company after some jobs were completed. His imagination began to put together plans for a special metal bed. It would look much like a private company might have offered it in the 1940’s.
We think he got it just right. It is all hand built by Jim Shaw personally! It was sure an attention getter in the very recent Iola, WI swap meet in July 2017.
The following are some of the modern updates that make this ½ ton his daily driver.
Jim found the ultimate in horsepower from a drop-in 261 six cylinder to replace the original 216 low oil pressure engine. The 261 was used in 2 ton trucks and school buses during the late 1950’s. What a difference!
A 5 speed overdrive transmission makes all the difference in highway speed. The big surprise here is Jim installed this unit from a 1985 Ford pickup! He had this tranny and he felt sure he could make it fit. What a project! As you might suspect it became a complicated project to get a later Ford transmission to fit against a 45 year old Chevrolet bellhousing. The amount of re-drilling, building special shims and spacers is difficult for one’s imagination. Our hats go off to Jim Shay, a professional metal worker with patience and talents far above most restorers.
It gets even more complicated. The original bellhousing was used because in these early years the horizontal shaft that secures the clutch and brake pedals also support the under floor master cylinder. This shaft extends from the left frame rail to the left side of the bellhousing. In this way Jim could place a new duel chamber master cylinder (for safety) out of sight and position it just like GM did it.
We wonder if this configuration exists anywhere but on Jim Shay’s special ½ ton. This is so unusual, we would be interested to hear from anyone that has completed this project.
A LITTLE MORE SPEED:
A higher speed ring and pinion replaces the original. Lower engine RPM at the same speed is the reward. An open drive shaft now connects to the later differential and the overdrive transmission. All are out of sight unless you get down under.
Front late model disc brakes, not seen unless you look at the underside. Extra money was spent during this modification to keep all the original 6 bolt wheels.
A Show Stopper ½ ton that cruises at 70 mph and Jim Shay, made it all fit together!
He drives it daily to his work and on weekends. He keeps it in storage during the Wisconsin winters but still has driven it 2,700 miles in the last 5 months.
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. Www.53gmc.wordpress.com
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
This is one of the better examples of an Advance Design “Deluxe” pickup. General Motors offered this extra above the standard model. As extra money was limited during these years, most settled for the no frill model. After all, pickup trucks were for work duties. Spending extra income (which most did not have) was not spent by buyers that were just one generation out of the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
To make a 70 year old pickup as nice as this Feature Truck, it certainly had to be disassembled and rebuilt from the frame. Most all areas were kept as factory original as possible. Even the Windsor Blue color was retained.
The proud owners are Dave and Julie McBee of Independence, Missouri. During nice weather Dave and Julie can be seen in their little ½ ton around town or on the open highway for a Sunday drive. Here are the items that make the McBee’s 1948 a factory “deluxe” pickup:
Five Window Cab (the main feature) Chrome Grill Stainless Outside and Inside Door Window Trim Two Inside Sunvisors Arm Rests Stainless Outside only Windshield Trim
Two special extras were added to give it more “Keep up with Traffic” qualities. The original 216 cubic inch engine (90 horse power) was exchanged for a 1954 235 high oil pressure engine (145 horse power). What a nice upgrade. This 1954 inline six cylinder, first year for this 235 power plant, was the factory unit in a 1954 Advance Design pickup. Thus, this is a “drop in” exchange with no alterations. It looks almost factory but has 55 more horsepower.
The other important extra was exchanging the original 4.11 ratio ring and pinion with the recently offered 3.55 ratio. This gives about 20% lower engine RPM and higher road speed. What a difference these two extras have given this pickup!
To obtain even less engine RPM, Dave will soon remove his later 6 bolt 15” wheels. They will be replaced by 16” original” wheels plus radial white wall tires that look in tread like the original bias ply design. (The taller the tires, the lower engine RPM)
AND NOW FOR THIS MOST UNUSUAL CHANGE OF ALL!
Julie had been in love with this pickup since they bought it 3 years before. However there was just one item that was not to her liking. It had a 3 speed standard transmission with a column shift lever for changing gears! She would drive it this way but always wished it had an automatic transmission.
Dave soon picked up on Julie’s wish and began to research if any upgrade could be added. What a surprise! He discovered Jerry’s Chevy Restoration Shop in his own city. The owner, Jerry Rivers, can do most anything if it has to do with an older Chevrolet / GMC truck or car.
On their first meeting, Jerry thought about using the same year Chevy passenger car transmission. That automatic (a cast iron case Power Glide) it was introduced in 1950. The car and truck engines were the same. They both had about the same wheel base and they shared a closed drive shaft. Surely, with some yet unknown problems, the automatic could be transferred to a ½ ton. Maybe if it was not too impossible he might even mount the shift lever assembly to fit like the car. After all, the production years were about the same and maybe the same GM engineers shared some of their designing between ½ ton and passenger car. The only way to find out was to try the transfer on a very tired loaner ½ ton to see if he could make it fit. There was no sense tearing into Dave’s really nice ½ ton and find it was not possible! Dave liked Jerry’s cautious attitude so the agreement was made.
Jerry thought he could do it but locating all Chevrolet car parts would be a challenge. It was agreeable to Dave so they both began the parts hunt. From the first day hunting until the finished product, four months passed. It was really a learning experience for Jerry Rivers even though he had done most anything else to 1947-54 Advance Design trucks.
Here are some facts that were discovered when Jerry (with Dave’s help) finished the very unusual automatic transmission instillation.
The early cast iron Power Glide is the same length as a 1948 pickup 3 speed transmission. This saved them from using an open drive-line and a different differential. The ½ ton closed drive line and all its rear end differential could be used. That included axle housings, brakes and wheels. This had been a real concern. Wow, it fit together. What luck!
Even the rear yolk of the u-joint and the middle cross section was still used from the pickup. Just the readily available Power Glide front u-joint yolk was required to slide in to the transmission.
Jerry used a 1953-54 cast iron Power Glide transmission, bellhousing and flexplace. This is because it has a “kick down” that automatically drops to the lower gear during passing on the highway or other extra RPM requirements. It was discovered that the earliest Power Glide (1950-52) required the shift lever to be manually moved to the next segment by the driver to get the higher RPM’s.
The last year for the cast iron Chevy Power Glide (some were a different design) was 1961. After that an aluminum case was used. Check carefully if you make this change to a Power Glide. We do not know if the later cast iron unit will exchange this well!
Surprise Problem: The steering column on the car is one inch longer than the pickup. This created a problem because the small factory hole in the mast jacket that kept the pickup shift box from moving was no longer spaced correctly. To keep the Power Glide shift rod just like the car in length Jerry made another hole up the mast jacket that would hold the lower shift assembly in just the right position. Thus, the shifting mechanism is now exactly like the Chevrolet car engineers designed it 70 years ago.
New Surprise! It was discovered that because the car steering wheel has a center hub lower than its outer round edge the hand shift lever will not fit the flat pickup steering wheel without touching. What now? No, Jerry would have no part in substituting a with a modern street rod steering wheel! Therefore, the car shift lever was given a cut about 75 % deep and then bent before welding about two inches. The shift knob was now in just the correct place. Genius!
The Chevrolet car column linkage fits just right. Years of linkage use were corrected by welding the wear and grinding to exact dimensions. It now moves perfectly. All were zinc plated to look new.
The Power Glide starter is a perfect exchange on the 235 engine. No foot starter. This starter is now engaged with a button under the headlight switch, just like the car.
The Power Glide fluid is water cooled. Jerry found an original Chevrolet car fluid cooler that connects to the lower radiator horse position and is secured to the timing cover for stability. A perfect match for the 235 transplant engine. The attached photos show how nice the finished product now looks. Unless you are a real 1950’s Chevrolet expert you would think the Power Glide on the ½ ton was a GM assembly line product.
Another Nice Surprise: Top of the line “floor mats” are now produced with markings on the back for pedals and 4 speed transmissions cuts if there is a need. Thus, this ½ ton has no unnecessary visible holes for a clutch pedal!
Yes, the running boards have been painted lower body color by mistake. Dave will soon have them repainted to factory black.
NOW LET’S GET BACK TO DAVE AND JULIE. It was so difficult for Dave to explain to his wife why the pickup was away for 2 or 3 weeks for major repairs. The truth was this “Power Glide Pickup” was to be her surprise Christmas present for 2016. She had no idea and Dave said it was difficult for this to remain a secret until Christmas morning. What a surprise! Julie was overwhelmed. It then all came together why their pickup suddenly needed to be in the repair shop so long. Now this little pickup is driven by her as much as Dave.
It actually required months to get all perfected and gather parts. Jerry had a worn out ½ ton as the test truck to fit the many components. A few weeks before Christmas all the altered parts were then transferred to the McBee’s ½ ton. This is why Julie was told 2 to 3 weeks for “some” type of repair.
You can contact Dave and Julie McBee with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
HINT TO READERS: Here is a thought. If your left leg is tired of the clutch or your spouse says an automatic would make the family Advanced Design pickup just right, contact: Jerrys Chevy Restoration Shop at 816-833-4414. Don’t forget to provide him with the Power Glide Transmission, all linkage, and most related do-dads he needs. (He has only a few extra items for the conversion) email@example.com
Full side view
Deluxe cab window trim
The 1947-48 Hood Emblem. Only years made of Die-cast
From the rear
Light in bed roll for turn signal plus 1948 truck license plate
Last Advance Design pickup under bed tank
All original dash
Fresh air heater works so good
Two words say it all
New old stock door panels
Fog Lights. Nice Accessory
The Power Glide Transmission after its rebuild
Transmission rear on modified 3 speed cradle
The modified rear transmission cross member
Engine, Bellhousing and Power Glide together
Transmission dip stick tube
Lower shift column linkage control
Transmission dip stick tube beside starter
The Car Power Glide Shift indicator fits correctly
Reshaped shift lever
Starter button below headlight knob
Floor mat with no extra holes
The 1954 high oil pressure engine. Fits perfect
Transmission fluid cooler attached to lower radiator hose (beside front of engine)
What an “attitude change” for this ½ ton! It moved from a stock long bed fleetside to a nice custom short stepside ½ ton in about 3 months! The owner and responsible person for the work is John Toon of Sugar Creek, Missouri. As his first major truck transformation, we feel he has created a very different “breed of cat” in record time. It will be his daily driver and certainly a pickup to catch the attention of others.
While having a 1955 Volkswagen Beetle, his first fun car, he began to getting attracted to owning a late 1960’s Chevrolet pickup. So many car and truck magazines gave John ideas on what could be done with a limited budget if you do most of the work yourself.
Here is what happened between about mid-May and late August 2016. John found a 1967 long bed ½ ton fleetside in a local advertisement. This is because he gave up trying to find a 1967-72 Chevy short step bed (what he wanted the most) as they are the more difficult bed to find. He said “I will build my own short step bed! All I need is this long bed to start the project”! This driving white long bed pickup did not last long once John got it home. It was soon disassembled to the bare frame and his major makeover was underway.
Here are some surprises you find when you take apart 50 year old pickup:
1. The fenders and doors were previously repaired and needed to be replaced and the cab corners, rocker panels, and floors were repaired by John.
2. The frame assembly above the rear axle and under the bed was rusted so much a replacement would be required. To John’s surprise, the parts he needed were the same as far back as 1960! He then found a 1963 ½ ton chassis with no bed or cab. John ended up splicing the rear half of the 63 frame with the front of the 67 frame. The replacement included cutting 12” out of the middle and 8” off the rear. Once professionally welded the pickup had the correct 1967 short wheel base length. John says that all fit together perfectly!
3. Half ton long bed. The rust was major all around the bed edges, bed bottom, tailgate, and front bed panel. All was beyond use. John could care less! This problem only allowed him to negotiate a better price when it was bought. His plans were to install a new short step bed (all the parts are now available).
4. Radio Dash Opening. This area had been cut larger to install an aftermarket sound system years ago. No problem for John. He wanted an updated radio so a Pioneer unit fit perfectly.
5. Gas Tank. He removed the behind the seat tank and added one especially for the 1967-72 ½ ton under bed and behind the differential. Advantage: He now had the space to install the many speakers for this new sound system.
6. Paint. Here was a big surprise! The truck’s attractive appearance is from less than $60.00 in Rust-Oleum satin black paint purchased at a local hardware store. With a little thinning, it was sprayed to give this nice look John wanted.
7. The Mechanicals. Here is where John was lucky. The long bed ½ ton had a good running 327 V-8 engine, original 4 speed transmission, and 3.73 ratio ring and pinion in the differential. Extra expense was adding power steering and power brakes. Of course, the driveshaft, exhaust, brake line, and brake cables had to be shortened.
8. Glass. As John got deeper into this big project he decided to replace all the glass and eliminate scratches from the past 50 years. This was made official the day he broke the original windshield trying to install it back in the truck by himself. The new replacement was installed by a glass company!
Yes, what started to be a low cost transformation changed as the need for replacement parts increased. Even so, John Toon now has a short step bed he wanted and at so much less than buying one of the same design on the open market.
Even more amazing is that John, almost with no help, could make his creation in about 3 months.
More about John Toon’s Talents:
John has a metal and wood shop that allowed him to transform his 1967 pickup. However, there is another talent that he has developed over the past 10 years. His other big enjoyment has been the bass guitar. As his talents with this guitar became very advanced, he wanted a certain style of custom made bass guitar that he could not afford. The cost of these custom made guitars is very expensive.
Therefore, he started building his own and now offers them to the general public. This has been his second job for 10 years. He markets hand crafted custom guitars at a price most can afford. The quality of workmanship, the sound and feel of his guitars place this product up with those that advertise high quality.
A touch of John’s wood working talent is also shown in his “shift knob creation” on his rebuild 1/2 ton. It was made on his wood lathe and is oak with a black ebony center. Nice. Check John’s website for the best in bass guitars and about his 1967 step bed at: www.toonbass.webs.com
New bright work sets off the front
Nice Wheels. John painted the orange
All wood parts created in John’s shop
New power brakes
Completed dash and new carpet
Vinyl dye makes seat a new color!
Speakers in space when gas tank was removed
Last year for 1960-67 design armrest!
UNDER CONSTRUCTION – SUMMER 2016
AS JOHN BOUGHT IT
John’s new side boards (His creation). He can make them for you!
One little extra John decided he needed. To give him some additional clearance with the steering wheel, he shortened the steering shaft above the “rag joint” 3 inches. Not noticeable to most!
What a one of a kind early 1947 Chevy ½ ton! Joe Haney of Independence, Missouri decided to use his skills to create an older Chevy pickup that would be nothing like anyone had ever seen. At the same time he would keep the project to a level that would be within his budget. Fortunately, Joe’s mechanical talents and love of older vehicles allowed him to do so much of his own work over several years. Attending many local car shows gave him numerous ideas to pick from while making plans for his creation.
Joe purchased this little ½ ton in 1993 and then kept it in his large home garage 12 years until the time was right during his retirement. To make it so unique over other modified 1941-1946 pickups, Joe bought a 1985 Chevy S-10 just to get the frame. The only S-10 parts he used from the pickup were the frame, gas tank, master cylinder, tilt steering column, and disc brakes.
Some of the other items used from other sources were a 1991 Chevy 350 V-8, a 1979 350 hydro-matic transmission, and a rear differential assembly from a 1980 Chevelle.
The bed is home built except for the front bed panel and tailgate. At first adding a 1947 bed to an S-10 frame seemed next to impossible but Joe never gives up. Here the old saying applies “If you have lemons, make lemonade”.
The problem with the S-10 frame is the side rail rear hump over the rear axle. They and the shock towers raised the bed too high. Thus, using this S-10 frame raised the bed too high. The appearance made the truck look totally out of proportion. Joe made corrections that gave a great custom appearance. It makes this 1947 an eye catcher at all the local shows. He raised the bed floor almost 40% higher than original to be above these stock towers. The following photos show what makes it so unique.
When the full height tail gate is opened, a horizontal oak plank fills the created opening on the end. Nice touch!
The interior is a money saving creation that looks so good! Joe spent time in local auto salvage yards to find just the right seat cushion that fits correctly in the cab’s small area. He found the answer in the third seat in a 1990 Ford mini-van. It’s amazing how well it connects to the seat riser and is slightly away from the doors. He then found one from Ford’s top of the line mini-van which has a leather pleated seat. All the interior was then coordinated with the color of this seat.
Look at the texture coating on the two-tone door panels. What an excellent idea! Trucks had painted metal interior door panels but not this nice!
The oak bed planks are also a Joe project! And oak overhead and floor custom console he made greatly adds to the interior appearance.
Look at the very dark wood that secures the gauges. Yes, Joe cut and drilled it to just the right size. These later gauges look just like they belong there!
COMPLETE AND READY FOR SHOWS
Complete plus the shop where it happened
All fits just right!
These Alloy wheels certainly add to the appearance
View from the back
Nice firewall with no extra holes
Fitting the new grill between the fenders
Leather seats do not have to be expensive!
Lower oak console
Upper oak console
Joe’s special made gauge
Insulating the doors
Raised bed floor. Its hauling days are over!
The 1947 bed floor was raised because of the S-10 high hump frame
What a Deal! When the term “Only One in the World” is used in the automotive world, this special 1959 Chevrolet ½ ton Fleetside short bed should be near the top of the list. There is none like this one!
The owner and creator is Sam Caudle of Independence, Missouri. Using GM as the original designer, Sam became a subcontractor for its second coming. Part of its 13 year rebuilding was spent by Sam in researching (GM Manuals, attending early truck shows, subscribing to truck magazines, etc.) on just how it could be made into a pickup he had always dreamed of.
This is Sam’s creation! It is a natural for our Feature Truck of the Month.
The dream began to develop prior to 2003 while he was still on his 40 hour/week job. A 1959 Chevy ½ ton was his daily transportation and he began to get serious on just how he would redesign it when he retired. A life’s dream was in the making!
And then in a split second, it was over. An automobile missed a stop sign and Sam with his truck were almost totaled. Yes, Sam lived. His 59 ½ ton, hit in the side, did not. Usable truck parts were the right door and bedside plus its grill.
While Sam healed he decided this would not stop his dreams. It was too developed in his mind. He would make a comeback and be stronger than ever. Therefore, this is the story of the “next” 1959 in Sam’s life!
This Time a newer more modern vehicle would take him to work. Sam’s next 1959, found locally, was in one way even better than his first. It had a large rear window! This 1959 would now be kept in his home where it was safe.
Thirteen years have passed since he found his second 1959 ½ ton. The disassembly and then careful rebuilding has been his main hobby all that time. If he had to wait to save his money for the next part of his creation he would just wait and study truck manuals and restoration books for the next step. Time was not an issue.
The little ½ ton’s unveiling occurred early this year. What a show it causes! That’s why it just had to be our Feature Truck of the Month! The following is a few of the areas that makes Sam’s 1959 such a real show stopper.
BODY: Basically stock. Emblems removed and a non-lettered tailgate makes many armature onlookers just wonder if its sheet metal has been shaped and formed into a one-off pickup.
SUNVISOR: The outside sunvisor above the windshield looks a little different from those often seen on these years. Then we discovered why. Sam cut the width down almost four inches. It might allow more sun in the cab but so what. It has a new modern air conditioning system from the Old Air Company!
INTERIOR: Passenger car seat allows the back rest to tilt forward. This gives access to the space behind. Late model steering column adds turn signals and tilt wheel.
The special padding throughout the interior reminds one of a deluxe car in appearance.
Look at the dash. A GMC dash perfectly replaces the original Chevrolet. Sam liked the GMC gauge placement so much better. Yes, the original heater control dash panel now operates a new modern air conditioning and heater system. It’s not easy to make the lever connection from an old heater to a new air/heater combination. Much time and planning on this one. Remember, time was not an issue with Sam. He was going to have it finished his way-a tasteful blend of modern and a 55 year old pickup.
BED: Sam’s 1959 is the second year for the GM Fleetside pickup. On the sides he has the bed stainless horizontal strips that were available for only this one year and only the top of the line model.
This bed is 6 foot length which results in the shorter 115 inch wheelbase. Look at that oak bed floor. A piece of furniture!
The mirror polished bed strips, without holes are a recent introduction in the pickup market Nice!
ENGINE: This is one of the top focal points of the truck. Sam’s goal was to get the best performance from a Chevrolet 250 cubic inch inline six cylinder engine. (Used by GM from the mid 1960’s to the mid 1980’s) He had read articles of the high power that is possible from a GM 250 six cylinder so he decided to reach that level.
Some of his six cylinder rebuilding includes a performance cam shaft and milled head to raise the compression ratio to 9.5. Yes, it now likes premium full. Of course, balancing all engine moving parts beyond GM’s specifications was a necessity.
This all blends nicely with a 4 barrel 450 cfm (cubic feet per minute) Edelbrock Performance Carburetor. It attaches to a Clifford intake manifold that is made just for the 250 engine. (Sam is considering adding a 390 cfm Holly carb to eliminate excess gasoline in the engine and losing some unburned fuel) An electronic ignition is pure GM and was a drop-in from an early 1980’s six cylinder 250 engine.
To add another 20 horse power Sam arranged the power steering, air conditioner, water pump, and alternator, to operate on one late model serpentine belt. Of course, some pulleys also needed updating to accept the newer serpentine system.
What is the result of all these engine modifications? When taking a drive with Sam and then returning to home base all that could be said was WOW! This little truck could out run a telegram! Sam was reminded that he needed pads on the rear window to prevent glass breakage when his head hit it during fast acceleration!
FRONT SUSPENSION: The front suspension as well as the frame rails to the pickup body are a transplant from a 1975 Camaro. This “clip” makes lowering it 8 inches not difficult (many aftermarket systems available) and all is factory ready for items such GM disc brakes.
REAR SUSPENSION: Instead of the factory 7 leaf rear spring Sam changed it to 3 leafs. This helped it to lower the bed 6.5 inches.
The big change of removing 4 leafs required another addition. Sam’s pickup has air bags! This catches the frame if the three spring leaves do not. As one change leads to another, the next problem to cover was the width of the air bags. NOTE the 6 inch wider wheel tubs. This makes room for these necessary accessories.
TRANSMISSION: The tried and proven GM 700 R4 automatic overdrive transmission just fills the bill. A nice bolt in with a 250 six cylinder as well as a small block V8.
NOTE: Sam preferred not to have the usual floor shifter used by most street rodders. He created metal arms that could be properly moved by a column shift lever and look more from the 1950’s. This little touch is not often seen with vehicles on this level. Another of Sam’s creations!
BRAKE SYSTEM: All wheel disc brakes! The front easily connected to the front frame rail assembly of the 1975 Camaro front frame section. It was the rear disc brakes that required some extra modification and were not a total bolt-on. Sam used the rear differential assembly from a 1978 Nova and then added to it the disc brake assembly from a 1991 Pontiac Trans-Am. In that way, all brakes are GM. An extra project was to get the total assembly to attach safely and correctly to the leaf springs. The firewall mounted master cylinder, connected to modern swing pedals, was also a GM unit used from a full disc brake car.
SUMMARY: This is an overview of a few features of Sam’s “one of a kind” ½ ton. Some would say “This Must be the Tip of the Iceberg” in what was done and time spent. After 13 years, he can now enjoy the results of his research and personal involvement in this major project. Now retired, Sam will finally have more time to Have Fun!
Short and Wide
Lettering Relates to Sam’s Second 1959
Big Back Window
No Tailgate Lettering
Air Bags Require Wide Tubs
Deluxe Rear Bed Side Trim, Very Rare!
Car Seat Forward Allows Extra Space Access
Trimmed Accessory Sunvisor. Nice!
Great Two-Tone Combination!
Cab Steps. Perfect!
Special Seat Upholstery!
Modern Gauges & Steering Wheel
Under Dash Air Outlet Assembly Fits Perfect
More Dash Views & Modern Carpet
The GMC Dash. A Perfect Fit into a Chevrolet Cab
Not One Side of a V-12 Engine. It’s All 6 Cylinder!
We just had to make an exception! Normally our monthly feature is to help show our readers what the new truck was when they first left the dealers showroom. However, this unrestored 1936 Chevrolet low cab ½ ton changed our direction. In our 35 years in business we have never seen an 80 year old work truck so unaltered. Yes, used, but almost all parts have remained without later changes.
What a reference vehicle for the restorer! There is almost no trucks of this age that can be used as a restoration example and the owner be so sure everything is right!
It arrived at our shop one morning on a trailer from its prior life’s location near Monument, Colorado. The new proud owners, Bryan and Beth Frogue were taking it to their home in Elkton, Kentucky. They found it on eBay and were very surprised that so many high bids came before they owned it. Others recognized the purity of this old truck. It would require almost no body work and what came with it was correct as installed by General Motors eighty years ago.
Bryan and Beth and their children Van, Madison and Emily are great examples of the old saying, “If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person”. They are avid antique vehicle collectors and enjoy originality so they quickly recognized the unique qualities of this little 1936. Their vehicle collection they have and still display, are at least 5 very early John Deere tractors plus a 1940 Chevrolet ¾ ton pickup and a 1950 Chevrolet 1 ton pickup with a 9’ ft. bed.
Pictured ’46 John Deere H, ’46 JD LI, ’41 JD LA, ’53 John Deere G, ’37 Unstyled John Deere B (Not Pictured)
They own 70 acres that support a stocker feeder cattle operation which they run approx. 150 cattle thru on a yearly basis and raise 40 ac of alfalfa and grass hay. Bryan has a regular day job as a crop consultant and Beth is a Kentucky Tech Area Technology Center school principal. She even drives the 1950 pickup to school!
Their plans for the 1936 is to give it a ground up restoration as time and money permits. At least now they own it and there will be no doubt on what is correct.
During the time Bryan and Beth were at our shop, we took various photos to emphasis the untouched qualities of their 1936. For the perfectionist, these relate to items that will be very important during a full restoration. Check the text under each picture.
You can contact Bryan & Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org
Still shows its Expert Blue. No repaints
Splash apron under grill. Dent free?
Rubber gas grommet still behind right rear fender
Black windshield frame. Saves time on assembly line with just one color.
Left rear fender with some black remaining.
Yes, hole for wiper motor. Drivers side only.
Unbelievable! The 80 year old headliner still in original position.
Spare tire pins to better secure tire in fender well.
Spare tire removed for the long journey home.
Tailgate (dent free?) with its Export Blue paint
Original Taillight bracket (left side only) with 44 year old license.
Slight bend has occurred in taillight bracket NOTE: Correct metal loom held with clip to non-original taillight.
Wood floor has protective canvas on edges. (See lower left corner for loose piece)
207 engine and 4 speed in pickup bed. Prior owner went no further.
What a rare find! Don Welsh of Kansas City, Kansas is the proud new owner of a 1953 Chevrolet 1/2 ton panel truck used by the Canadian Army to transport troops. Its data plate even is stamped “Army” as well as “Made in Canada”. By its appearance inside, it was used to haul soldiers and the long bench seat is on both sides of the interior. Now that’s really close quarters!
Note: The 1300 emblem on the hood side. This is the Canadian designation for a 1/2 ton.
This rare little ½ ton survived its 75 years mostly because it stayed with one family; it probably never ventured beyond the city limits, and was used mostly by a mechanic that lived in an area of dry air that discouraged metal rust. For the trucks first two years, it was driven by Virginia Swaim to high school each day in Prescott, Arizona. After graduation her father used it as a shop truck in his auto repair business until he retired. Then, Virginia kept it mostly stored in a backyard garage until she passed away in 2002.
The new owner and restorer is Pat O’Brien also of Prescott, Arizona. He discovered it in the same closed garage where it had spent all of its later years. Virginia sold it to Pat several years after he discovered it by accident as he drove by the garage door that was open for a few minutes. Maybe this second ownership was meant to be! Pat was even given the pickups entire history in receipts from the day it was purchased. A box of so many receipts; from tires, gasoline, batteries, radiator hoses, and any other little repairs that needed during so many years.
Of course after all those years as a shop truck and many more sitting in the daughters garage, it was in need of so much more than a surface cleanup. Pat was ready for this challenge. His goal was to have his 1936 look bone stock on the outside with a change to most of the running gears that only the more knowledgeable truck person would recognize. Keeping an inline six cylinder was a must! He added a 292, the larger of the 1963 through 1972 design. The 4 speed was replaced with a Chevy car full synchronized floor shift 4 speed from the 1960’s. This floor shift system was almost a natural for the 1936 pickup.
The differential rear end was a great find. Removed from a 4 x 4 S-10 pickup, it matches the original 6 bolt wheel pattern and the distance between the rear wheels is just right for this 1936 ½ ton. Pat only moved the axle saddles slightly to the side and the original 1 ¾ wide rear leaf springs connected perfectly!
Keeping the 1936 front axle was important. He wanted it to keep the non-lowered original appearance. The front end difference is the hidden 6 bolt disc brake system fitted to his 1936 axle. Yes, the original 1936 lever action shock absorbers were rebuilt. They really are an excellent shock – just expensive!
The real creation was keeping the new dual chambered master cylinder under the floor between the original clutch and brake pedals. Most people give up here on 1936-46 brake modifications and attach swing pedals to the firewall. Not Pat! He did it like the 1936 design. A bracket to support the pedals was attached to the transmission case much like GM did it. The opposite bracket on the original frame rail could then be utilized with the pedal shaft as from the factory. Even the hand brake lever is attached to the newer 4 speed transmission like it was in 1936. It comes through the floor in the correct position.
The 6 hole wire wheels are another eye catcher. To keep it like GM made it, Pat found these new US handmade wires to look original. Not cheap! They really help it keep its 1936 look and hold the radial tires well at any speed.
Pat O’Brien has created a total package that is one of a kind. We call it his little original speed machine! No, we didn’t say inexpensive. People are drawn to it at car shows or just moving in traffic. Virginia Swaim and her father would be proud!!
To contact Pat, email at: email@example.com
Owners: Scott and Betty Golding of Stratton, Nebraska
Is this the rare of the rare?
Just when you think they were all gone, up comes a real Canopy Express of the 1939-46 body design.
Our ‘Feature Truck of the Month’ section usually shows restored GM trucks, but we just had to show this almost forgotten body style even though it is not restored. We might call this 1/2 ton Canopy Express a ‘Barn Fresh 1942’
It is owned by Scott and Betty Golding of Stratton, Nebraska. They found it near Scott City, Kansas, a small town in the far northwest part of the state. Here the ground is flat and the air is dry. Thus, body rust is usually not a problem and metal is preserved with the low humidity. It has saved this 65 year old and it will now be seen by future generations.
Scott states that there were 182 Canopy Express trucks built in 1942. Therefore, we suspect the survival rate of this year is less than five. The limited production in 1942 was due to most assembly plants starting to be used to make war materials after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Canopy Express had a limited market and with the factories stopping production early, the 182 production number is understandable. Scott and Betty’s Canopy Express still has a chrome grill which relates to the time before the war shortages.
Though the original black paint is mostly gone from the summer sun, the metal condition shows a very restorable vehicle. Even the full wood divider is still behind the front seat. This divider with window was necessary for rear vision as well as to allow passengers more comfort in cold weather when the small dealer installed heater was used. The wood planks in the bed are tired, but still remain in place. The roll up canvas curtains were usually gone before the tenth year. Of course, there is no evidence now they even existed.
The Golding’s should have some good luck with a future restoration as the rare body sets on a 1/2 ton pickup frame. The parts from the door forward are also the same as a pickup truck. It is the body restoration that might give some problems because the tailgate is lost. That will take a real search.
Why did the Canopy Express exist?
In another era of our country’s history (1920’s through 1950’s) extra money was limited. Those with some disposable income bought one family car. The man of the house drove it to work and the wife stayed at home with the children. During World War II, the husbands were often in the military overseas. Therefore, retail stores realized to keep sales or even stay in business; they had to bring their products to the neighborhoods. The Canopy Express filled that need. They were excellent for carrying and displaying produce and related groceries. Display trays of food products were taken to the neighborhoods. Probably a bell told home owners that the grocery truck was coming. Even a scale for weighing produce could be attached to an arm extending from the body. The Canopy Express canvas sides were easily raised or lowered depending on the weather or when back at the store at the end of the day. Of course, laundry, bakery and dairy products were also delivered to neighborhoods but this required a different size vehicle. That is another story!
Scott and Betty’s Canopy Express still has the 216 six cylinder engine. Most important is its 4 speed transmission. This allowed the Canopy Express to move very slowly in crowded apartment neighborhoods while ringing the hand-pulled bell.
General Motors was coming out of the wire wheel era by 1936. This as well as wood spokes had been a standard with most cars and light trucks since the beginning at the turn of the century. The new stamped steel wheels on Chevrolet 1/2 tons were easier to produce, and was less susceptible to side damage on rough terrain or in an accident.
We find that both 17′ design 1/2 ton wheels were available in 1936, the transition year. In 1935 all 1/2 ton used wires and all 1937’s had stamped steel wheels.
The two attached photos are Chevrolet promotional pictures from 1936. These 1/2 tons are the same except for the wheels.
NOTE: GMC’s first entry into the 1/2 ton market was 1936. These used the new stamped steel artillery wheels like the later 1936 Chevrolet.
Year/Make 1953 Chevrolet
Owner: Dave and Pat Moore
This month’s feature truck is a 1953 Chevy ½ ton by Dave and Pat Moore of
Kansas City, KS. Dave is our company technical advisor and talks to hundreds of
people each week helping with the many questions that come his way.
Dave is a ‘hands-on’ person and has personally done repairs and upgrades on
many mid-50’s GM trucks. His own pickup is a prime example. He and
his wife, Pat, have owned this little ½ ton 43 years (is that a record?) and
have continued to add upgrades over the years. It is now better than ever
and ready for another 43 years
It all began in 1968, when Dave traded a 1961 Chevy “409” Impala for this
1953 pickup. It had an Oldsmobile drivetrain and it became a driver for
his wife, Pat for several months. While talking to Dave about this ½ ton,
he recalled the many mechanical changes in the 43 years. This has included
5 engines, 7 transmissions, and 5 rear ends. It is now in the last stages
of its current frame off upgrade.
Dave actually bought a complete, not wrecked, 1986, C-4 Corvette several
years ago to get straight suspension parts for this upgrade including the total
front end and rear end. A 700R4 transmission from an Astro Van and has
been rebuilt. The engine is a ’93 350c.i. Chevy crate motor using Jim’s
motor and trans. mounts. The body work and custom paint was done in
’97 and still looks great! Two other major changes have been the addition
of a powder coated 1954 frame and the deeper 1954 bed that matches these lower
frame rails. The truck is so dependable that Dave and Pat have been part
of the “Long Haul Gang” on the Hot Rod Power Tour 7 times where it has averaged
In the first photo, note the new Peterbilt tractor beside Dave and Pat’s
1953. The owner said surprise me on the paint; Clint (Dave’s son) who
works selling new Peterbilt’s had the factory paint the truck the same special
green! If you would like to contact Dave about his 1953, his email
address is firstname.lastname@example.org
I found my 36 Chevy pickup in the 1980’s on highway 41 somewhere south of Chicago. It was running but had a big crack in the block, so to drive it I had to carry a bucket of water with me.
My love of the 36 pickup goes back to 1948 when I was four and my dad (just home from the Navy and WW2) was working as a tenant farmer in east central Illinois. The owner of the farm had a 1936 Chevy pickup which my dad was allowed to drive back and forth from our house to the main farm. It was the “first” pickup I remember riding in and the fascination I had for that old truck stayed with me. Needles to say, when I saw old “Willy” (named after my dad) sitting ‘for sale’ along Hwy 41 many years later, I had to have him.
At that time I lived in Terre Haute, Indiana and had a concrete block company and an excavating business. My intention from the beginning was to restore old “Willy”. However as some of you “old timers” might remember, the early 80’s were tough years for the building industry and a lot of old “Willy” projects got delayed.
In 1986 I packed up my family, a few pieces of equipment, old “Willy” and moved to the Charlotte, NC area. The economy was much better there and by 1988 I started an auto detail and wreck recovery business. Old “Willy” finally was getting some attention. When the work crew had some extra time, we took old “Willy” to the frame.
Another hick-up in the 1989 economy put the project back on hold and old “Willy” was destined to become a “pile of parts”. We had to shut the shop down. A sluggish economy, a divorce and two daughters in college paved the way for old “Willy” to remain a pile of parts for several years.
Not until 1999 did I seriously get back on the project. All the chassis parts were examined and many were rebuilt. New brake lines were installed, king pins, bushings, spring pins; any part worn was replaced. The passing of time and moving things around caused a number of parts to get lost. We found a parts truck in Wisconsin and had it shipped to North Carolina. This provided an engine, transmission and a few other needed chassis parts.
In 2005 I contracted with a small paint and body shop to start painting the sheet metal and body parts. There were some real challenges to return a fairly rough and rugged bed, cab, fenders, doors, hood, etc. to “like new” condition.
In 2009 I was finally able to again open my own shop and begin the reassembly of old “Willy”. After all those years “Willy” was about to be complete. I thank our crew, Chuck (manager), Whit (mechanic) and Steven (painter) for doing a super job getting our beautiful ’36 in show condition.
We also want to thank Jim Carter’s Old Chevy Trucks for helping us with several technical questions we had in the reassembly. We were able to get a number of new and used parts from the Jim Carter catalog.
PS: Over all these years, old “Willy” has finally successfully evolved from a truck in a box to a beauty back on the highway of pride.
A recently restored 1953 Chevrolet 1/2 ton! This is a perfect example of a “good old truck”, brought back from the dead. The owner is Colin Murphy of Summerset, South Dakota. he had an interest to restore an older GM pickup for years. It all came together when a friend offered Colin this little 1/2 ton that was setting behind a storage building in Cheyenne WY.Because of the dry air in Wyoming, even an older vehicle never in a garage has limited body rust. The picture of when he found his truck, six years ago, shows it disassembled but its solid cab had great potential. Colin says he still found two other pickups to use as parts donors. We might say three made one!
His many, many hours in the evenings paid off. It really turns heads in his town. The original 216 engine, 4 speed transmission, and closed driveshaft rear end, makes it perform just like GM designed. Colin comments are ” I think it is pretty well done, so here it is. After six years and a gazillion dollars, I have a truck that tops out at 50 miles per hour. I have enjoyed working with Jim Carter Truck Parts on this project. Now, all I have to do is find another one…”.
During a recent trip to Buenos Aires, this Argentina built 1971 Chevrolet ½ ton was seen beside a downtown street. Its unique features causes us to take a strong second look. The more we observed this clean little shortbed, the more we saw features that were special to this South American Chevy.
The driver was not available so we just took pictures and studied the differences. It appears the GM plant in Argentina used parts from the earlier series of Chevrolet trucks to save much money. This helped make the vehicle more affordable for the local buyer.
Some of the more obvious differences are as follows:
Note the clear park light lenses. (Amber color lenses have been a federal requirement in the U.S. since 1963.)
The wing vent handles were on U.S. trucks in 1960-67 and the total assembly in the U.S. is 1967 only. Why change tooling if the prior design serves the purpose?
The unique Posi-Traction differential emblem was placed on the right fender, not the left.
Check out the economy heater panel. It consists of a rectangular plate and three pull or turn levers that operate the re-circulator heater. The knobs control temperature, fan speed, and defroster. This system is similar to the basic heaters offered in the mid 1950’s in the U.S.
The bed is the most noticeable difference in the Argentina ½ ton. It’s tailgate was used in the U.S. in 1958-66, however, it has been modified for the South American trucks. Special latches secure the gate in the closed position. By modifying the bed sides and the older heavier tailgate, limited new tooling was required. Yes, to save costs it even uses tailgate chains!
The wheelwell tubs are also produced with no tooling. Forming, bending, and welding create this finished product.
The metal corrugated bed bottom does not have the same spacing as the US produced pickups. Thus, the floor was produced locally to save production and shipping costs.
A real money saving technique is the use of 6 bolt wheels. See side mounted spare tire in attached photo. In the US, 1971 was the first year for disc brakes and 5 bolt wheels. In Argentina, a big savings was to keep the 1967-1971 non-disc brake system. Therefore, we see the 6 bolt early wheel on this 1971.
In this 1971 Argentina example, the fenders and bedsides are without marker lights. (These were required in the U.S. by 1968.)
Check the tail lights! These are 1960-1966 on U.S. produced Fleetside pickups. This truck even had the red bow-tie molded in the red lens.
Note the resulting sheet metal differences in the rear of the bedsides. There is not any metal contours for the U.S. style, 1967-1972, tail light to fit. There are no back-up lights and using earlier light assemblies lowers production costs.
Yes, this feature truck had been repainted in past years but it is doubtful if the tail lights were added to give a custom touch. In Argentina, pickup trucks are used for the purpose they were designed ‘ as a worker. There, trucks are not Sunday drivers and aren’t given appearance changes that would require the owner’s disposable income. They are valued in their ability to haul merchandise!
Wheel well tubs made without tooling (above)
The full back view (above)
Clear park light lenses (above)
Note: basic heater lever panel (above)
Posi-Traction fender emblem (above)
Tailgate latch holds older gate to bed side (above)
The Australian 1937-38 Chevrolet trucks are much like those in the U.S., however on close observation, one can certainly see unique differences. This United States relative is obviously GM but not quite the same.
These Down-Under truck’s final assembly point was in the Holden plant in New South Wales, Australia. (Holden is a branch for GM in that country.) Much of the sheet metal was stamped at the GM Canadian plant in Oshawa, Ontario. Most all the GM trucks in the 1930’s and 1940’s that reached overseas assembly plants were from this Canadian location but unassembled.
In Australia and even in nearby New Zealand, local governments required a certain percentage of truck parts to be manufactured in those countries. This provided jobs for the local population. Parts supplied in Australia would be wiring harnesses, glass, tires, seats, a different design bed, etc.
The current photos we have of Australian 1937-38 1/2 tons are these furnished by Luke Randall from auto gatherings in Eastern Australia. He owns a 1938 to be restored so he has an interest in others of this design. You can contact Luke at email@example.com.
Items of special interest on these 1937 and 1938 Australian trucks are:
The 3 stamped ribs on the can roof
A different bed design
The wide horizontal panel below the door
The double stamped belt on the cowl and door stop near the handle (In the U.S. the belt continues around the cab behind to the rear under the window)
The windshield is two a piece not like the one piece 1937-1938 in the U.S.
Doors are more rounded at the top
Right hand drive
Luke and passenger
Luke’s 1938 to be restored
It’s finally complete! Luke’s many hours has paid off. What a special “one of a kind” 1938.
As the beds from the Australian factory were usually a flat deck to lower retail costs, Luke added an all wood bed in the shape of a US designed bed. Very nice!
Prior to the 1960’s, trucks were used as work vehicles. On Friday nights, most were parked for the weekend and the family sedan was the transportation vehicle.
It was a conservative era when you bought only basic necessities. A $5.00 grocery purchase was more than most could carry. Finding white wall tires on a truck (even a car) would have been a rare sight, indeed. Very few cars, except for most luxurious models, would have had white walls even as an option. It should be remembered, that most roads, except highways and those in the main part of town were gravel, dirt, or sprayed annually with tar.
Of course, a dealer would have been happy to install aftermarket white wall tires, if the customer made a specific request. For a price, the dealer would provide any option to keep a satisfied customer and make a few dollars.
On GM trucks, white walls became a factory option in mid-1955, partially because of the introduction of the Chevrolet Cameo and GMC Suburban carrier and also due to more roads becoming paved. These very deluxe pickups, as well as several of the other well appointed 1/2 tons justified a white wall tire for those wanting it all!
Almost none of these deluxe models would have been given their second set of white wall tires. By then, the pickup was older and being used more as a hauler, not for appearance.
The truck (a 1936 1/2 Chevy high cab) was the very first truck that Mr. Hess himself drove around Woodbridge, NJ in the early days. In those days it was not gasoline he hauled, it was primarily heating fuel oil. The truck remained in service up into the early fifties at which time it underwent a partial overhaul. When I met the truck it had spent the last twenty something years in the HOVIC (Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corp) plant in the US Virgin Islands being used as a prop. The unit, as a result of being subjected to years of salt air and a hurricane or two (one being Hurricane Hugo), was in EXTREME disrepair to say the least. The engine would run, however the poured rod bearings were knocking very bad. When we pulled the truck into the shop for disassembly the windshield and part of the cab just fell into pieces. This was a complete overhaul right down to cutting the rivets, splitting the frame rails, and hand riveting them back together. I feel this is one of the finest restoration jobs I have ever been involved with and I am very proud of it. The truck (fully functional) is now destined to be displayed at the Hess headquarters in Woodbridge, N.J. and could haul fuel today.
Chevrolet’s 1/2 ton and car overdrive 3 speed transmission was optional equipment installed on the assembly line during the 1950’s. The reduction of engine RPM’s in high gear resulted in less wear on the drive train as well as additional speed on level roads. Today, this is still important but of increased importance is better fuel economy.
The standard 3 speed transmission gives a 1 to 1 ratio in high gear. The overdrive is rated .7 to 1. The case and main gears are identical in both transmissions. The difference is in the rear extension tail. Here, the Borg-Warner gears electrically drop the RPM’s in the output shaft. GM’s wisdom created the 3 speed overdrive to be the same overall length as their standard transmission. This makes transmission exchanges very uncomplicated. There is no modification in the shift linkage rods or drive shaft.
With several basic tools a person can remove a standard 3 speed and add his overdrive in an hour! No problem if you don’t have the factory dash levers. Simply connect two insulated wires from the solenoid to a small dual position flip switch you add to the end of the shift lever. (It can be bought tat a local auto parts store and taped in place.) The driver can then shift in and out of overdrive using his thumb.
These overdrives were Chevrolet optional equipment from 1955 through the early 1960’s. Though they are becoming difficult to find, they do surface at swap meets, older salvage yards, and from owners totally modernizing their older vehicle. Find one and give your car or ½ ton a different personality!
Have you ever crawled under a pickup for sale looking for damage? You then turned it down because some rust was coming through the floor. Well, check this! David Cross of Stillwater, Minnesota found this 1957 Chevrolet 1/2 ton and ignored the signs of major rust. What is now a show quality truck would normally have been crushed by a recycler.
This 1957’s life began with the highway department of the state of Iowa. When it was retired many years later it was sold to a local farmer who used it only on his property and never titled it. Thus, David can honestly say he is the second owner of record.
When the farmer used up what life was left in the pickup, it wound up in a ravine with occasional flooding and an infestation of mice, snakes and other varmints.
A used car dealer pulled it out of the mud in 2000. His later ad said “The truck is all there and runs”. David, a new person to the truck hobby, drove it home five miles with no brakes, a leaking gas tank, and water running from the radiator. It’s little 235 engine was struggling. We wonder why!
It is now restoration time. David refused to yield to its many problems. Admitting to a mistake was out of the question. David and this body and paint person took the truck apart. They found it much worse than they ever imagined. The small rust holes grew gigantic when even taped with a little hammer.
David’s body and paint person is Kevin O’Brian from O’Brian’s Paint and Body Works in Afton, Minnesota. He did all the metal work and paint. David provided most of the mechanicals and assembly. Kevin is one of the best body persons in the state but he admitted this project stretched him into new territory. David and Kevin saved the frame, running gear, cab, and hood. The rest of the 1957 just was not repairable!
Saving the body was major since the front body mounts were gone. Kevin built a jig to align the cab with the frame. This was necessary while the floor and cab mounts were constructed. The strip across the windshield top was rusted out. New metal had to be shaped and welded in, a major task. To fit the new windshield, the cab had to be just right. No errors allowed. The metal body steps would not hold a person without bending. This total area was taken out from the remainder of the cab.
The following pictures will show the finished product plus what David and Kevin had to work with. The restoration of this derelict 1957 pickup is clear evidence that given time, money, talent, and loving care anything is possible.
This mid-Missouri 1937 Chevrolet 1/2 ton is owned by Tim Koch of Jefferson City. He chose this restoration shop to do the total project because of their reputation for quality as one of the best! The name Herrons Customs Paint is mentioned at so many local shows, it was worth Tim Koch talking to the owner and viewing his shop. The vehicles under rebuilding convinced Tim this was the company to do the restoration of his 1937 Chevy truck.
The following pictures show an excellent step by step procedure from the frame up! You can contact the shop at www.herroncustompaint.com or the truck owner at 573-636-5678, cell 573-619-3104.
This is my latest project a 1937 GMC 1/2 ton pickup. Not exactly original but a personal preference. The previous owner had owned the truck for over 30 years and finally parted with it. It had been restored many years ago but was in need of a lot of repair to shoddy bodywork and I have added many upgrades. So far the frame and drive line are in place and currently doing the body work. I plan on doing all the work myself. Have not selected a color as of yet. Leaning to either black or a metallic red . The truck has a 350 chevy with a B & M blower with 2-4 barrels (and it all fits under the hood) , 350 turbo trannie, 12 bolt rear, mustang II front suspension and a 4 link in the rear. Should be an head turner when finished.
During the early years of GM truck production, many examples exist which relate to their vehicles being designed more for work. Changing a trim part for appearance reasons was usually secondary if it resulted in unnecessary expense. Often parts were used that had already been on GM automobiles. This eliminated expensive new tooling costs and kept GM truck prices in line with the competition.
An excellent example of this type thinking is shown with the 1957-1960 hubcaps. Even though the 1960 pickup was a totally redesigned vehicle, GM carried their older hub cap on this new pickup. The reasoning goes back to keeping truck prices low. The 1960 1/2 ton wheel was to be the last carrying the inside spring clips to secure the hub caps. As truck hub caps were used several years, it was not likely a new 1960 design would be created for only one year. GM held off from using a redesigned hub cap until 1961 so that it would fit on the new non-clip wheel. To stay with tradition, this new 1/2 ton cap was then used three years.
To keep the 1960 3/4 and 1 ton hub cap appearances similar to the 1/2 ton, GM again retained the earlier style. This occurred even though the larger truck inside clip split rim wheel design was basically unchanged between 1946 and the late 1960’s.
Chevrolet and GMC each had their own different hub cab design during this time, however, they both changed styles at the same time. A full Chevrolet or GMC wheel cover was unavailable for the deluxe 1957-59 truck models. GM simply chromed their standard caps that were otherwise painted white. An optional chromed GM wheel ring could be added on the 1/2 ton series in 1957-1959 Chevrolet but not during 1960. These trim rings were stock on the 1957-1958 Cameo but dealer installed on other 1/2 tons.
In 1960, a full wheel cover was introduced on the Deluxe 1/2 Ton Package. Actually, it was from a 1956 Chevrolet Belair car and 1956 Chevrolet Cameo. Once again, GM used this stamping from five year old tooling and saved production costs.
1960 Wheel Covers (above)
Stainless Steel on the Deluxe 1/2 Ton Pickup. 15″ Wheels only.
1957-1959 Wheel Rings (above)
Chromed steel wheel rings that blend with optional chrome hub caps to give appearance of full-chrome wheels. 15″ wheels only.
During the 1940’s through 1950’s placing pin stripes on automobile wheels occurred on most all brands. It was an inexpensive touch that added a little flair to the appearance of a new wheel. The stripe could be added quickly with a machine on a rotating wheel. The factory didn’t need a human as on the body stripes.
GM was no exception. They had been striping most new car wheels for almost 10 years. Beginning with the 1947 Advance Design trucks, this striping even was used on ½ tons that had the deluxe package (not the standard models). This extra was continued through the 1947-1955 body style.
The attached photo shows a used original never repainted 16″ 1/2 ton deluxe wheel. Note how perfect the 3/4″ stripes are applied. With the addition of the small chrome hub cap, the wheel drew attention
The term artillery wheel is a nickname adapted from a scalloped type wheel often seen on US military vehicles in World War I. The similar appearance at a distance to GM’s scalloped steel wheels quickly gave them the name artillery.
On GM trucks, this style was first used during 1934-36 as a stock six bolt 1/2 ton 17 inch wheel. It was much stronger than the existing wire style wheels due to it being less susceptible to bending when hitting a large pot hole or sliding against a curb.
Though this 17 inch unit was discontinued on 1/2 tons for 1937, a redesigned 15 inch artillery began as GM’s stock wheel on that year’s 3/4 ton truck. It was stronger and wider but was still a non-split rim design. This remained the GM 3/4 ton wheel through 1945. By 1946, six bolt wheels on trucks were limited to 1/2 tons. The 3/4 ton would now have 15 inch 8 bolt split rims which remained stock into the 1960’s.
Today, we sometimes see 1947-59 GM 1/2 tons equipped with these early 15 inch artillery 3/4 ton wheels even though they were not placed on factory trucks after 1945. To many, they provide a unique appearance on the later 1/2 tons and will still hold the trucks current hub cap.
From 1934 to 1959 GM 1/2 tons came from the factory with a tie rod assembly that extended side to side to almost touch the front wheels. With everything stock, the tie rod sits about 3/4 inch from the inside of both original six hole wheels and all fits just right.
A problem exists when someone attempts to add a more modern wheel. For example, the mid 60’s and newer 4×4 wheels have this 6 hole bolt pattern but their width causes them to contact the end of original long tie rod. Changing from the approximate 4-1/2 inch original to at least a 6 inch width just won’t work.
Solutions for adding a more sporty wheel are very limited with the original suspension. One almost unknown method is to replace the original GM multi-piece tie rod ends with the more modern knuckle ends introduced in the 1960’s. There are currently available and are 3/8 inch shorter on the outer end giving that much extra room for a slightly wider wheel. (It is not recommended that flat washers be placed over the stud between the wheel and drum as this can cause breakage.)
This GM six bolt pattern is also shared with several Japanese pickups. Some very attractive more narrow aftermarket wheels have been produced for their imports in past years.
The big news for GMC in 1936 was the introduction of their first 1/2 ton pickup. Though GMC now shared cabs with Chevrolet trucks, the visual exterior differences were mostly noticeable in front of the hood.
The GMC grill was totally redesigned and did not resemble the Chevrolet truck. This unique grill was modified little between 1936 through 1938 but the top grill ornament was changed with each of these years.
Watch for these ornaments at swap meets, antique shops, and older vehicle trade shows. They are extremely rare! Even locating the real thing for the following photos was very difficult.
The first year for the newly designed GMC 1/2 ton (cab shared with Chevrolet trucks) and the last year for the exterior radiator cap. This example of flowing artwork rivals even nicer automobiles of that year.
The hood must be raised to reach the hidden radiator cap but a fixed die cast logo (similar to 1936) remains the focal point at the top of the grill.
GMC extends the smooth front hood hold down upward several inches and eliminates the die cast letters. This chrome extension (not like Chevrolet) can be just as rare as the early style. Once off the truck at a salvage yard, it soon becomes mixed with scrap iron because of no identifying GMC letters.
The placement of rear axle bumpers by GM on 1/2 tons proved to be an important feature. Owners can often load cargo over recommended weights, their shock absorbers may lose their resistance, and there is the existence of uneven road surfaces. All this can make axle bumpers very important.
During the hauling of freight, these bumpers occasionally stop metal to metal contact between the frame rails and the axle housing. GM placed them just above the rear axle. See photos.
1947-1953 1/2 ton (above)
In 1954 GM increased the depth of the 1/2 ton pickup bed from 15″ to 18″. To do this they lowered the frame rail arch above the rear axle. This shortage of space caused the bumper to be placed at the side of the frame but still above the axle.
Leaf spring width on 1/2 ton pickups remained at 1 3/4 inches until the introduction of the two inch width on the Task Force 1/2 tons in mid 1955. The early narrow springs worked well considering the engine horsepower and weight limitations of the 1/2 tons. The two inch springs became standard equipment on the rear of the 3/4 ton in 1946 but their fronts still remained the smaller size. This is because the increased weight carrying ability of the 3/4 ton is mostly felt in the rear. Only 1 ton and heavier were totally without the 1 3/4 inch springs.
With the abuse given pickups in the early days (poor roads, overloading, and almost no lubrication), the springs have held up well. Most mid 1955 and older 1/2 tons continue to operate with their tired original narrow springs.
In today’s world a new variable exists that puts even more demands on these small springs. It is the increased horsepower of later model engines. No problem if these trucks, converted to more powerful engines, are driven as if they still have their original six cylinder. However, problems arise with jack rabbit starts with or with a heavy freight load. Most of these Advance Design 1/2 ton’s with transplanted V-8’s have had their original closed drive shafts replaced with open systems. The replacement axle housings are clamped to the 1 3/4 inch rear springs. When heavy acceleration is forced on these modified trucks, the axle housings try to rotate due to the extra torque. Much of this movement is held in check by these narrow springs. They just weren’t designed for this. Breakage and permanent bending can occur.
Don’t push your 1 3/4 inch rear leaf springs beyond their limits. If you demand fast acceleration with your V-8 1/2 ton, convert to later model 2″ or 2 1/2″ springs. Check specialized suppliers, including Jim Carters Truck Parts (part # HP580), for add-on kits.
The straight axle ½ ton GM pickups (1959 and older) were built tough! They served their purpose as the best in work vehicles for over 30 years. Other than an occasional kingpin replacement, they were almost ‘bullet proof’.
In today’s world, the reasons for owning an older truck, has generally changed. Most have been retired from work responsibilities and have become ‘fun trucks’ driven with care on smooth streets. Hauling merchandise is far down the list of their use.
The resulting demand for a smoother ride and better braking is the reason for many suspension options available from supply houses. For those willing to compromise on originality for an easier ride, one of the most proven and less expensive upgrades is the front suspension of the AMC Pacer. The price is right and the results are excellent. This coil spring rack and pinion front suspension assembly gives passenger steering and ride qualities.
A specialized adapter plate (available from the catalog on this web site, HP127) allows for the connection to your ½ ton truck. Instructions explain parts to remove from the Pacer assembly before the plate is welded in place. The total assembly is then bolted to the truck front cross member. No cutting on your truck! You can even trim the Pacer coil springs to get a lowered level on the total vehicle.
The adapter plate is not expensive. The main project is locating a good Pacer front suspension. This AMC vehicle was produced between 1975 and about 1982. The later years even had disc brakes.
Mechanical components on trucks were usually kept for many years by GM. Unless an improvement was needed, there was no need to change a proven design.
An excellent example of this is the rear ½ ton axle bumper. The design was used from 1929 through 1946 on Chevrolet and GMC ½ tons. A rubber bumper is held down on the rear axle housing by a metal cover with two ears. These ears are firmly secured by the two u-bolts that connect the leaf spring to the round axle housing. If the truck is overloaded or the shock absorbers are worn, the rubber bumper prevents metal to metal contact between the axle and frame rail.
Two of the attached photos show an original used retainer with bumper in place. The black bumper (now reproduced) is how the rubber part looks when new.
An original drawing of a 1949 Chevrolet Suburban from their sales brochure. Shown with its rated seven passengers. NOTE: The lady driver emphasizes that it does not drive like a truck! (The hotel employee is probably wondering how he will place the suit cases and golf clubs in the space behind the third seat)
With the increased popularity of the Advance Design Suburbans (1947-1955), questions are often asked in regards to the proper seat arrangement. This eight passenger vehicle was the only GM “people hauler” on a truck chassis and still remains a popular carrier for the family.
This body style was only produced on a 1/2 ton 116″ wheelbase chassis (the same as a pickup except for 4 riveted right angle brackets to better support the body). The extra weight capacity and stiff ride of a 3/4 ton was not necessary for a vehicle carrying passengers and expected to do almost no towing.
Two seats at front consist of a 3/4 unit for the driver which can be adjusted several inches front and back. The far right non-adjusting jump seat is designed to tip forward and allow passengers access to the rear seats.
The middle unit is also only the 3/4 size. It has the same size cushions that are used by the driver, however, the framework does not adjust. It must be this 3/4 width to give room for passengers to reach the rear seat.
This back seat has full length “crowded” three passenger cushions. In today’s world, it is the rarest seat! Though all Suburbans originally had this back seat, many were removed to give more loading capacity for merchandise. They were probably put in storage or used as a seat in the barn and then forgotten years later when the Suburban was sold to the second owner.
The 1934-36 half ton Chevrolet truck body style always placed their 17′ spare in the right fender. Even the Chevrolet car normally used the right side when only one side mount was added.
In mid 1936, GMC entered the ½ ton market for the first time. This light truck shared most all sheet metal and chassis components with Chevrolet except for the engine, hub caps, grille and tailgate lettering.
One of the more visual differences between the 1936 Chevrolet and the new GMC 1/2 ton is the location of the side mount spare. The GMC is on the left, not the right as with Chevrolet. This was done with little expense as the mounting brackets will fit the right or left side.
Why did GMC place their spare on the opposite side? The answer 70 years later is not known. We only assume it kept the two marques more individual with no extra expense.
One of the most unusual and rare options for the 1947-1955 1/2 tons are ‘wide running boards’. The adjacent picture is from the 1949 Chevrolet Salesman’s Data Book. The photos below are of used original boards recently found at an Oklahoma swap meet.
They consist of ‘short’ running boards as used on all flat bed ¾ and 1 ton trucks plus a matching wide rear board extensions. The splash apron is totally redesigned to properly fill the different opening between the board and bed. See photo.
GM marketed these optional boards to allow more standing or foot room near the front of the ½ ton bed. Normally a person can not place his complete foot on a stock running board in this area. This option gave more comfort to the person spending much time on the running boards moving merchandise at the front of the bed.
Its the annual convention of the American Truck Historical Society. This year, 2010, it is in Pleasanton, California. Over 700 trucks of all sizes and makes gather at the Alameda County Fairgrounds.In a far grassy corner is a sub group of local early GMC owners. Most seem to be acquainted and use this show as a reason to renew old friendships. There are few “trailer queen” trucks in this group, just dependable daily drivers. Most owners know how to repair the occasional problems that are a part of driving a 50 year old truck.
A crowd begins to gather late afternoon on the second day of the convention in this GMC truck cluster. The attention is not so much on the 1958 GMC stepside 1/2 ton with its Pontiac V-8 plus three factory two barrel Rochester carbs and correct large air filter. The interest is on the contents of the bed.
Here, only heard of by most GMC enthusiasts, is a real inline 302 cubic inch six cylinder engine from the late 1950’s! It has all the aftermarket high performance options of 50 years ago. It sits on a special frame with no body panels obstructing the view. All is there to touch and feel.
The owner is John Christ of San Francisco, CA. He has built this 302 just like it would be for racing in the late 1950’s. John located a new engine about 5 years ago and since has been hunting GMC speed parts so he could build it just like the race track engines of 50 years ago.
This is the first time the 302 has been seen by the general public and almost never had John tried to make it start. He had planned for this moment at the ATHS convention for a long time.
As the crowd grew and watched, the battery beside the engine was connected. The small nearby temporary gas tank was attached to the fuel line. The foot start linkage was pressed by hand and engine began to turn. It does not start and fuel drips from line connections. Yes, John has a good size fire extinguisher.
A water pump drip is not repairable at the show but John climbs into the truck bed with the engine to stop fuel drips at joints and makes several other adjustments. He tries again.
The engine belches flames from the human skulls covering the Stromberg 97’s. Still no action. More adjustments are needed.Now the engine fires a few times. With no exhaust pipes this may get loud!!. John has a friend push the starter linkage while he turns more screws and then off it goes. It is running on all six and the sound is probably heard through most of the convention. Its almost like it is saying, “Where’s the race track?” Applause was heard from many in the crowd when they are not covering their ears.
A few of the items John has collected over the years makes this 302 just right:- Venolia Pistons, These very light weight aluminum racing pistons raise the compression ratio to 9.5 to 1. John had them custom made for this engine. Yes, premium fuel is a requirement.
– Howard intake manifold. Allows the use of five Stromberg 97 carburetors. The progressive linkage uses number 2 and 4 carbs when driving normally. Carb. 1, 3, and 5 are waiting to operate when speed is necessary. Fuel economy, are you kidding!
– The engine was totally balanced to prevent any vibration at higher RPM.
– The bee-hive oil filter beside the block cools the oil as much as it cleans it.
– A 40 year old Wayne valve cover and side plate are almost impossible to find. They have never been reproduced for the GMC engine.
– The special high volume aluminum oil pan is a necessity when racing on the track.- Fenton headers. These lessen back pressure. Exhaust gases leave the engine much quicker under acceleration.
– A highly modified camshaft is a must! Getting more fuel and air into the combustion chamber adds to the available horse power.
A stock 302 GMC six cylinder with this equipment is why so many small town dirt tracks had to ban vehicles using truck engines in the 1950’s.
The local hobbyist racing a car engine couldn’t win a race against a built up 302. They wouldn’t spend the money to register if a high performance GMC was allowed. To keep the dirt track’s popularity, a sign was often posted “No Truck Engines” but secretly it meant no 302s.
John Christs’ future plans for his 302 is placing it in a recently purchased 1940 GMC pickup. It may be an easy drop-in but this little truck will have a real awakening when its time for performance! John can be contacted on the club website at www.oldgmctrucks.com under the name Big bad swing daddy.
A 1938 Chevy 1/2 ton rebuilt, beginning with the bare frame and made to look as it was on the dealer showroom over 70 years ago.
The owner and restorer is Don Cotrona of Wallinford, Connecticut. Almost no compromise was made to keep it like it was when driven off the assembly line in 1938. Don even uses the rare 1937-1938 16 inch wheels with the eight slots. Note the correct Brewster green paint, oval bumper bolts, and black front and rear window frames.
This little 1/2 ton was bought 37 years ago when Don was 16 years old. Even though well used it was ‘love at first sight’. He had personally saved $300.00 and thus could make the full purchase.
The disassembly and removal of six layers of paint began immediately. This was the inexpensive part! Putting it back together for regular use on a schoolboy’s budget made it a much more time involved project. It finally became his daily driver after straightening all fenders and cab plus using locally found paint and upholstery. This 1938 became Don’s to school driver. He even dated his future wife while it was his only transportation!
Then came college, marriage, a new home, children and more college. Don kept his little pickup in storage knowing someday it would come back to life. He collected parts for many years from collectors, swapmeets, and answering ads in car magazines. Even the new old stock grill was found in two halves over several years.
So now the rebuilding is complete about 36 years after its initial purchase. Don has made it as the Chevy dealer would have sold it in 1938. Note the snow tires. A necessity for a New England pickup when sold new in the winter. It came with the hand built trailer hitch formed to fit the rear bumper braces. The installation of the new mirror arms is due this month. The old 6-volt radio (see antenna) was required by a teenager that drove the truck in the early years. The little 216 six-cylinder engine and three-speed transmission couldn’t run better. One difference now is that it never sees rain. Water occurs only on washday!
I was volunteering for my church, working the graveyard security shift, at a fireworks tent. The 11pm-7am shift was an opportunity to visit with a couple of men from our church, share a few stories etc. We got to talking and I told my new friend I had been searching a long time for a specific, Chevy, truck;.After several awkward moments of complete silence, he looked at me and said, I know where one is, but I don’t think he’ll sell it! 4 weeks later My new friend Aubrey had traveled 7 hours west, to the far southwest corner of Kansas. He called me on his sell phone, was driving the truck, and excitedly told me how wonderfully preserved it was;’If you don’t buy it Jim I will’ he said. That was good enough for me. He even delivered it!
I bought this 1951 Chevy ½ ton in the summer of 2007. I travel the state of Nebraska and Kansas for a living and had called on or looked at many trucks ;so I was picky. This truck arrived in September of 2007, I immediately put new tires and brakes on it, tuned it up and drove it to a few cruise nights. In October my friends encouraged me to enter it at the Midwest National Truck Show. It took 1st place in Original, Un-restored Class. I brought it home and the next day began to completely disassemble the truck.
Over the next 21 months I completely became obsessed with the total frame off restoration. With the constant help of many friends I did a complete frame off restoration. This truck was exactly like the one my grandfather taught me to drive when I was 12 years old. I touched, cleaned, replaced or repaired every nut, bolt, spring, cotter key;.you get the picture;anything less would have a disservice to the impact he had on my life.
I had all the metal including the frame bead blasted. The frame was powdered coated and all other metal was prepped, etching, primered, and a professional paint job was done by a good friend who doesn’t wish to be named. The motor ran fine, but I took it all the way down to the block, replaced the necessary parts, installed hardened valves and made it burn unleaded gas.
The pictures enclosed tell the rest of the story;My goal was to preserve history;.I love this truck and because of my strong desire to do artfully anal retentive job, I have many people to thank. Ken McCarty was with me every step. His vast teaching ability and help was invaluable. My friend Rod Adams artfully crafted the bed wood, Jack Crawford and I installed the 3.55 ring and pinion gears. And last but not least, Mike Taylor and the rest of the staff at Jim Carters were invaluable sources of information and support. Thanks to all! Jim Streeby
Regular readers of this section know we tend to give credit to trucks that are the more unusual. This month is no exception.
Our truck of the month is a 1957 GMC 1/2 ton NAPCO Panel. No doubt this type truck was rarely seen even in 1957. When you consider the factory options, it may have been almost one of a kind 52 years ago!
Why was this panel truck ordered with so many extras? The owner either had very special needs or the GMC dealer wanted the best for display in their showroom. Money must not have been a consideration.
This 1957 Panel truck has its third owner – Ralph Wescott of Largo, Florida. Its working days (may have never existed) are now over. It is kept in Ralph’s temperature controlled garage with several other classics.
In viewing this vehicle you will see the same options that are on the dealer invoice including a 347 Pontiac V-8, 4 speed Hydramatic transmission, power steering, electric windshield wipers, radio, turn signals, passenger seat, white wall tires, fresh-air heater, chrome grill and bumpers, clock, chrome dash knobs, two-tone paint, higher speed 3.07 differential, etc.
The Denver, Colorado GMC dealership then had a local NAPCO dealer add the 4X4 system. Thus, the total package with freight and handling was over $4,000. Quite a heavy price when you consider a base 1/2 ton was less than $1,500. You couldn’t carry $5.00 in groceries in 1957!
This panel truck was restored ground-up by the second owner, in Michigan, 15 years ago. He then placed it in storage as he did not like the feeling of the hard transmission shift. When Ralph bought it last year, the shifting problem was on the top of his list. It was carefully adjusted step by step with much detail. The Hydramatic now operates like new.
Note the 2 tone on the 1955-58 GM panel trucks consist of the white section by the door windows. This was to give local sign painters more success on adding a customer’s logo.
The attached photos show what a special panel Ralph has purchased. The original colors and loaded with options!
Note: The new battery caps. Ralph found the 1950’s screw style so he redesigned the battery to fit them.
What a traffic stopping combination! When this pair hits the road, even the non-truck enthusiasts take note. The proud owners are Bill and Ken Wedelaar in Midland Park, New Jersey. Bill and Ken have a local auto electric shop and the restoration of these trucks has been their hobby when time became available.
The little black 1949 1/2 ton is one of the best examples of how they left the factory as it shows only 11,000 miles. Bill has owned it 15 years with almost no repairs needed except cleaning and detailing. It had been repainted when Bill found it and he added the whitewall tires. If you want to know what a pure 1949 was like when new, ask Bill or Ken.
The 1948 Cab-Over-Engine (COE) is a piece of artwork. Bill and Ken even bought another COE to get the best parts and then restored it to almost all authentic specifications. A 1954 Chevrolet 235 six cylinder is about the only update that was added. This 2 ton has been his for 25 years. Before his purchase, it hauled a large dozer to construction job sites.
Bill and Ken are obviously enthusiasts and artists in truck restoration.
In the search for unusual trucks to place in our monthly feature, we came to a stop when we found this 1949 Chevrolet ½ ton. Though not restored original, it looks on the outside much like what would have been seen on the road in the early 1950’s.
The owner and restorer is Steve Jones of Manawatu, New Zealand. Steve says this over two year project finished even better than planned. The following is a basic summary of what became a very large project. For further details, contact Steve at: Chevytrucks49@e3.net.nz
Locating this type truck to rebuild was difficult on the islands of New Zealand. The country is ‘down under’ (below the equator) and finding this GM body style became Steve’s challenge. He began to feel lucky if he could just find one for sale.
Finally, Steve found a 1949 Chevy ½ ton with no motor or transmission and an excess of cab rust. With little negotiations, the truck was bought. Steve knew it would be just what he had in his plans once the rebuilding was completed.
The long frame rails were not altered in this rebuilding and all the sheet metal is like it left the assembly plant in Petone, New Zealand in 1949. Yet, the hidden changes are many! The engine is a GM 350 V-8 and the automatic transmission is an overdrive turbo 700R4 from a 1993 Holden (GM in Australia). Also, from that car is a 3.08 ratio differential with disc brakes. The total package gives good vehicle speed at lower engine RPM.
The front rack and pinion assembly comes from a later model XJ6 Jaguar sedan. Steve was quite surprised to find the complete assembly fit the 1949 with very little alteration. It provides disc brakes with four pistons on each front rotor. A vacuum booster for the power brakes is bolted to the left frame rail. The original steering wheel with upper column remains 1949.
Steve used two u-joints and special brackets where he cut his original column just below the floor. In this way the lower Jaguar column can be connected under the hood and out of view. Even the accelerator pedal is pure 1949. He made skillful cuts, bends, and welds to keep the early accelerator pedal assembly which moves the four barrel carburetor linkage of the GM V-8. Remember, this little New Zealand ½ ton has always been right hand drive! The accelerator linkage must run horizontally from beside the right inner fender along the outside of the firewall through brackets to reach the left side of the carburetor throttle rod. Quite a design even for General Motors!
After these difficult mechanical changes, Steve began with the sheet metal. He knew it would be difficult to locate replacement metal in New Zealand. The excess rust would require all fenders, replacing the rusted front cowl panels, and adding a new bed. These items would have to be imported from the United States.
Many items on this New Zealand right hand drive 1949 are unusual to owners of US made Chevrolet early trucks. The most interesting area is the dash. See photo. Not only are the gauge position reversed but look at the top. There is no openings for a radio! Even the speaker grill is without slots for the radio sound. (It is actually a glove box door cut shorter. ) The holes for the ignition switch and cigarette lighter are the same, however the use is reversed.
When you think your GM truck restoration project is requiring more work than you expected, think of Steve Jones in New Zealand. His ’49 is now near show quality and probably one of a kind in this smaller country. Steve’s comment: Never give up!
Far Right: Similar Truck Owned by Graham Stewert, Wyndham, New Zealand
This 1953 GMC 1/2 ton is certainly one of the more special trucks we see at today’s shows. It not only is of interest to people now but would have been a definite attention getter in the 1950’s. Jerry Willis of Independence, MO bought this farm truck un-restored in 1995 and is the third owner. He found it in South Missouri so it had not experienced winter road salt. It was a great candidate for restoration.
Jerry personally restored the truck including the body work, final paint, and refinishing of the bed wood. Its many little extras were added to make it look like a more custom truck you would have seen 50 years ago. Therefore, the transmission, brakes, and rear end are just like they left the factory. Even the “bullet-proof” closed drive shaft system that operated so well during its working years is still in place.
The mint green custom color of the 1950’s, louvered hood, Fulton sun visor, carpeting, cloth interior, and deluxe 1950 car steering wheel were also added by Jerry. The new 18″ chrome wheels and radial tires are one of the few items that is more modern.
Soon after the GMC was purchased, a connecting rod of the original 228 engine came loose from the crankshaft and cracked the block! During his hunt for a replacement engine, Jerry discovered that the larger 270 GMC engine of the late 1950’s was an exact fit in his 1/2 ton. The rebuilding cost was about the same but the horse power would be greatly increased. For better engine breathing, a pair of Fenton exhaust headers were also added.
The total package is about what your would have seen in custom auto magazines and in auto shows during the 1950’s and 1960’s. The greater power is also like performance GMC’s were built with 50 years ago.
This months feature truck is one of the better examples of a correct 1957 Chevrolet Cameo. Its a limited production 1/2 ton that was sold four years in the 1950’s. They are now rarely seen. GM added many extras to their 1/2 ton pickup and came up with this very deluxe truck. This “Boulevard Truck” drew customers into dealer showrooms and yet could be used by a new owner for light hauling.
This Cameo is owned and restored by Ken McCarty of Lake Lotawana, Missouri. It was discovered about nine years ago through a friend of a friend that knew what was under a car cover in a distant neighborhood. It had been beside a house 30 years in storage and was not easily seen by people passing by. Ken must have talked to the owner just right to make the purchase. It was almost as if it was meant that Ken was to own this Cameo.
The vehicle was restored piece by piece during five years. The longer restoration time was because Ken developed an illness during that period and his medical recovery took much time. He is sure this Cameo restoration is responsible for him being alive today. Planning on the next steps of rebuilding kept his mind occupied while he waited to regain his strength.
This Cameo is just about the way it came from the factory. Ken removed a later V-8 and added a more original early 283 cubic inch engine. Its optional overdrive column shift transmission saves engine RPM’s and gasoline plus allows more highway speed. Even a generator keeps the battery charged! The frame and ID plate numbers match.
The original painted valve covers and oil bath air cleaner are in storage when he wants to add an original touch. The Cardinal Red and Bombay Ivory exterior paint is just as it would have come from the factory. Note the optional white wall tires. The width of the white is pure 1957 vintage.
Ken’s Cameo is now a new truck! It is seen regularly at local car shows and always stops traffic. You can contact Ken McCarty at 1-816-578-4032.
This month we feature one of the most unique eye catching Advance Design 1/2 tons in the country. On daily runs it is a real traffic stopper. At car shows it is surrounded by curious admirers and trophies seem to be a regular occurrence.
This little 1955 1st series ½ ton is the creation of Marty and Jean Bozek near Tampa, Florida. It was bought from the second owner in 1983 after starting its life in 1955 near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The potential of this truck in primer with no prior restoration became a challenge. Almost all restoration and upgrades were done by Marty in the evening at his home near New York City. His goal was to keep it original in appearance yet add modern updates that would look different only to the expert. The result is a 1/2 ton that turns heads and puts out the performance of a V8!
Marty has given his truck a 261 six cylinder (big brother to the famous 235) a 4 barrel carburetor, Howard cam, Fenton cast iron headers, electronic ignition, aluminum radiator, and ‘old time’ Smitty glass pack mufflers.
The transmission is the very popular 5 speed overdrive once found in Camaros and Firebirds in the 1980’s. It’s overdrive 5th gear performs just right on the open highway but gives the low speed power Marty wants for in town performance.
Even the differential has 3.55 gearing. This was by adding a complete 1973 Chevrolet Blazer rear end assembly. The rear tires fit the wheel wells just right. No rubbing the fenders on rough roads.
Now retired in Florida, Marty keeps improving his creation. He often thinks about modifications and has added a few additional items to his little ½ ton. He does it in his own way so that it is just right for this type of truck. A few recent additions were adding the 5 speed overdrive transmission and cold air conditioning. (No it doesn’t run hot in Florida summers.) Even the doors, firewall, top, floors, and rear cab wall have been sealed with hidden insulation!
This Chevy 1/2 ton may not out run a telegram but the race is close. Marty says ‘It idles like a sewing machine and goes like hell. Why would I even consider a V8?’ It is ‘the’ eye catcher at any auto show. Trophies have been many but some stand out more than others.
In Tampa, FL a large monthly cruise night gives a best of show honor at the end of the year. All the monthly winners compete for ‘Best of the Best.’ Yes, this little yellow pickup received the top award. They don’t get better than this!
Marty painted this truck in 1994. Several years ago it received the ‘Best Paint’ award in a show with hundreds of participants in Northern Florida. How’s that for non trailered vehicle that was painted about 10 years ago?
In 1999, at the Carlisle, Pennsylvania ‘All Truck Nationals,’ this truck received a second place trophy in the older truck class.
If you wish to talk to Marty Bozek about his special truck, the email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. (You must identify yourself as a truck person so you don’t get mixed and discarded with the junk mail.)
I purchased my 1971 Chevrolet 1/2 ton Cheyenne in the spring of 2002. My intentions were to do a patch up backyard restoration. I soon discovered that not only was it going to be a full restoration but a frame off restoration due to a lot more unforeseen rust and body damage.
My son and I did a complete engine swap starting with a bare 350 block and worked our way into building a super modified 383.
350 bored .30 over
Hipo cast heads
Elderbrock aluminum intake and carb
J.E. pistons and rods
Pete Jackson gear drive ‘soon to be blown’
Many other modifications as time went on
Months later I purchased a refurbished bed and began the long hard process of body work. During this time a good family friend who was well educated in bodywork helped guide us along while lending a hand to end a 2-1/2 year part time process. We shaved the trim molding along with the marker lights, added a billet grill, custom louvered tail gate with custom lighting, complete 6′ lowering kit, American Racing Outlaw 15 x 8 and 15 x 10 wheels. The paint scheme is ‘Alderson ‘ black with metal flake; Metallic Blue Ice trimmed with Ultra violet purple pin striping.
I showed the truck with incomplete interior at the 2006 All Truck Nationals in Riverside, Missouri hosted by Genuine Chevy GMC Truck Club of Kansas City. In the spring of 2007 the interior was completed with black and silver flamed interior and custom audio.
After much blood, sweat and tears shed through the entire process I’m proud to say she is not a trailer queen but not a daily driver.
Special thanks goes to Jim Carter, Mike, Sheba, Julie, Lynn, Wayne Alderson, R & S Upholstery, and my family for allowing me to spend the time and MONEY on my project.
Have you ever seen one of these? Few were produced, almost none have survived.
This 1961 Chevrolet V-8 1/2 ton is one of a small percentage that came equipped with the deluxe trim package. Though most pickups at that time were standard work trucks, GM realized there was a small growing number of buyers that had a desire for a little extra on their truck.
This deluxe package not only included the unique stainless steel side trim (only available in 1960-1961) but also a stainless windshield molding, chrome bumpers and hub caps, plus rear cab trim panels behind the door window. Chrome dash knobs, right and left inside sunvisors, and a deluxe steering wheel added to the package.
Our feature 1/2 ton is owned and was mostly restored by Greg Scott of Independence, Missouri. The reason it was ordered new with such deluxe features was the needs of its original owner. A combination funeral home and cemetery operation in California used it for 30 years. They wanted the best appearance in the truck they used. The original paint was light blue and white. Greg kept the two tone paint division lines just like the original, but changed the truck color to red and white.
He purchased the truck two years ago from the second owner in central Missouri. This person had thrown away all the trim, but at least the attaching body holes remained. The long search for this trim leaves only one piece now missing. The horizontal right door strip has still not been located. Can anyone help? Yes, he knows the correct 1961 hub caps are needed. They are still on his want list. Greg says he has personally spent over 80 hours repairing the used stainless trim he found from various sources. While watching television in the evening he slowly removed dents, did surface sanding and polishing. The results are great! The photos show he placed this trim in just the right position.
The bed was removed and only the bare cab remained on the frame. All was sand blasted and then the slow assembly began. Fortunately, its 30 years in California had prevented body rust. It was like putting together a large model kit that lacked some of it’s parts.
This cab and early fleetside bed combination was available only during 1958 and 1959 but to get the bedside trim you had to wait with the last year. This was a time when trucks were usually bought for work and styling was far down the priority list. Therefore, one can appreciate the rarity of this month’s feature truck.
This 1959 Chevrolet deluxe ½ ton is owned by Don Lowrey of Lindsay, Ontario. He purchased it over 25 years ago during a visit to the U.S. Though at the time he did not realize its rarity, he knew the various deluxe features and color combination (Tartan Turquoise and Bombay Ivory) made for a very attractive package.
Shortly after the purchase of this, then 20 year old truck, Don decided to bring back the original shine by giving it new paint and re-chroming the bright metal. He was careful not to alter the original color or add extras that were not Chevrolet approved accessories.
The upholstery was kept without any replacing. Thus, we have a perfect example of the fabric Chevrolet used in their most deluxe pickup. Unlike the standard model, matching seat cloth was also placed over the door panels.
Note the untouched wood bed bottom. It still has much of its original black paint on yellow pine. NO, the manufacturers did not sand and varnish the bed floors!
Along with the many features that are standard with the deluxe package, this little ½ ton also has a few dealer installed accessories. The bumper guards, radio, heater, sunvisor, and wheel rings could have been added by the Chevrolet dealer.
Don has a certificate from the State of Pennsylvania that the 12,000 miles on the odometer (at his purchase) is correct. The truck runs like new and is used to drive to occasional Ontario car shows. It has not yet logged 1,000 miles since its purchase 25 years ago. If a show is two days long, Don uses his ½ ton to pull his travel trailer! The stock 235 six cylinder and 3 speed column shift transmission does the job.
You can’t get more unusual than 1 of 1. This is how Ralph Wescott of Largo, FL describes his 1957 GMC Palomino. General Motors built only one! It was produced to draw attention to their truck display at the New York Autorama show in 1957. Fortunately, its prior four documented owners recognized it as special. It has been mostly in storage and only a few recent car shows have had it on display. The Palomino now has 9,350 miles and almost no restoration has been done. Even the original custom leather seat is free of age cracks. The engine sounds like new as it slowly moves out of its enclosed trailer. It occasionally may be driven in the neighborhood or at a car show.
Gm designed this special 1/2 ton around a fully optional assembly line model. This includes a deluxe cab, Pontiac V-8, Hydramatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, radio, deluxe heater, Cameo style bed, windshield washers, etc. The manufacturer then added additional features that set it apart from the others. In the following photos note items such as (Palomino only) gold paint, custom leather seat and door panels, script trim panels over the front edge of the bed and gold floor mat.
One of its more unique items are the U.S. Royal Master tires. Ralph states GM requested U.S. Royal to produce 5 with this unusual rubber sidewall. After 50 years they are still in on their original 15′ rims! When not at a show the Palomino is in temperature controlled storage out of the sun to protect the leather interior, it’s original paint and bed.
Based on Ralph saying his Palomino is not for sale at any offer, we will refer to it as ‘priceless.’
2012 NEWS FLASH UPDATE
Ralph at 75years old finally decided to sell some of his most prized low mileage show trucks at his own auction that was nationally advertised. The Palomino was given a value by the last bidder. It brought $197,000.00 by a west coast buyer. WOW! See what happens when you have the only one GM ever made.
During the early 1930’s the US Army strongly encouraged General Motors to develop a light weight people hauler for their military needs. GM’s answer to this is what they called a Suburban. The finished product was placed on a ½ ton truck chassis. This allowed GM to use most of the existing items from their pickup. New tooling was only necessary for the body and seats keeping engineering and production costs low. The new Suburban had a wood framed skinned over sheet metal body. The doors, cowl, front fenders and front floors are all 1/2 ton.
As with the other earlier 1935 Suburbans a lift gate was not yet available. A canvas drop curtain was factory installed. The top is black oil cloth over wood bows which caused an early grave for these Suburbans. Once a top leak developed years later and more and more patches were needed, the interior began to stay wet longer. Rust and wood rot soon took over.
The featured early 1935 Suburban has been owned by Ed Brouillet of Fairfield, CT for about twelve years. It has been restored as new. Ed states it is the ‘first’ oldest Suburban. The other five 1935 models known to exist are not this low of ID number.
It is restored with a Swifts red body and black fenders. An original 207 cubic inch six cylinder is in place with a 3 speed floor shift transmission. It has most all details correct and looks as great as in 1935.
Fortunately, Ed enjoys showing his piece of history. It is seen at several shows in the New England area each year. His personal collection of antique hand operated house vacuum cleaners are displayed in the back. Ed always stays with his Suburban at shows. He loves talking to people about this first Suburban and his vintage vacuum cleaners. It can be a very memorable experience!
Maych is a 1972 GMC Sierra Grande 1/2 ton pickup. He is named for my father, Martin Hamilton Patterson. I was 2 years old when my father died in an automobile accident, so I never really knew him. But for as long as I can remember, when friends or relatives spoke of my father they would always call him Maych. It was not until I was a teenager that I learned Maych was not my father’s given name but was what a youngster heard when his initials, M. H., were spoken with the sweet southern accent of my youth.
Maych has won numerous awards including “Best Chevy Truck” — what can I say, they didn’t have a trophy for “Best GMC Truck”. Maych even has his own web site (http://www.pattson.com/maych) where I’ve chronicled his restoration from day 1 until the present, including costs.
One of the first items I purchased when I began Maych’s restoration was a set of new seat covers from Jim Carter. Even though they were practically the last item to be installed, the seat covers were such an exact match to the originals, I wanted to have them on-hand in case Jim Carter decided to quit carrying them.
This is the restored 1950 Chevy 1/2 ton, 3100 series, my grandfather bought to use on his farm. It now has just over 15K original miles with the factory Firestone’s still on the truck. Everything is as it came from the dealer, with the exception of the wood in the bed, the exhaust system, and the paint.
Original Owner — Arthur J Kane – Colon, MI
Current Owner — Timothy J Kane Jr. Battle Creek MI
216 C.I. — 6 cylinder
3 Speed manual transmission
15,365 original miles
This 1959 Chevy 1/2 ton step-side pickup was purchased in Santa Barbara, California from an estate containing 20+ cars and trucks. It was found sitting behind a 1955 Chevy “business coupe” with cement and old rubble in front of the garage door which had to be removed with a tractor. It was stored for 31 years and has 24,996 original miles on it. The truck was completely restored “off the frame” and is now in perfect showroom condition. It is as original as it gets, with the six cylinder 235 Chevy Engine and 3-speed on-the-column transmission making that “rapp” sound that only a Chevy Six can. The only modifications which have been done are an aluminum head cover, Fenton headers and very nice dual exhaust system. New wheels, stock with Chevy hub caps and mono leaf springs give the truck a much better stance. All of the chrome has been stripped and re-dipped. The truck is an eye-stopper and a jaw-dropper. You won’t find a more pristine Apache with this originality.
The interior is completely original, seat covers and floor mats. The radio head unit has been temporarily removed and replaced to give a new sound but the original radio as well as a few other parts will accompany the truck upon its sale. If you are an old Chevy truck fan, you know this is a real gem.
This is our 1956 Chevy 1/2 Ton pick up. We parted out an 1988 Iroc for the 305 TPI motor and 700R4 Transmission. We used 71 Camaro clip disc brakes and 72 Trans Am disc brake on the rear. This is truly, a home built HOT ROD. All design, fabrication, body work and paint were done at home, in our garage, by the owner. All handles and emblems were shaved. We used one piece door glass-power windows. The dash was filled with a custom gauge panel. We also used a custom grill, front roll pan, hard bed cover, custom rear pan, hidden hitch. The frame is C notched and boxed. A flip front hood was also installed. It is painted Prowler Yellow, the bugs love that car! This is Denny’s daily driver.
Here is my 1956 1/2 ton Chevy. It was a three year project. The truck was a complete frame off restoration. Frame has been powder coated as well as all the suspension pieces. The engine has been bored 0.030″ over, Milled the block and head to get 9:1 compression. It has Fenton split exhaust manifolds, Valve cover and tappet cover. It took two and a half trucks to get enough usable steal body parts to build this truck, But it was worth it.
I am now in the process of building a 1953 C.O.E. 5700 Chevy. I intend to use make a car/truck hauler out of it.
Parts are harder to find for this truck, however. Jim Carter trucks has helped me on some of them though. Here are some pictures of them.
This 1950 GMC longbed 1/2 ton was restored by Dusty Destler, 17, and his father, Dave. Dusty’s first vehicle, he bought it when 14, and he and Dave restored it this last two years. Dusty drove it to high school his senior year, and now is off to college. It’s his daily driver.
The truck runs a 235 ci six from a 1955 model, has been converted to 12-volt, higher rear end ratio. Steering, suspension, and drum brakes are all stock. Wheels are 15″ Panthers, 8 inch and 7 inch, with BF Goodrich T/A radials. Interior has been done in grey tweed, fully insulated throughout with DynaMat Xtreme (rides quiet as a Range Rover), highlighted by lots of chromed trim. Bed is fitted with high gloss oak wood, with stainless strips and hardware.
Enclosed is my 1/2 ton 1935 Chevrolet Light Delivery Pickup as they used to call them. It is a truck found in a barn outside of Eugene, Oregon. The chassis was outside and the rest of the truck was in buckets and/or hanging on the walls and from rafters. I hauled the rusty stuff home and began the beadblasting, sanding, powdercoating, painting, and mechanical restoration in May 1995, and had the front of the truck running by September 1995. And with Jim Carter’s help on many mechanical, and chrome parts in addition to others from Canada to Texas it is now a great driver.
I have begun to restore my 41 Chevy 1/2 ton with parts from Jim Carter Classic Truck Parts, An oldie but a goodie, I worry that I will do harm to the value by changing things too much, The shop manual I ordered from Jim Carter has proven to be a valuable asset to the restoration of this truck. The sale of this truck will be applied to the mortgage of my house. Then again by the time I finish the truck I may have the house paid for and have to take a second mortgage to pay the truck bills. All is well that ends well, and a shinny 1941 Chevy Truck will be on the road again and cruising down the highways of Americas Heartland.
I bought my truck several years ago and have been using Jim carters for parts since then. We bought the disc brake kit from you as well as the wood for the bed, and a few other parts here and there. The truck has a 350 Chevy motor power disc brakes with a 79 olds cutlass rear end. We have won two second place trophies so far. I still have a ways to go though.
I have always had great service from Jim Carters.
Thanks Don Forbes
This is my 1946 GMC 1/2 ton pickup. It is designated Model EC-101. I purchased this truck two years ago from the man who restored the truck with the exception of the bed. He had built a wooden bed from pressure-treated pine. Fortunately, he had the original metal bed, which has its original all-metal floor; and it was in surprisingly good condition. I had a body shop sand blast the bed and my local vo-tech school did the paint work. I was given several old Jim Carter Truck Parts catalogs with the truck and found out quickly that Jim Carter is an amazing resource for owners of these trucks. I purchased the rear fenders from Jim Carter and they are clearly the best fiberglass parts I have ever seen.
The truck was featured in the May/June 2000 issue of “THIS OLD TRUCK” magazine. It is quite rare by comparison to the ’41-46 Chevy trucks it closely resembles. Happily, Jim Carter caters to both Chevy and GMC. I drive the truck frequently during the warmer months of the year. The 4-speed transmission requires double-clutching which is a skill that takes some practice. The tires are 6.50 x 16, which were an option to the standard 6.00 x 16. The result is a little better highway speed. I am considering the newer rear end gears to change the 4.11:1 to a 3.55:1. Of course, Jim Carter offers the parts.
The pictures were taken with a digital camera. The little ‘Rug Rat’ is my younger son Alex, who at age 2 1/2 is just in love with daddy’s ‘Red Truck’. Of course, the lack of seat belts means excursions around the yard are all Alex gets! I talk occasionally with other owners of ’41-46 GMC trucks. They can e-mail me at my home: email@example.com
This month we feature a very special truck. It is no doubt one of the few pristine examples of a pure 1952-1953 Chevrolet 1/2 ton in the U.S. today.
Owner Bob Tucker of Prairie Village, Kansas resisted all temptations during restoration and demanded that the body and trim be just like the showroom models in 1953.
What makes this truck stand out in a crowd is Bob’s attention to detail in keeping the trim painted as original and not chromed. During the 1952-53 Korean War years, copper (an important component for quality chrome plating) skyrocketed in price. Even shortages occurred. To keep costs down, GM eliminated most chrome plating on their trucks and the copper that went with it. Thus, this featured truck’s bumpers, hub caps, and grille back splash bars are Thistle gray. Even the front hood emblem is stainless steel and not chrome plated steel as in earlier years.
This truck’s unique appearance is also reflected in the interior. As is proper for 1952-1953, the chrome die cast knobs were replaced with maroon plastic. This includes those on the window cranks, wiper switch, and ash tray. The two radio speaker horizontal dash trim stripes and glove box door are changed from stainless to painted steel.
Today, very few 1952-1953 GM trucks are restored like the almost one million produced during those years. They are given non-original chrome grilles, deluxe wheels, stainless bumpers, varnished bed wood, carpeting, cloth seat covers, etc.
Our featured commercial red truck is a correct example of how we would have bought a new Chevy truck during 1952-1953. GM dealer installed accessories are the radio, fresh air heater, and right taillight. Congratulations to Bob Tucker for recreating a 1953 Chevrolet 1/2 ton “just right”.
I would like to express my sincerest appreciation to Jim Carter and his staff for their patience and help in walking me through the Chevy parts minefield. Without them and Jerry Rivers, Owner of Body Shop 352, the completion of this project would have been unlikely. Do to the fun I’ve had and overwhelming response to the truck, I’ve decided to offer it for sale and undertake restoration of an earlier model. If interested, feel free to call me at 816-471-1050.
As a side note, the pictures displayed here do not show the visor, which I have and will be installing shortly.