Owner: Mike Reese
A 70 Year Old GMC Saved From The Crusher!
This 1940 GMC 1 ½ ton had been retired along with its original owner, a farmer near Grand Rapids, Michigan for many, many years. It had been placed in a barn with badly damaged fenders, grille and related front items. The bed was beyond repair. If it was not for the sentimental value to family members, years later, it would have been sent to the crusher. A younger family member aware the truck was hidden in a barn began to consider updating it and making it roadworthy. The big plus was a pair of New Old Stock front fenders and running boards stored on the bed. This gave him the incentive to start on grandfather’s farm truck. It was a surface restoration but still became expensive. The bed was rebuilt at almost $900.00. Installing the new front fenders, finding a chrome grille and bumper surely added to the expense.
A second owner purchased the truck about 1993, however, he never did any further restoration. It sat for 10 years. Maybe this is the reason why it went up for sale. The big restoration money was yet to be spent.
The current owner is Mike Reese of Kempton, Pennsylvania. He bought it on-line in 2003 because he loved the appearance of the front end and cab. He became committed to make it look like new!
He already owned a 1951 Chevy fire truck and a 1951 Chevy 2 ton short wheel base dump truck (he still uses it for occasional gravel and dirt hauling) so he was very aware of what was ahead of him. However, he needed a lighter weight less massive older GM truck for driving to more distant truck shows and being more a part of the fun.
Mike did the final steps of the restoration, taking three years of evenings and weekends to complete. Total cleaning, painting the original Pimpernel Scarlet, all new rubber, correct interior, many mechanicals restored, etc. It was all done to exact 70 year old specifications. Finally, it became just like the Michigan farmer saw it when he bought the truck from the GMC dealership in 1940.
It’s now a head turner everywhere Mike takes it. People just stand and stare at the workmanship. They are looking at what they have only seen in black and white photos of the 1940’s.
After the first year of driving it on lesser traveled roads, Mike finally made one hidden change. He replaced the original 228 cubic inch six cylinder with a completely rebuilt 1956 270 engine. The outward appearance is identical. The two engines even used the same overhaul gasket set. Now the truck had a different personality. He could drive it on freeways to distant truck shows. He still keeps it about 60mph as the truck is still held back due to the original 4.56 ratio differential. He has not been able to find a higher ratio ring and pinion without making a major change that requires different wheels and he refuses to have a different design wheel on the front and rear. We offer our congratulations on this thinking.
One of the items that really stands out on this 1940 flat bed at all shows is the original GMC bed. Most display aftermarket beds, however Mike’s is pure General Motors. The two tall curved front panels (like a half barrel) are a true example of a truck that was ordered with the correct GM bed.
Mike Reese and his 1940 are often seen at Pennsylvania weekend truck shows; however his furthest was the American Truck Historical Society 2011 annual convention in South Bend, Indiana. Distance driven: 630 miles one way. This national club’s 2012 convention was in West Springfield, Massachusetts. This was 250 one way miles.
He never misses the world famous annual Macungie, Pennsylvania truck show 30 miles away. This year there were 600 participants on display. No judging, just lots of fun and memories.
Mike’s 1940 is quite an eye catcher at shows. He almost always receives a trophy or at least honorable mention. Yes, a home family room has many awards that prove this statement.
Mike Reese can be contacted by email— firstname.lastname@example.org
Barn Fresh in April 1984!
The 1939-1940 Chevrolet and GMC grilles may look the same when they are seen separately, however they are not! By sharing fenders, hood top, headlight stands, etc. , the grilles overall dimensions had to be the same. To keep each marquee individual, GM made the grilles different. When the two are compared side by side, what a difference!
1939-1940 GMC Grille
1940 Chevrolet Grille
This truck has been in my family for nearly fifty years. my dad purchased it from a local GMC dealer in our hometown in western Wisconsin and we are the third owners. The truck was purchased new by the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, next by a farmer in a neighboring community, and then by my dad. We used it on our small farm, hauling can milk to the local creamery, trips to the feed mill, and in the fields at planting and harvest time. It worked well as an all around work truck. We quit farming in the mid sixties and my dad turned the truck over to me. I then used it as a daily driver for about 10 years. During that time I pounded out a few dents that came from the everyday work on the farm, sprayed some paint on it and always kept it out of the weather when not in use.
In about 1975 I started taking it apart, overhauling the engine and replacing the clutch and brakes. It was stored, torn apart, for about 25 years. In 2001 I decided to get going on it again, first doing the front fenders, box, and rear fenders. I did the mechanical work myself and with the help of my cousin, who has a body shop, we finally finished it in 2007.
Over the years I picked up some replacement parts from Jim Carter Classic Truck Parts, and also found some parts at swap meets. The body was pretty much rust free, the running boards were rusted quite badly, but I was able to find a pair in western state that were in very good condition. The rear fenders were a challenge. I had the grille and bumpers re-chromed. Did the bed floor in red oak.
Featured this month is a rare 65 year old truck was saved from an unknown destiny almost 35 years ago. The survival rate of this style 1940 Chevrolet pickup is very low because they are rated 3/4 ton. Heavier demands were placed on almost all non-1/2 ton pickups and most were just ‘used up.’
This beauty still lives because it was first owned by the Walnut Grove, Missouri Volunteer Fire Department (near Springfield) and saw duty during occasional fires in the small community. Much of its life it set in the town fire station ready for emergency calls. This is probably why only 26,000 now show on the odometer. It carried ladders, hoses, and related fire equipment as well as firemen. Usually it followed near the larger town fire truck.
The person responsible for the rebirth of this classic older 3/4 ton is Clyde Johnson of Independence, Missouri. He purchased it un-restored from a neighbor in the 1970’s for $200. It was to give his 16 year old son, Larry, something different, dependable, and ‘not fast’ to drive to high school. It came to be Larry’s main local transportation for several years. But then Clyde got it back after graduation. A total restoration was always a consideration but family responsibilities kept it on a ‘someday’ to do list.
It was over thirty years later that Clyde got serious about giving the little 3/4 ton the ground-up restoration it so badly needed. His four children were on their own and he had just retired after many years as a machinist training instructor.
Once the restoration began, Clyde averaged 20 hours per week, 25 most all was done by him personally. He disassembled it to the bare frame and then began building it back and restoring each piece. To make it look less like a fire truck and more as a civilian truck, he removed the spotlight, siren, ladder brackets and a very large steel plate rear bumper where fireman stood on the way to a fire.
It now looks like a 1940 Chevrolet truck as it left the factory. The correct red, black fenders and running boards plus rebuilt mechanicals and new chrome makes it a real ‘traffic stopper.’ It still has it’s 216 six cylinder engine, 4 speed transmission and ¾ ton differential. Yes, 55 miles per hour is about its limit.
Clyde’s enjoyment with his little red truck has increased even more since the restoration three years ago. He has become very active in the local Kansas City Genuine Chevrolet/GMC truck club. He and his little red truck are seen regularly at local shows, driving events, and cruise night drive-ins.