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Posts Tagged ‘4×4’

1959 GMC ¾ Ton 4×4

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

It’s the late 1960’s and John Berry of Lehi, Utah, needed another pickup truck for his ranch duties. He was not particular of the brand but just needed a dependable older pickup for his general hauling requirements. The best he found that seemed affordable was a 10 year old local GMC. John used to tune the truck and service it for the original owner. Its solid 270 six cylinder engine was still in place as was the original 4 speed transmission and two wheel drive. A factory 4.57 ratio differential would be just right for his needs at that time. GMC referred to the color as Seafoam Green.

This GMC was of the age that some repair parts could be found in local salvage yards and a new GMC dealer was in the area. Just right! It could haul heavy loads and was dependable. A little slow on modern highways but that would not be a problem on the ranch.

Now enters his son Max. As he grew into his driving years, this GMC was a big help in accomplishing his work duties on the ranch as well as driving to town for supplies. Young Max had a good mechanical aptitude and quickly learned how to make many occasional repairs when parts were required to keep it running.

A few years later this talent really started him thinking how he might make some serious changes to this work truck. The GMC had become his main ride! Max found himself attached to this GMC! Could he make it a more impressive truck when hanging out with friends and not lessen its ability to be a hauler on the ranch? After all, during the 90’s trucks in the US had grown very popular as fun driving vehicles. Many were no longer parked behind the barn on Friday night and the sedan used for an evening out. They were now even seen in the church parking lots on Sunday! What a change.

As luck would have it, Max’s hopes came true when he discovered a for sale used 1978 Chevrolet ¾ ton, with a 350 V-8, more modern 4 speed transmission with a higher speed 4.10 ratio differential and power disc brakes. Best of all, it had a factory installed complete 4 wheel drive system. Could anything have been better to transfer to his 1959 GMC?

It would be an exciting major project for Max. Of course, at his young age he had the enthusiasm to make it all fit together. Keeping the original frame and springs, failure was not an option! He searched locally and found some others that had been successful doing this type of change over so that gave him confidence it was possible.

What a major learning experience! So much was all new to Max but he never gave up. He knew if others had been successful, he could do it too. Maybe he was a little slower than some but it would be completed. It was almost like going to a college technical class but he did it mostly alone!

This story does not end here. It actually continued many years later with Max’s young son Jacob. Of course, why wouldn’t it? Jacob grew up with this 1959 GMC! When working on the ranch and Max driving on local errands, Jacob was riding with Dad! It was natural that the GMC was the vehicle he learned to drive first. Certainly, he really liked the way his father had changed it to a more socially accepted pickup and could still be used for work duties.

As time has passed, this 60 year old pickup has become an eye-catcher to those that notice unusual vehicles. There was nothing like it in the area, however it is said “nothing stays the same.” After many years of using the GMC it was beginning to show its age. Yes, it was still mechanically strong but the normal wear and tear was definitely causing the pickup to look well worked. It is those little gradual things that are not noticed in the beginning but outsiders would sometimes draw attention to worn areas. When Max or Jacob wanted it to look its best for an occasion, so many places just could not come up to standards. For appearances, it might then be considered a “25 Foot pickup!” In other words, it looked good if a person did not get closer than a 25 foot distance.

Max occasionally got the hint from Jacob to make it nice again but he tried not to say much. After all, upgrading the many items would get deep in someone’s bank account. Just maybe it was Jacob that was responsible for the pickup’s face lift that we see now.

Max realized that the time was right during Jacobs’ late teenage years. Jacob would be on a two year assignment about 2,000 miles away for his church. Max and Grandpa Dale Jones decided this needed major restoration would be a great surprise for Jacob’s homecoming after his out of town work was finished.

Max took this GMC to his father-in-law’s shop. Here he painstakingly completely restored the truck with a frame off restoration and body upgrade. Starting in February of 2019 and finishing on Dec 19th,2019. Almost every night of the week including weekends were spent with family and friends restoring the truck. Many dinners and late nights were spent in that garage next to Jacobs dream. Occasionally Jacob would write home and ask if the truck was still where he parked it.

Big surprise: When Jacob returned home, his parents told him the tired truck he grew up with was needing a new battery and tires. The new parts were down at grandpa’s shop. Jacob was excited to get the old truck road worthy again and suggested they get working on it and maybe paint it. When the garage door opened, what a shock! There sat his old but new 1959 GMC.

Wish we all could have seen that moment!

Birth of the Blazer

Thursday, February 11th, 2010



The debut of the famous 4×4 Chevrolet Blazer was in 1969. It had little competition and stood alone as a combination off-road and daily driver utility vehicle. Chevrolet truck dealers were taken by surprise! Waiting lines soon occurred requesting this new and unique car/truck vehicle.

By 1970, production was in full swing. GMC also entered the project this second year by replacing the Chevrolet and Blazer insignias with GMC letters and a “Jimmy” emblem. A major addition in 1970 was the introduction of the two wheel drive Blazer and Jimmy. This was partially due to commitments by the U.S. Postal Service. Fewer than 1,000 of these were produced or less than 10% of overall production. Most government orders were in six cylinders though some V-8 two wheel drive models found buyers in the private sector.

Sales of this unique vehicle spiraled. By 1972, production had increased the volume of the introduction year. It was named, Motor Trend’s “Utility Vehicle of the Year.” In the April 1970 issue of Car and Driver magazine, they said “The drivetrain pieces are well designed, rugged, and long proved by use in Chevy’s light trucks.” GM referred to it as their do anything, go anywhere vehicle.

The demand for these car/truck vehicles today is stronger than ever. Its short 107″ wheel base, ease of handling, and many parts interchanging with pickups, make it an excellent investment vehicle to drive daily or keep in storage.

birth of the blazer 1

birth of the blazer 2

 

GM’s First 4×4

Thursday, February 11th, 2010


The momentum of four wheel drive popularity definitely began after World War II. The need for this off-road extra during the war forced 4×4 technology to develop at a fast pace. Thus, during the early 1950’s, several independent companies began to appear offering a four wheel drive kit for light duty trucks.

Major pickup manufacturers were not yet offering this as one of their factory options so a great opportunity existed for new companies. Kits from emerging companies such as Marmon Harrington, NAPCO, American Coleman, and Fabco were designed to fit specific makes of trucks. For those that traded their vehicles regularly, these kits could be removed and installed under a newer truck. This was a big selling point as the finished product plus labor usually retailed for almost as much as a new light truck.

It didn’t take long for General Motors and other major light truck producers to realize a 4×4 option should be made available to their new vehicle buyers. Why should their franchised GMC and Chevrolet dealers be taking new unsold pickups to nearby independent installers to add the 4×4 option?

General Motors solved this problem and with less investment capital! Rather than engineer a totally new system (4×4 were not big sellers nationwide), GM installed an assembly line unit that was already being used. The Northwest Auto Parts Co. of Minneapolis, MN (NAPCO) was contracted to provide kits to one of GM’s truck assembly plants. As NAPCO was already the main installer of 4×4 systems under GM vehicles, this marriage was a natural.

NAPCO would continue to have their franchised installers in most major cities, however GM would offer the same system from their assembly plant. Of course, when GM used the system in 1957-59, they left off the chrome NAPCO trim fender plates and did not refer to the word NAPCO in their shop manual. The large letters NAPCO were always cast in the front axle housing in view to a person looking under the front bumper.

The following pictures are from an original 1957 Chevrolet 4×4 brochure. Note the emphasis on rugged use.

GM's First 4x4

GM's First 4x42