A Cameo leads the Chevy Truck “six pack” on the Alcan highway in 1957. For this one time General Motors used this 1,520 miles between Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada to Fairbanks, Alaska (two years before Alaska was made a U.S. state).
Their engines were never shut off during the 45 hour run! It was all a dirt and gravel road except for a short strip south of Fairbanks. The U.S. had built this road so our military could have access to Alaska during WW II in case of any invasion by Japan.
The Chevrolet Cameo was kept in front all the way with an almost bullet-proof 235 inline six cylinder engine. For a 1957 GM video of this dramatic run through the wilderness with blinding dust, rain,hail and treacherous washouts in between, check the video section of our website at –
The Task Force champs took it all in stride with no break-downs.
NOTE: It is assumed the Chevrolet dealer in Fairbanks, Alaska was given – or sold at a very low price – these six trucks. General Motors had no interest in doing a return back down the Alcan. Lucky Chevrolet dealer!
NOTE: This was only half the journey for these six Chevy trucks with each assigned two drivers. Yes, it happened all over again! After several days in Fairbanks, including a real bed in a hotel for the drivers, the fleet did the RETURN to Dawson Creek under the close observation by American Automobile Association (AAA). Soon after that they all continued again as a convoy to the GM Proving Grounds near Detroit for vehicle checks. Total distance in 1957, over 8,000 miles round trip!
Louie Hinojosa of Bakersfield, CA has been a car and truck enthusiast since his high school days in the mid-1960’s. He had a 1955 Chevy two door hardtop ready when he was of driving age. This was his daily driver for many years. He learned so much on how to keep it running and keeping its appearance the best. One of the unusual purchases a few years later (while he still drove his 1955) was a 1955 Chevrolet Nomad Station Wagon. How rare! It was to be his “keeper” so he restored it. It’s now in storage with his occasional driven Cameo. This leads us to his first meeting with a Chevrolet Cameo (He had never seen one.)
It is strange how a single occurrence in life can change the direction of our future. The following is the way it happened to Louie. While doing a major rebuild on his Nomad Station Wagon, he needed a truck to haul body parts and mechanical items to shops such as: front fenders, hood, the seats, engine, transmission, etc. When he saw an interesting classified ad in a local newspaper: “1957 Chevrolet ½ ton pickup for sale, runs good” he wanted to check it out. The first time he saw it, he thought “the bed has a weird appearance.” Louie figured it must be a one of a kind special built for some street rod show!
The seller appeared to have no knowledge of its rarity, he bought it for its unique appearance and hauling ability. Now he just wanted to sell it. Louie did some research and said. “Oh my gosh, this is pure Chevrolet.” He had to have it! Plus at the same time he also had a hauler for his Nomad parts. Even before the Nomad was completed Louie began to watch for spare emergency parts, not only for the station wagon project but certainly for his new 1957 Cameo. The more he read about these special trucks the more he realized he found a diamond in the rough.
Louie bought it in 1980 but it was not until about eight years later that he made plans to when the ground- up restoration would begin. He had never restored a truck, much less a Cameo, and he was excited! His 1957 Cameo had received no major alterations. It was all pure Chevrolet, so he could make it very close to factory correct without major research.
In the meantime, he had a full time job, a Nomad to finish and three small children to raise. It was not until several years before his retirement that he could get serious on the Cameo project. It was taken down to the bare frame and all his experience from prior Mid-1950 Chevy cars went into make this Cameo close to the best.
Mechanically, it came with a 283 V-8 and the optional three speed overdrive. Rather, than go through the tired 283 engine, it now has a visually identical 327 engine and a 700 R4 overdrive automatic transmission. Note the special shift lever from the floor. This is a recent addition that makes the automatic transmission look somewhat like a floor shift unit that would have been in a truck. This really adds to the interior appearance. The original 3.90 ratio differential and brakes are still in place.
Louie really liked the original Golden Yellow and he was happy to keep it the same. Great choice! The only color change was to remove the Jet Black inner bed panels and paint in these panels and horizontal outside bed side panels Bombay Ivory (as most other Cameos were that year.) The interior is slightly on the custom side but has been done in good taste. The combination is a real eye catcher. The seat upholstery is of the exact Cameo design used in 1957.
We noticed he kept the optional AM radio just like Chevrolet sold the Cameo. NONE! A radio was a factory option. The blank-out has been chrome plated as in the ash tray. Nice touch! He kept the two paint colors on the metal interior just like the factory made it. A few other dealer installed GM options are the metal outside sun visor and the finger-nail scratch guards behind the door handles, and the pair of chrome hood ornaments.
Who would have thought someone needing transportation for a restoration on a Nomad Station Wagon would have stumbled into something like this! Louie’s hobby has enlarged with his retirement, He is now a major supplier for used and some new Cameo and Nomad parts. What a fun retirement! (We should know)
If you are a regular reader of our Truck of the Month series, you know we attempt to present the more unusual. These vehicles are rarely seen at car and truck shows or even in specialty magazines. This month’s feature truck is so rare; it is possibly the only example still in existence. Its photo recently arrived in our company computer of an unrestored 1956 Chevrolet Cameo with less than 13,000 miles on the odometer.
It has what we will call a Topper that has not been removed since installed over 60 years ago. When contacting experienced Cameo enthusiasts, they unanimously said, “Never heard of a Topper made only for a Cameo”.
(He even has a business in marketing pre-owned German vehicles. See below).
When Bill heard about this unique low mileage 1956 Cameo, and in his own state, he had an immediate interest. He discovered it was an almost pure un-altered 62 year old but yet something else stood out of equal interest.
Attached to the Cameo bed was a Topper.
Bill knew that Cameos were marketed as GM’s “Boulevard” most top end truck during the mid-1950 so why would there be a Topper over the focal point of the total pickup? Most buying this expensive pickup would want to show it in “all its glory”. If you wanted a Topper, you usually placed it on a more basic step bed pickup and spend much less for the total package.
Bill had to have this “top of the line” pickup and it was soon moved from one storage building to his own private collection.
The information Bill received is this Cameo was bought new in Arizona and stayed with that owner until 2008. It was the most popular color; Bombay Ivory, with Cardinal Red inner bed sides, front bed panel, tail gate, and around the upper back of the cab.
FACTORY OPTIONS: 265 V-8 engine and Hydromatic 4 -speed transmission. The most expensive dealer installed accessory is under dash “Cool-Pack” air conditioning; a nice extra for the hot Arizona summer.
STRANGE: With all the money spent on this 1956 Cameo, the first owner decided not to order the AM radio. The factory blank-out plate still remains.
This was quite a unique accessory on a 1956 truck as very few cars even had it available! In-dash factory air was not offered until 1965 on trucks. All GM truck air conditioning systems were dealer installed cool-Pack until 1965. The dealer received the system in a large box and it was ready to connect to the engine and cab.
Interesting is this center under dash evaporation and blower unit would not match up with a 4-speed shift lever that required a high hump in the cab floor. (Not Bill’s Cameo). Thus, if the owner had a 4-speed it was installed to the far right under the glove box area. No doubt, the passenger got more cold air than he wanted!
Sometime after this Cameo purchase, the owner had the Topper installed. He must have been an outdoors person as the top is more than just a cover. Its extras include slider windows with curtains on the sides and curtains over the front and rear stationary windows. Also, there is a varnished plywood ceiling with adjustable round air vent plus a light, and a pair of swing down bed spring frames (like at a boy scout camp).
THE BIG SURPRISE! The Topper was made just for the Cameo pickup bed.
Notice the pair of vertical end plates on each side of the lift gate. The bottom edges taper up so they do not touch the taillight housings. The Topper bottom edges run beside the fiberglass bedside. A rubber weather seal prevents the Topper to make direct contact with the bedsides or get water inside.
Bill feels sure the cover has “never” been removed. Either as part of the Topper package or installed by the owner, there is black carpet over the bed wood floor, the inner bed sides, plus the front bed panel and tail gate. This total Topper package made a nice weekend getaway fishing truck especially if you could park near a picnic table.
Sometime after the original owner had the new red Topper installed, he made a major color change. This Cameo was painted all red to match the new Topper, not given Cardinal Red as GM would have provided. Where the original color was Cardinal Red around the upper rear of the cab, it was reversed to white. Of course, the insides of the bed remain the Cardinal Red from the factory.
Records show it being sold to its 2nd owner in 1970. It then went to San Diego, CA, with less than 2,000 miles on the odometer and later he moved it to Washington State in 1986. It was sold to Bill Steely of Monroe, WA, in 2018 with a total of 12,788 miles showing.
If there was ever a question if the bed wood floor was body color, varnished, or black, this 1956 Cameo is proof that it came from the factory black. The aftermarket carpet has protected the bed’s original appearance all these years. Bill has no plans for changes! He knows that other than the outside paint, this Cameo is pure GM. It is almost like it left the factory in 1956 plus the low mile odometer is the proof.
Look at the 15” original wheel covers. GM used the best available in 1956. They are the same as the top of the line Chevy Belair car. Because these Cameo wheels also were on the standard ½ ton, they still have three hidden spring clips that could secure smaller hub caps.
On the underside of the driver’s sun visor is an instruction sheet explaining how to operate the Hydromatic transmission. With automatic transmissions NEW to many in 1956, these sheets were of help to the first owner. This is especially true on the 4-speed Hydromatic that is placed in park different. Put it in reverse and shut off the engine. Now you are in park!
A few extras on this 1956 Cameo that may be of interest:
The word “Frigidaire” is on the under dash dealer unit. It is there because General Motors had recently purchased this company that became famous for home refrigerators. The nickname “Fridge” is still heard among some seniors!
Notice the left chrome air vent cable and knob under the dash. Because of the air conditioner unit, it must be positioned on an angle.
The original owner added the two roller bars on the top of the Topper. They are still in place. This made it much easier to slide and remove his fishing boat up on top of the Topper.
One modern extra was added by one of the first two owners. Note the small speaker box at the top of the Topper front. This would imply that a second person could nap on the bed spring bed while the driver continued on the road.
When you find any 62 year old vehicle that has averaged 210 miles per year it is a real find. Fortunately, Bills 1956 Cameo is a guide to show what is correct! So important if you want your Cameo just right!
Bills lifelong automotive interest has lead him to also making it into his business. He is one of the leading sellers in the Pacific Northeast of used German made vehicles. His main interest in this area is BMW autos and he carries a large pre-owned selection for sale. The company name is: Velocity Automotive and can be found at www.Velocityautomotive.com
Bill recently sold his 1956 truck to Scott Phaneuf, a serious owner and restorer of Cameos in Massachusetts.
With the introduction of the new Cameo in 1955, GM added their most deluxe features as standard equipment. This “Boulevard Pickup” was to stand out above all others.
The wheel covers were not like that on the more standard pickup. To save tooling costs on this limited production model, GM used the wheel cover on the 1955 Chevrolet Belair car. Both vehicles had 15″ wheels so the top of the line car wheel cover was chosen for the new Cameo.
1955 Wheel Cover (above)
The same procedure occurred in 1956. The Cameo carried the 1956 Chevrolet Belair full wheel cover, not the same design as 1955.
1956 Wheel Cover (above)
The big change in Cameo wheel trim occurred with the 1957 model. This was the first year for the 14″ wheels on the passenger car. The Belair cover was no longer a fit for the Cameo 15″ wheels. GM’s answer was to chrome the standard white 1/2 ton hub cap. To add more to the appearance, a Cameo trim ring was created to cover the outer edge of the wheel.
1957 1958 Hub Cap and Trim Ring (above)
With the limited Cameo production in 1958, the same wheel trim was used this final year.
The 1955 year was the first for factory installed whitewall tires. It made an excellent combination with the wheel trim. This is another major change in the GM deluxe 1/2 tons looking less than work trucks. The 15″ wheels remained the same during the four years of the Suburban Carrier. GM just chromed the small standard hub cap. No wheel ring was used as standard equipment, however the wheel was given a contrasting light color.
It is sometimes asked by restorers, ‘What is the correct fabric for a 1959 Chevrolet with a custom cab?’ Answer: The same cloth material was used on the top of the line seats and door panels throughout.
The following pictures show this interior material on a 1959 door panel in a 1959 Chevrolet custom cab with 12,000 original miles [see photo below], and seen on a page from the 1959 Chevrolet Salesman’s Data Book.
It appears this material was used one year. Upholstery shops having left-over partial rolls may have this rare upholstery material in storage and not be aware of what it was used for!
For the perfectionist, the following is a page from the 1959 Chevrolet Truck Data Book, printed September1, 1959. We thought you would like the real description from an original 63 year old book. NOTE: They consider the word “Custom” their very best. Yes the 1958 has a slightly different fabric appearance.
1959 Custom Interior Informational Chart PDF version. Click Here
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.
Thanks again for the Cardinal Red paint for the wheels. Paint matched well. Thank you for your continued support and commitment to these trucks. This Cameo, before restoration, had only 32,000 documented miles. It has been quite a learning curve for me. This truck was purchased as a pull vehicle to bring my NCRS TOP FLIGHT Corvette to car shows. What a combination.