If you wonder what are some of the most unusual early GM trucks, you should always remember John and Lisa Milton of Vestal, New York. Their continual search for those with almost no survivors is their passion. Not only do they occasionally find an available rare truck for sale they usually give it a ground up restoration to be like it left the factory.
Among their collection of almost non-remaining GM trucks, one of their favorite is this restored 1939 Chevrolet Cab-Over-Engine (COE). Of the very few remaining, maybe none have this short 108” factory wheel base.
The attached photos show it like the day it was delivered to the dealer in 1939. Swifts Red, 216 six cylinder, 4 speed non synchronized transmission and single speed rear axle. About 2 ½ years were required to complete a total restoration.
It was first seen in a national ad and John was immediately interested. Especially at the $500.00 price.
Having the first year for a Chevrolet COE was just what John wanted. The immediate trip from their home in New York to Janesville, Wisconsin was 1,300 miles with their trailer behind. Unfortunately it was not love at first sight! Photos certainly did not tell the true story. There was so much rust and abuse since it was abandoned outside for many, many years.
They offered only $250.00 just for parts and to help pay for their long trip. Surprise, the owner agreed. After all few people would attempt this major rebuilding of a totaled 39 COE. This would be the owner’s only chance to sell it. Once back in New York, it was placed in their side yard until 2 years later when Lisa said “Move It”. John knew it was time to begin the planned major restoration.
Down to the bare frame and each part evaluated. John had done this many times before, but never to a COE. Fortunately, the cab is much like a more common ½ ton and chassis is so similar to a conventional longer wheel base 1 ½ ton of several years. John’s talents in finding parts, knowing people in the business and many years doing restorations as a hobby made this project possible. Much money was saved by John having his own shop with so much repair equipment. If this project was given to a restoration company, the price would have been prohibitive! John’s many talents even includes sheet metal welding, straightening, and repair plus painting. Even so, the price to complete this project far exceeded the planned budget.
Just the plating of the limited chrome on a COE truck was over $5,000.00. Plating the massive grille was the really big ticket cost. Expensive! There are no grilles available so you write the check and try to not think about it!
The not even in fair condition 1939 COE front fenders were repaired. You must restore your own no matter what damage they have as others are about non-existent.
Lisa, has always been a great supporter of John’s passion for unusual early GM trucks. She also helps when time allows however Lisa also has another interest. She raises English bull dogs and miniature pony’s and has done some showing. What a unique couple!!
John’s future plans is to build a 90” wood flat bed for this short COE. It will be much like other after-market beds sold by non GM companies about 75 years ago. This will certainly protect the back of the cab from flying debris, and rear wheel gravel when on the road.
Notice the voltage regulator on the upper left side of the firewall. Other 1939 Chevy trucks still had the voltage cut out attached to the generator. Because of the difficult accessibility to the cutout on a COE, GM used a voltage regulator that would later be on all 1940 models.
In the year 2000, the Milton’s had a major barn fire. All the rare limited survival trucks were lost. At least 10 restored very rare GM trucks were gone! Years later, his current collection of 17 years is almost as good.
John and Lisa had nothing but compliments for their insurance company, JC Taylor. They received a check in the mail within 10 days from that company after the fire. The Milton’s photos of the ashes of the barn and trucks told the story. This time he built an all metal building.
You can reach John and Lisa @ email@example.com
The real thing!
Don’t look at the flowers!
Waiting for a new bed
Drive line exposed
The massive tall grill
The script says it all
Nice chrome nose
Maybe better than new
one year only interior color
Wish you had one?
No mistakes here
Correct non-pleated seat
Factory accessory re-circulator heater