Chevrolet Truck Page

Hard to believe it, but my truck is 50 years old now. I have almost no pictures of the restoration process, so I will have to tell you the story interspersed with pictures of how the truck was in its heyday of 1982-1984.

My Dad bought this truck for $300 in about 1978 when I was 12 years old. I don't remember why he bought it. Some guy had dismantled it to do a frame-off restoration. The truck was so clean and nice, when we got it we just put it right back together. The original 90 hp 216 engine was cracked, and it was obvious keeping that wasn't going to be an option. It locked up all over again every night.

About that same time, My dad also bought a real live 1959 Ford 4x4 for $200. I don't think any pictures of it exist, but it was totally trashed. It had the worst body of any vehicle I've ever seen, bar none. The 1959 Fords aren't popular, being pitifully ugly, but that was the first year they made a factory 4x4, and for that reason alone it would have been worth having. But I digress. The 59 Ford had a Dana 44 front axle, divorced Dana 20 transfer case, 9-inch rear, and a seldom seen 223 cid six. I've still got those 16 x 5 5-lug wheels around here somewhere....

You can probably guess where this is headed. It was actually Dad's idea to combine the two trucks into a 4x4 1953 Chevrolet. It wouldn't have been all that unusual except that it was Ford powered. The trucks were amazingly different, with engineering that seemed 40 years apart. The 1953 Chevy chassis was just like a 1933.

Here's how we did it; Rigging the cab with a nylon sling, we lifted it up off the Chevy frame and rolled it out. We made measurements of the cab mounts and made cab mounts on the Ford frame at the same distance from the front wheels. The engine compartment in the 53 Chevy was farther back, so the Ford engine was relocated with a shorter shaft to the transfer case. The we rolled the Ford 4x4 frame under the Chevy cab.

The electrical system was all 1953 Chevrolet, and it was as simple as rocks. It had no starter circuit, so we had to add a button and the Ford solenoid. The Chevy was 6 volt, so I had to change all the bulbs, but everything else worked.

The Chevy pedals were another thing. There were five of them, all through the floor (like a T-model). So the Ford firewall-mounted clutch and brake were transplanted to the Chevy firewall. Hard throttle linkage was custom fabricated by Dad. Floor mounted Chevy emergency brake was retained, and the starter pedal wasn't used.

We threw the bed framing away and built it all from scratch. It's just angle-iron.

The rigid steering column was cut-and-welded hybrid. The top half Chevy, for looks, and the bottom half Ford, to fit the frame. Both trucks were column-shifted three speeds, so the shifter was also hybridized and retained. Inside, The Chevy looked totally stock except for the color scheme.

Notice the original door panels in this truck. It had a lot of cherry parts like this, amazing considering its age. The running boards looked NOS, and I'll forever wonder where they came from. You may also notice my truck has no quarter windows (they were optional) and no stainless interior trim (Stainless was needed for the Korean War and left off the 1953 models.) The only original option on my truck was a heater.

This photo is a good one to talk about parts availability. I decided to try to have the truck ready to drive by the time I got my driver's license in 1982. Back then, there were few reproduced parts available for these trucks. There were trucks like this in every junkyard and nearly every barnyard, but they were beat up awfully. I can remember looking at hundreds of them and never seeing a good grille.

I had good rear fenders, but I wanted a good tailgate, a good grille, and two tail lights (The trucks only came with one when new). They just weren't going to be had. I eventually took a tail light that was squashed and repaired it with lots of Bondo. Wrong-handed mounting bracket is home-made. There was a reproduction lens available in plastic and that's what's in it. This tailgate is warped but it's the best I ever found. I recall that we jumped on it to try and straighten it out.

This photo barely shows the walnut bed floor and new reproduction steel strips, which were available.

This is the only photo I can find taken during the actual project. This is shortly after it came back from being painted. The over-styled Ford bumper is still on it, and the running boards are still off. It has no outside rear view mirror, and I never did find a proper one.

It's jacked up because the transfer case had a bad bearing in it at that point and I have been repairing it.

Well, finish we did, and it was my daily driver from Spring 1982 until I went to college in Fall 1983. I really had no money to spend on building a street rod, and the total cost of the truck, in the condition you see here, was about $800 including $500 for the two trucks we started with. I am bemused by "Low-buck street rod" articles (usually $15,000). If you read Hot Rod, you probably have been trained to think you will need to spend $5000 on your engine or you will fail to have any fun. That's stupid.

And the answer is yes, I did bleach my hair.

This picture shows my only period accessory for the truck, which I am very proud of. I was able to buy an original brush guard (they were dealer installed.) Since my truck was now a 4x4, it was just the perfect final touch. I needed lots of hardware in front of the grille to hide the grille.

Talk about cheap: My fog lights here are from a set of decommissioned emergency lights (like you see at work). Cheap steel wheels are castoffs (free). Tires were used 255/70 Radial T/As I bought for $5. I did not pay to have them balanced. Nothing in this picture was rechromed. Two-poster radio antenna is from J.C. Whitney (it filled up the holes that came in the truck). I wonder if they still make those....

I still have this truck and I will try to get a current picture and post here. It has been in storage with my Brother's triple-black 1974 Grand Prix SJ 455 for nearly 20 years now. How time flies. It's too late to get a date for the Prom now.....
Things are happening.....

I still haven't gotten that current picture, but I did buy a 50 3/4-ton GMC the other day. It's complete (was a cab and chassis originally) and even comes with an extra big block GMC V-6 on the back (if you don't know what that is, don't worry about it!)

I put a Buick 430 V-8 in my truck around 1984. Great truck engine, but I never could get it to keep from overheating. I never tagged or drove it after I went to college, but not for lack of trying. There are a few parts of my truck that I modified, and also a few, like the radiator support, that we never had. I am going to attempt to deal with the Buick's cooling problems by going back to the stock radiator configuration. My wife is understandably alarmed that I am thinking about getting my 53 out of storage. More on that later.