01 December 2015
1952 Chevy 3100
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From Stuart :
This truck was built in late 1952. The only difference I have found between this and early ’52s is the removal of the "3100" emblem on the side of the hood. This was most likely due to a further reduction in use of strategic materials needed for the Korean War.
The 1952 and 1953 trucks differed in appearance from their predecessors and the ’54 greatly. For these two years, the most notable differences were: the front grille was painted the body color; the bumpers were painted gray; the hubcaps were gray with black lettering, and the glovebox door was painted. Previously, all of these components had been chrome or possibly a chrome option from the factory or dealer.
My truck was assembled at the Leeds plant in Kansas CIty. While no longer used for auto assembly, the Leeds building still stands today. It’s been subdivided and the spaces used as storage or assembly areas for large projects by smaller companies. I was fortunate enough to get a brief look inside when I was consulting with a company that was renting space there in the year 2000.
The truck was originally painted the Yukon Yellow, I think, that was offered that year. There are still traces of it on my truck. Whichever color, the hue is the burnt "caterpillar" yellow often associated with commercial / industrial vehicles of the period. I suspect my truck may have been originally purchased by the State of Nebraska Department of Roads, as I believe this is a fleet only color, and using the logic that no dealer or customer would voluntarily opt for it. Unfortunately, I have no proof. Due to the state’s vehicle privacy laws, finding out the original owner may now be impossible.
In 1958, a scant six years later, the truck was for sale at Horky’s Salvage in Crete, Nebraska. Someone had thoughtfully decided to make a color change. Unfortunately, it was now sporting a Robin Egg Blue hastily sprayed over the top of the yellow. The bumpers were painted black, and it came with one model year correct gray painted hubcap and three chrome hubcaps. Being a very practical person, overlooking aesthetics in favor of functionality, my Grandfather purchased it and took it back to the family farm outside Wilber, Nebraska. It was to replace his Ford Model A pickup.
The Chevy was a daily use vehicle until 1970. My Grandfather used it around the farm and to go into town. My Mother would drive it, taking lunch out to the men in the fields during harvesting, then as her daily driver to high school.
The ’52 was retired from public roads in 1970 when my Grandfather bought a new truck. The Chevy was left unlicensed to be used only on the farm. As a kid in the '70s, I absolutely loved getting rides on the old tractors and in the old Chevy truck from my Grandfather -- but the truck was extra special. The engine purred. The gears whined. The seat springs squeaked. It smelled of old grease. I loved it.
As I got older and found mini-bikes and go karts for speeding around the farm, the truck was forgotten.
In 1982, the summer before my 15th birthday, my Grandfather got the old Chevy back up and running. He let me take the wheel and gave me a few driving lessons in it. Little did I know it was to become my truck a year later.
Here’s where the fun begins……..
The truck left the farm and took up residence at our house in Crete, less than two miles, as the crow flies, from Horky’s Salvage. My Uncle and Father were the main driving force in getting the truck back to roadworthy status. I was there, but didn’t contribute much to the mechanical repairs at that time.
Once driveable, it went to Southeast Community College for a student’s project in auto body. Some areas, like where my Grandfather crudely cut a hole in the bedside for a homemade tire carrier, the bashed in rear fender to accommodate the spare, and huge dents in the tailgate top rail, were beyond the students' abilities and shop time.
The old truck was then off to the painter in Wilber, Nebraska. I found what I thought was a maroon / burgundy color from 1952 in the local NAPA’s color book. It was called Pimpernel Scarlet. Turns out this was a GMC only color. It was also a vibrant red, not burgundy.
Somehow, my truck ended up a Burgundy color from the painter. I don’t recall if I was part of that discussion or if my parents handled it. It didn’t matter -- it came out exactly as I had pictured it would.
The seats were reupholstered by a shop whose name escapes me.
The final piece was to rebuild the bed. I did have a big hand in this process. I bought some oak planks from the local lumber yard and got the high school wood shop teacher to help me route out the sides for the metal hold down strips. These were treated and prepped for install. Here’s where one of our mistakes due to ignorance played a big part.
The bed spacers had completely rotted away and we had no idea. We installed the wood bed as the main support on the frame. It didn’t take many years for the bed wood to start to bow up. All that nice oak essentially ruined.
I drove the truck as it was for a couple of years. But, it was still a 30+ year old truck at the time, and not the most reliable, and proving to be more upkeep than my budget would allow at the time. I started driving other family vehicles more and more by the time I was a senior.
When I left for college in 1986, I was not allowed to have a car my freshman year, but had formulated a plan for the following summer to make the truck reliable, capable of highway speeds, and a lot more fun (or so I thought).
The summer after my freshman year of college, my Uncle, Father, and I took the truck to the back open space of my Dad’s building and began the process of removing the 216 to be replaced by a small block Chevy. This conversion was eventually completed and I now had the truck dependable and capable of running at highway speeds. The bad part was I had run out of money and time to do anything to the brakes, steering, or suspension.
I soldiered on in this fashion for a couple of years, finding spare parts, accessories, and even three whole parts trucks very cheap. But again, the cost of operation and maintenance was becoming too great. The truck went back out to the farm to be stored in the barn in 1989. As I continued my college career in Lincoln, then Omaha, the truck was always in the back of my mind. Then I met my future wife…..
Fast forward to 2000. I’m married, working, with a new house. The latest in a string of cheap used cars had just become more expensive to repair than it was worth. I had been pining to get the truck back for some time, so I sold the clunker, and had my Father arrange to have the truck towed out of the barn and taken to the local mechanic in Wilber to get it back up and running.
A carb rebuild, new coil, spark plug wires, tires, and some electrical work later, it was ready to go. When the work was done, I drove it back to Kansas CIty. It was my daily driver for three years. During that time, I managed to get my hands on a Saginaw four speed that was exactly the same length and spline count as the late model three speed I had been using with the SBC, that was quickly dying. This joy was to be short lived.
In 2003, the truck was parked in favor of a newer vehicle that could handle two car seats. With two small kids and both of us working, the truck languished, with minimal use. Over the next few years, if I could get it running, occasionally I would take the kids out for rides in it, but mostly it just sat.
It has been deemed a nuisance by the city, not once, but twice. The most recent was Spring of 2015. The truck had been out of commission for several years due to total and complete brake failure of the master cylinder and front wheel cylinders. Time and money could not be found to remedy these troubles. The city forced my hand: fix it or remove it. I choose the former, so it was back in the shop for a complete brake job.
It’s not my daily driver, but I am driving it several times a week on short errands. My daughter asked if next year she could learn to drive it, which gave me the idea to get it back to original. Currently, with the original suspension, worn out steering box, big engine, four speed, and original brakes, I would be very concerned about the survival odds letting another person drive it. It would be much more docile with the 216 and while we’re there, rebuilt suspension and steering.
Good thing the original engine was just where we left it back in 1987!
September 26th, 2015. My Father brought down the 216 from Crete to Kansas CIty. I needed to retrieve the transmission / torque tube / rear end from the barn on the farm. But for now, I am getting started on getting the Stovebolt ready for firing up.
By the end of October, I started bagging and tagging bolts, nuts, and small items. I like to think I have a steel trap memory for re-assembly, but figured I better do it anyway. As I was bagging up the seven or so sets of small parts laying around, there were a couple of sets I had to figure out where they came from (bell housing mounting bolts, valve cover nuts, washers, grommets). I started just in the nick of time!
Keep track of the restoration project details in Stu's DITY Gallery thread, his Build Blog and check for new photos to the Photobucket album. Any and all questions welcome! If you post in the forum, others can share in the discussion. Thanks ~ Editor
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