01 March 2015
1952 Chevy 1/2-Ton 3100
Is there a 12-step program here?
From Chuck :
This has to be an addiction. I have kinda been looking for a project since restoring a couple of old tractors two years ago. I have done a number of cars and trucks over the years and even though my practical side says, "Don't do this again," I am somehow drawn back to it.
Recently, while laying on my back, grease falling into my eyes, trying to twist my arm into an impossible position to start a blind bolt on the starter of my daily driver, I made a decision. I decided I was too old, fat, and busy to take on any new projects.
The next day the phone rang. I had been trying to buy a 1952 Chevy truck from an old friend for several years. I visit her sheep ranch about once a year and she always says she does not want to sell. Now that I had decided I was done with projects, she wanted to sell. I made a half-hearted effort to tell her to let it go to the guy that just made her an offer. She said she wanted me to have it and here I go again.
I actually first saw the old truck about 1975 when the former owner and I were both veterinary students at the UC Davis Vet School. At that time, I was driving a 1959 Chevy 1/2-ton Stepside and I only really noticed Nancy's truck because because of its age. We were on the "lower" end of what was in the parking lot.
I had been working on old vehicles since I was 14, mostly out of necessity rather than enjoyment. In high school, I was envious of my friends that worked at Foster's Freeze or the like in their nice clean white uniforms and hands that had never seen grease.
As I grew older, I continued to do all my own work on our vehicles because I could. I don't exactly know when the transition from simply tolerating those activities to it becoming a passion took place, but it happened and continues today much to my wife's consternation. My current project is adding a sidecar to my old BMW motorcycle.
I never gave much thought to Nancy's truck until fate brought us together in a work project about 2000. It involved an annual visit to her sheep ranch. Each year I would see the old truck, forming part of her ram pen, and I would ask her to sell it to me. She finally relented.
The "fence extension" (truck) had sat there, out in the weather, for 24 years. She finally admitted she would never be able to restore it. Her only caveat was that I had to keep the truck stock. That was not my first choice then but I kept my promise (basically) and am now really glad I went that route.
I was surprised by the lack of rust on this truck. I knew it had been outside since at least 1974 and had been up on the blocks since 1985. We average 30-40 inches of rain a year here. There was lichen growing on it but no visible rust thru areas (yet). I had seen a lot worse rust problems on newer trucks in this area.
I am not exaggerating at all when I say that without the Stovebolt forum, I don't know if I would have pursued this project. The people who donate so much time and knowledge are just an incredible resource. I have only had the opportunity to meet one fellow Stovebolter but really felt like I was part of a family.
It was bittersweet to slowly wean myself away as I moved on to other things that I needed to spend time learning about. One of the best pieces of advice I saw given several times was to try and do something -- even a little thing -- everyday. I pretty much adhered to that and that is partly why it took me four years. I worked on it one piece at a time. When I would start getting burned out on the endless metal work, I would tackle a job like rebuild the steering box or the gauge cluster. There seemed to be endless little projects to keep it interesting.
I had to build racks in my shop to hold the completed parts. By the time I finally finished the body and paint work, every other part of the truck had already been rebuilt or replaced, wrapped up and ready to install. When the day finally came to start assembling everything, it was like Christmas to me every day. Adding finished part after finished part was both very exciting and rewarding.
I was somewhat afraid I would be disappointed when I would finally start driving the truck. I had gone thru a lot of old trucks in my youth and driving them was ... well ... challenging. What I didn't take into account was in the past, I always had a truck that was pretty clapped out and all I ever did was try and keep them on the road. I never had the opportunity to drive a newer truck back then.
I don't think there is a moving part on my truck that wasn't refurbished or replaced and it drives like a dream. I am pretty sure it drives better than when it was new thanks to some upgrades.
I used as many 216 parts on the 235 engine as I could. It's now 12 volt but I run a generator and regulator and the battery isn't visible.
I upgraded the tie rods, added a sway bar and radial tires that really help the handling. Higher gearing let me run down the road without holding up traffic. Except for cosmetics, the truck is stock otherwise. The Stovebolt experts would be able to spot some of the upgrades but most people would not.
A final trivia piece: this truck was manufactured in Oakland, California in May of 1952 and has never been out of Northern California.
One benefit of this project that was a great personal benefit to me was a major weight loss. Instead of sitting on the couch, feeding my face and watching TV, I spent a little time each evening and on weekends working on the truck. In the first year I went from 282 pounds down to 220 and have been able to maintain that weight ever since.
Parked on Step 12,
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