I suffer from
Advanced Design Disorder
01 December 2015
1948 Chevy 3100 5-Window Pickup Truck
From Dave :
I like to joke around that I got married twice in 1978: first, to my still lovely wife, Suzie, and second, to a 1948 Chevy 3100 Series truck. I believe in commitment …. both my wife and truck are still around.
She was pretty rough when I first brought her home (I’m talking about the truck, of course ). I got the old truck from a retired welder in Ava, Illinois. It was his fishing truck and so whenever something would get loose or fall off, he’d weld ‘er up. The fenders were welded to the bedsides; the bedsides were welded to the running boards, which were also welded to the fenders. The bumpers were welded to the bumper braces. You get the idea ... and I am not joking.
The brakes only worked on one corner. It was still 6 volts with the original distressed cloth covered wiring. It had no second gear, and someone in the past had replaced the original 216 with a 235.
You could see the paint brush strokes in the flaking and bubbled baby blue house paint that someone had slopped over the rust and original faded factory black paint.
The truck smoked and belched and sputtered big time during my road test. The owner would not budge from his $200 asking price in spite of my negotiating. I’ll never forget his logic: “Any truck that runs is worth at least $200. Sonny, take it or leave it!” I gave him the $200. I fell in love.
And so it was: my budget build began with restoring the brakes, installing a junk yard alternator and replacing whatever wiring that needed replacing. A linkage adjustment corrected the three on the tree shifting issue. I remember saving the used oil that I drained out of my wife’s 1975 Monte Carlo and using it to keep the oil level full in “Old Blue.” It burned and leaked about a quart every 100 miles.
I kept up with the repairs as needed and stuck with it. Life happens: a new job, a move, a family, a new house. The truck earned its keep: it made me smile.
About five years went by when one Saturday my buddy, Mark, showed up with a 12 pack and we were looking for something constructive to do. I was at a crossroads with the truck: junk yard or yank the 235. That afternoon we pulled the engine and tranny and got another 12 pack. What was I thinking……
Rebuilding this old truck would be representative of everything I am about. I truly enjoy a challenge. I love finding unique solutions for the most troubling, insignificant problems. Cost is always on my mind and I’ll re-purpose stuff every chance I get. I like novelty and even more so if it is subtle. I’m quirky and tenacious and half a bubble off. I’m overly analytical and hate to be rushed. I take my time to the point of being annoying. I’m a terminal procrastinator. I’m my own worst enemy. To make matters worse, I suffer from ADD: Advanced Design Disorder … I’ve always loved this body style. This truck would prove to be just what I needed. It taught me patience. It tested my resolve. It was, and still is, my escape: from everything!
I never intended to bring this truck back to original. It was too far past that possibility when I got it. So I’d say that what I intended all along was what I’d call a “rodstoration." I wanted it to be externally pretty much original but with an updated powertrain that was dependable and efficient and fun to drive.
I have all kinds of respect for you guys that take them back to stock just like they came off the assembly line. I love looking at a “survivor” that has been “in the family for 60 years” with original paint and tires and oil change stickers still in the door jamb dated from 50 years ago and the original bill of sale in the glove box. This hobby covers the gamut, though; the Stovebolt website is all encompassing and if you've been involved in the hobby for any length of time you’ve probably seen some really incredible stock stuff, and some crazy modified stuff. From trailer queens to rat rods, and it’s all good. Although it’s pretty easy to say, sometimes, ”What was he thinking???”
So what about Old Blue? My truck is nothing special really. No $8K Nieman Marcus paint job; no air bags and no in-the-weeds stance; no 1000 HP, blown, nitrous injected blinged-out outrageous engine. My truck took on a life of its own and I went along for the ride.
I took the truck down to the frame, sold off the old engine and tranny dirt cheap. I had the 327 from my old man’s retired ’69 Impala punched out .030 over and put in 10:1 forged pistons with an Iskandarian mid-range cam. Got some power pack heads off a '67 Chevelle and had a valve job done. Cast iron, rams horn exhaust manifolds were good enough.
Installed the engine with a 400 turbo I’d rebuilt that I bought from my brother-in-law for $40. It ran fine with the original dual-jet but next came the q-jet and then the Holley 650.
My daughter’s boyfriend gave up on his 1992 S-15 that was left for dead in my garage when he thought he’d have his machinist buddy rebuild the wore out engine he’d pulled, only to realize he couldn’t afford it. That S-15 donated its TBI system that now sits proudly on that 327 …. it runs like a dream, dependable and almost bullet-proof.
The 400 Turbo was sold in favor of a 700-R4 that I snagged and rebuilt out of a 1990 Camaro. The body work almost killed me. You guys know what I’m talking about. I spent an entire summer re-working just the two front fenders, resurrecting them from the dead, welding them back up, hammering out the dents, filling holes, block sanding 'til I went mad.
The hood was the same way. The cab was just as bad, with the floor and toe boards and doglegs needing massive amounts of TLC.
Did I tell you this truck started life as a 3-window? On an impulse I decided I needed a 5-window cab so I brought a roof home one day from my favorite salvage yard and swapped roofs. It wasn’t that bad really.
The doors? OMG! Do not ever, never, let anybody sandblast your doors!!!!
Mind you, this all took years and years, because, after all, there are other projects: like the house, the family, friends, the swimming pool, the deck, the never-ending yard work, teacher’s conferences, coaching your kid’s sports teams, graduations, the antique Harley, business trips and vacations and weddings and funerals and dentist appointments and 40 hour work weeks that never end. Of course I had to rebuild this truck ALL BY MYSELF because, like some of you I guess, we find ourselves disappointed by the work we’ve paid someone else to do. So if something’s not quite right, I can’t blame anyone but myself.
I finally got to painting the cab and doors and hood and front fenders one summer, probably late in the 1990’s, Dupont 5040 acrylic lacquer, Can Am White. Lacquer: very forgiving, very rewarding. Lacquer was outlawed ultimately by the EPA by the time I got around to finally painting the rest of the truck.
The old bed was trash, although I did sell it on Craigslist. I instead found a 1987 Stepside bed and bought some reproduction steel fenders and grafted all that to my original frame -- not that bad, really.
I did the final paint work this past summer in Nason (Dupont) single stage 3-part urethane, same color as before: 5040. Urethane is not as forgiving, takes longer to dry, is still very rewarding, and is now my paint of choice. And I’ll be darned if the color match between the lacquer and urethane is fairly close. You won’t see the difference in the pictures. They say urethane is more durable. I hope it doesn't develop small hairline cracks in it like the lacquer did after 15-20 years.
My truck is a 10 footer … don’t look tooooo close. Other notables: white oak bed with a cherry stain and five coats of exterior grade spar urethane and stainless divider strips. LED tail / brake lights with home-made functional brake lights in the bedroll (1” PVC coupler). I’ve got an amber light at the front end of each bedroll also, to flash with my turn signals (looks really cool at night when those amber lights reflect off the back of the white cab below my corner windows). Full size rear mounted spare in the factory location under the bed.
My title says this is a 1948 truck, although the cab is really 1950, as evidenced by the gas tank I removed from behind the seat. I got creative and use two Pontiac Fiero gas tanks parallel to the drive shaft. They’re long and skinny and they're 10 gallons each and I fill them through a filler neck mounted under the left side of the Aerostar power bench seat. The filler neck and aspirator line exit though the back side of the cab at the bottom through 1.5” copper pipe which T’s off to fill each tank simultaneously.
I toggled a switch under the dash to monitor the fuel level of each tank through my stock fuel gage. There’s another under dash switch to activate the transfer pump in the right tank to send fuel to the main left tank and a shut-off float switch in the right tank to turn off that transfer pump when that tank is empty. Oh, there is also an amber low fuel LED in my left gauge cluster to tell me when the right tank is empty. You should see that electrical schematic!!
The left gage cluster also houses a red emergency flasher LED and a red emergency brake LED and an amber Check Engine Light LED (I call that CE Light my “You drive like an idiot light!” because my Knock Sensor flags a code when I drive the truck like a teenager; cycle the key and the CE light stay off as long as I drive like an adult). I have two green LED’s in the speedo head to cycle with my turn signals.
I’ve installed Old Air Products AC and heat with a front electric pusher fan and still have a five blade flex fan behind the radiator.
Interior is done and fully insulated and carpeted in 50 shades of grey. All the glass is new, all the glass is clear and all the glass was a pain in the glass to install. Kenwood AM / FM / CD Bluetooth radio mounted in the original speaker grill location, six Pioneer speakers elsewhere. Tilt wheel from a late '70’s mid-size GM. Power steering using an early '70’s C-10 steering box mounted on the outside of the frame (both front shocks relocated).
Stock solid front axle with stock riding height with rebuilt front leaf springs and 6 degree caster shims; front anti-sway bar. Bridgestone 255/70R-15’s at all four corners, force balanced on Progressive aluminum solid rims. Camaro front disk brakes. Corvette master cylinder circa 1984 without the vacuum booster connected as the brakes are too sensitive with vacuum to the booster.
Camaro 3.73 posi rear end with drum brakes mounted on S-10 main leafs. Astro Van drive shaft: shortened and balanced. Magnaflow mufflers that sound sooooo sweet and clear those Fiero gas tanks with ease!! It took four bad running boards to make two good ones: cut, sectioned, and spliced together with panel bonding adhesive and then coated with Line-X. They turned out great.
I had my cracked steering wheel coated with Line-X also (be sure to check the pictures -- it really looks neat ~ Editor). That stuff bridges small hairline cracks and makes the wheel a bit fatter and the texture feels good and looks cool. I always get a lot of positive comments about that steering wheel when I show the truck.
I rebuilt both door lock mechanisms and window cranks. (It is so weird when you get a kid in the truck who never saw manual windows before. They love lowering and raising the windows by hand. Doesn’t take much to make some people happy.)
I kept the vacuum wiper motor because it still works, and it’s quirky and cool, too. Reproduction chrome grille and bumpers (rear bumper is for a '54). Are we there yet?
Sorry if I’ve gotten carried away, but with 37 years of blood, sweat, and beers invested in a 65 year old truck, you can understand how I could go on for a much longer time.
Would I do it again? No. I’ve now finally got what I want and even though it’s pretty much done, I’ll still be fiddling on this truck and working on it for a long, long time, right? Because we all know that these projects are never really finished. I will probably go to my grave with this truck.
Am I glad I did it? Well, absolutely! I’ve learned so much, mechanically, by taking on this project. And I’ve met a lot of really cool and interesting people because of this hobby. Also, I’ve learned so much about myself, mentally, by sticking with it. It’s hard to explain. Most of us Stovebolters understand the connection between a man and his truck. A lot of people don’t get it, and never will. Every time I get behind the wheel of this time-machine and fire it up….
Keep on truckin, Stovebolters!
* This poem was written by an ad copy-writer named Patrick O'Leary and was used in a Chevy television commercial with the voice-over by James Garner. The ad ran about 20years ago. It's still on YouTube. The poem does run through my head when I drive that old truck. Am I a hopeless sap or what?
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