1942 Chevy 3/4-ton Special Stakebed
17 January 2006
Hi. Here's my 1942 Chevy 3/4-ton Special Stakebed. I got it in June to be a shop truck for my bike shop (errands, bike delivery, advertising).
I found it in New Mexico, advertised as being in perfect condition. Ha! It turns out that it's originally a Canadian truck and was restored there (poorly) by its owner about 12 years ago. He kept it until about three years ago when he sold it to the owner in New Mexico. I don't know how it was treated since its restoration but things like cracked, rotting tires and brake shoes worn to the metal make me suspicious.
The main thing it had going for it was an astonishing lack of rust. There's one spot rusted through between the fender and the engine bay and a tiny bit of surface rust underneath -- but that's it.
I naively thought I'd be able to just go down to New Mexico, jump in the truck and drive it back here to Boulder, Colorado. I know you're all laughing right now as hard as I am. The dead battery and barely functioning brakes should have clued me in to the reality of the situation. But they didn't. What did clue me in was a face-full of antifreeze through the cranked out windshield at 45 mph as the radiator blew up 10 minutes out of town. What followed was about the most trying four days of my life. It ended with the truck on a trailer, headed for Boulder.
It took almost two months just to get this "perfect" truck running. I had the radiator rodded. I rebuilt the entire brake system with new wheel cylinders, new brake shoes, and all new seals and hoses. I rebuilt all the door mechanisms so the doors could actually stay shut.
The engine was pretty solid, though she leaks a little. What '64-year-old doesn't? I did have to adjust the valves and replace spark plugs plus wires, ignition coil, distributor cap and rotor, etc. I had a bit of a dilemma on that with the raised emblem on the grille. It was black like the rest of the grill when I got the truck, but it was barely visible. I didn't know whether to paint it or not. I couldn't find any indication of how it had been originally, so I decided to paint it as you can see in the picture (above left).
I could fill pages (and have) with all the work I've done. It was a great crash course in auto mechanics. I've been a bicycle mechanic for a long time, but this is my first foray into internal combustion. It's been a lot of fun and now the truck is running like a top. The only things left to do are lower priority: replace sagging front springs, maybe get some windshield wipers (though the truck stays home, covered when it's wet or even threatening), I still need to find a spare wheel, and maybe I'll get some headers / dual exhaust. We'll see.
I plan to rebuild the bed (it looks good in the pictures, but it's actually pretty bad). The main problem is that the bed surface is particle board, which is falling apart. I plan on replacing that within the next couple of months. The stakes and bed sides I'm going to leave for now. For the bed itself, I found a good line on some purpleheart wood that's going to look incredible.
As you'd probably guess, the truck is great advertising for the shop. People come in just to talk to me about it. Thanks to working on it out in the street at home, I've met all my neighbors who wandered over to check it out. It has absolutely been a blast having this truck so far. I'm glad I was foolish enough not to have been scared off by its condition when I found it.
In case you're wondering, the bike on the back of the truck is an example of the custom bicycles we build at the Bikesmith.
Bolter # 7809
We really liked the picture of Jon's Dad under the truck. We featured it on our "cover" in February/March 2006. ~~ Editor
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