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An "Original" drives Stovebolt past G2K
Gallery Submission #2,000
My dream of owning an old truck was sparked back in 19 and 69 when my older brother, Tommy, returned from California, to our home in Florida, driving a 1946 1/2-ton Chevrolet pickup truck. From the moment I laid eyes on it I was smitten -- not only by the big fat fenders, crank out windshield and gaping chrome grills, but also by all of the adventure represented in driving it all the way across the country. I vowed to myself at that moment that someday I too would make an epic journey in an old pickup truck. Little did I realize that it would be over two decades before my dream of owning an Art Deco series pickup truck would materialize, and that half a lifetime would pass before the road trip would begin to take shape. This journey is about well-lit highways, detours, forks not taken, and rest stops (anticipated and not). The route getting here was not carefully planned, nor the maps completely drawn. I am at another junction in life and am excited to find out what roads lay ahead.
In the middle of the 1970's I read a book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, by Robert M. Pirsig. In this book, Pirsig makes a journey across the United States and “explores the metaphysics of quality.” " Plans are deliberately indefinite, more to travel than to arrive anywhere. We are just vacationing. Secondary roads are preferred. Paved county roads are the best, state highways are next. Freeways are the worst. We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on "good" rather than "time" and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes…. Roads free of drive-ins and billboards are better, roads where groves and meadows and orchards and lawns come almost to the shoulder, where kids wave to you when you ride by, where people look from their porches to see who it is, where when you stop to ask directions or information the answer tends to be longer than you want rather than short, where people ask where you're from and…
While reading Pirsig’s book, I told myself that one day I would get a truck and make my own journey across America. My dream languished as the diverting influences of pursuing my career, marriage, home ownership, and being a father all took precedence. Another decade passed before I knew it.
In 1982, or so, my desire to make a journey in an old pickup, on the back roads of this great country of our's, was again re-kindled while reading William Least Heat-Moon’s book Blue Highways: A Journey into America. Like Pirsig, Heat-Moon made every effort to avoid the ever-growing Interstate highway system -- seeking out the back “secondary” roads which were, at the time, depicted in blue on the old road maps -- hence the name “Blue Highways.”
Several more years passed by, and sometime around 1985 I saw a photo of what would one day be my truck. While visiting a photo lab, where my wife, Suzanne, and her Father worked, I noticed some photos of an Art Deco series pickup truck coming off the big print roller. I asked about the truck and it turned out that it belonged to another employee at the lab, a guy named Bill Brooks. Bill lived with Mom Brooks and had just completed his restoration of what I later learned was a 1941 1/2-ton pickup. I admired the photos of the truck and told Bill that should he ever decide to sell it, to let me know.
Another five years whizzed by like signs on the freeway, and thoughts of the truck dimmed. The demands of a growing family, ever increasing career responsibilities, and a major home remodeling project occupied my spare time, and I pretty much forgot about buying an old truck. The prospect of making a Blue Highway journey didn’t make much sense at this juncture in my life anyway. My work schedule was a four month on and four month off routine, and was as predictable as the seasons. Life was good.
In the winter of 1990 I returned from another four month tour at sea. Upon arriving home I was surprised to see Bill’s old ’41 sitting in the driveway. The truck was adorned with a big red bow and Lucas, age 11, and my daughter Tracy, age 7, were standing in the bed of the truck with Sheba and Laci, our two Dobermans. (Those are fresh “bowl” cut hair styles Luke and Tracy are sporting by the way.) What a great “welcome home Dad” present!
Bill had previously called Suzanne and let her know that he was being forced to sell the truck to raise funds for the care of his ailing Mother. He asked Suzanne if I was still interested in the truck, and without hesitation she bought it (for about what Bill had invested in parts) as a surprise for my 40th birthday. Finally getting the truck was a dream come true.
Another dream of mine came true in the spring of 1991 when Suzanne agreed to a move to Florida. I had longed to move back to the beach, after living in Reisterstown, Maryland for 20 years. Two decades previously, I had moved to Baltimore from Satellite Beach, Florida, to attend the MEBA Engineering School. After a year and a half there, I met Suzanne, who was soon to become my wife. Shortly after we married, I started my sea going career. We resided in Maryland for the next 20 years, as I continued going to sea. For various reasons, the time had finally come to sell the house and move the family to Florida. The ’41 was towed on a U-Haul dolly and this was perhaps the first time it had left Maryland.
I drove the truck locally in Florida for about six years or so, never venturing out of Brevard County. Knowing that the truck wasn’t up to an epic road trip, until properly restored, I parked it in the garage after the radiator blew (it barely ran when I parked it.) The truck sat there for about four years before I decided it was time to start a restoration.
In 2001, I started taking it apart and stowed the fenders, hood, glass, seat, wheels, etc. in the attic above the garage. For some reason, as so often happens, the project stalled and the remnants of the truck sat ignominiously on jack stands -- first in my garage, then my Mother’s garage, then in my shop, and finally back in my garage again for another half decade. My life had taken more unforeseen twists and turns and in September of 2006, I talked of selling the neglected "project truck." My wife and kids told me no way, reminded me of my dream, and fortunately convinced me to keep it
At this point in time I had been retired for about six years and finally owned up to the fact that I had neither the tools, space, nor the motivation to do the restoration myself (the talent is something I still ponder). Fortune once again shined on me when I was able to work out a deal to have the truck restored locally. My participation consisted of supplying the funds, of course, and also providing technical support. In addition I’ve done all of the legwork necessary to research, procure, and deliver the parts required for bringing the truck up to a suitable “metaphysical quality” condition for a Blue Highway journey.
Moving from the metaphysical to the nuts and bolts of the restoration -- below are current specifications and details about the truck. Throughout this most recent restoration a Danbury Mint 1:24 scale model of the 1941 Chevrolet 1/2-Ton Pickup in Export Blue has been our guide and inspiration. That's the image below also.
Now (late July of 2007) eleven months into the current project (which was supposed to be completed six months ago), I am still purchasing parts and providing technical support. My patience is starting to wear thin and I must continually remind myself that it’s all about the journey, it’s all about the journey! The bodywork is being done at one shop and the mechanicals and assembly at another. I generally visit both shops at least twice a week to check on progress, deliver parts, and make the command decisions. The time and effort required to make a restoration happen is far greater than at first anticipated, but has been very rewarding nonetheless.
Throughout the current project I have kept a digital photo log of the different stages, and only wish that I would have had a digital camera to document the 2001 disassembly. The previous link will take you to my 1941 Chevy 1/2-ton Album. The photos have also been segregated by component and can be accessed at Down2sea's Public Album. Hopefully, the photo log will aid other ‘Bolters in their journey down restoration lane.
Hopefully sometime this summer, the truck will hit the road again and I can start my own facsimile of William Least Heat Moon's road trip. My plan is to initially make several exploratory trips here in Florida and then if everything shakes out okay, begin my journey. What I envision at this point is to make a sort of sashshaying inner loop of the lower 48 states with no particular destination in mind. I hope to photograph, and perhaps write something about, what's left of old time USA. I'll try to avoid the interstates, whenever possible, and find towns bereft of McDonald's and WalMart's. It would be cool to meet fellow Stovebolters along the way to swap stories and admire trucks. I’ll be sure to keep the site informed.
Fortunately, the restoration is in the final stages and hopefully the outflow of cash will start to dwindle as my bank account sure is. In that vein, a spreadsheet detailing the cost associated with the current project has been kept. A breakdown of the cost associated with the previous owner’s 1984 through 1986 restoration was also captured and provides an interesting snapshot of what parts cost 20 years ago. The time spent researching and finding parts accounts for a significant portion of the restoration project, but is very rewarding nonetheless. Some folks might question why I'm providing this information and my answer is simple ... it is my hope, that by providing these details, that other ‘Bolters embarking on a similar restoration project will gain some insight into what’s involved in a project of this magnitude. Also, the part names, numbers, and vendor resources will significantly decrease the time spent researching and locating parts for anyone embarking on a '41 to '46 Art Deco Series 1/2-ton pickup restoration. (Hear, hear ... a very admirable and appreciated gesture ~ Editor)
Interestingly, this truck was running prior to starting this project 10 years ago; it wasn't pretty, nor very reliable, but it was more than a barnyard basket case. The cost add up very quickly, and I've no doubt that additional expenditures will be necessary as I get the truck on the road and start shaking it down.
Although the dream has taken more detours than I had expected, The Stovebolt Page was always there to keep the road lit. I found The Stovebolt Page, shortly after it was created in 1995, while John and Peggy were living in Hawaii. At that time the WWW was in its infant stages and I was subscribing to a service called Internet U which was a locally owned dial-up ISP. In early January of 1996, I was doing a search (perhaps with AltaVista or Lycos) looking for old truck information. I’m sure I didn’t get more than a handful of hits on my inquiry, but The Stovebolt Page came up. There was a beautiful gallery of 10 or so old trucks limited to 1939 and 1940 vintages. Needless to say “I was smitten.” Shortly after finding the site, John and I started corresponding by email swapping truck and career stories (John and Peggy found the first email dated February 11, 1996 in which I asked John if he knew of any sites welcoming 1941 Chevy Trucks.)
How fitting for someone who remembers us being so jubilant about adding ten trucks a month (only 1939's and 1940's, yes that's how it started). And then most of those trucks came in via snail-mail and we scanned them to add the stories to the site. We still have those pictures and letters. A real treasure for us. ~ Editor
I frequently checked in to see what was being added to the Gallery and loved the “It ran when I parked it” series when it started. I even took pictures of my '41(parked in the garage, overflowing with the flotsam and jetsam of my life) but never sent them in. When the ’41 project stalled, my visits to Stovebolt.com were less frequent, but nevertheless continued as I lurked in the background.
With the rebirth of the ’41 project in the fall of 2006, came a restoration for me as well. I became an active participant on the ‘Bolt again and my dream is alive. Many thanks to all of you on the Stovebolt Staff for keeping the site up, alive, interesting and well. A big thank you is also in order to all of you fellow ‘Bolters out there for populating such a great community, and for your kind assistance with my project. Hopefully, we’ll all travel together on the Blue Highways, as I chronicle the journey and actually meet many of you down the road.
I’m glad to be back and am excited about the truck being honored as the 2,000th addition to the Gallery -- I’m sure that the late Bill Brooks would be to.
As Don begins his adventure down the Blue Roads, stay tuned. We'll probably reserve a spot for him here so you can join in the adventure. The "virtual stuff" is coming out of the box! ~~ Editor