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01 April 2012
# 2956

  Owned by
Bill & Wayne Alderson
Bolter # 21909
Independence, Missouri

1951 GMC 640 Truck Tractor


More pictures of this old truck


Bill Alderson is living every old truck lover's dream -- and he knows it.

Sure, he's worked hard throughout his life to earn his shop and old truck collection, and the ability to work on them (one or two a year!), but what makes it all truly special, and even possible, is that it's a fruit of family labor, a common bond of a shared passion across three generations -- Bill, his son Wayne and his grandson Troy.

"Working with these guys is really unique," Bills says. "I love working with these guys. I'm just the parts chaser. Wayne does all the body and paint work. I do some of the mechanical (when I can). My grandson (Troy) gets out of school at 2 in the afternoon and he's always down at the shop helping with sanding and working on the equipment. A lot of what we are doing now is for the kids."

With several trucks on hand waiting for restoration, each year brings the decision of what will be next, and it's a family matter.

"When the opportunity comes, Wayne and I talk about what will be our 'annual project.'"

The Alderson family restoration project for 2011 was a 1951 GMC truck tractor model 640, 426 cubic inch gas engine with 58,000 original miles.

"I purchased this truck in 2003 from a man in Tomah, Wisconsin," Bill explains. "He had advertised the truck in the ATHS Wheels of Time magazine. I talked to the guy a few times and ended up buying it without seeing it. I sent someone to pick it up and I didn't see it until it arrived home."

The Connection

For most of us, buying a truck sight unseen can be a risky gamble. Through his years' of experience, Bill knows how to do it - it's all about assembling a good team.

"The guy I sent to get it is pretty sharp, and I trusted his judgment," Bill says, adding that between his developed instincts, and his agent's, there were no nasty surprises.

Team Alderson  
Team Alderson -- Wayne and Bill (orange shirts) with Scott Ward (holding camera) and Mike Taylor (overalls). Also shown here in one of Bill's storage barns, is Scott's wife, Sherri, and Steve "KCMongo" Mosley (blue jacket). Not pictured: Grandson Troy.  

"When the truck arrived here, it was a pretty straight truck. Besides being low mileage, it was pretty much rust free. It was as nice as the previous owner had described it over the phone."

They didn't immediately take wrenches to it, though..

"I had this truck for several years before we got started on the restoration," Bill says.

But why this particular truck? What was so special to make buying it from a magazine ad, sight unseen, a risk worth taking?

"I like the 640-650 trucks," Bill explains. "It's like a pickup cab but stretched."

As with the rest of his collection, built over a career in the excavation business in Missouri, there's more to it than simple aesthetics.

"All my old trucks have a story to go with them -- a connection to someone I knew as a kid growing up," he says. "That is what I do and I like this sort of re-creation of my past. They all have something to do with things for me growing up.

"On this truck -- A guy who did some work for my Dad back in the '50's had one just like it. He pulled a low boy with his. I think that is what created the interest for me. I followed the truck for several years and knew where it was."

Eventually, that truck faded and years later, when the opportunity presented itself, Bill reconnected with this portion of his past, helped by his son and grandson and a few friends and employees.

A solid original

"This truck came from the Great Lakes Naval Base. It must have had light duty on the base because all the suspension, etc. were not damaged. It's unbelievable to find one like that. That's the kind of uniqueness I look for," Bill explains.

Because the truck was in such excellent original condition, the restoration wasn't that involved, according to Bill.

"We didn't even take the cab off. We took the front end off and sand blasted with a small blaster all the frame underneath. We repainted with epoxy primer," Bill details. "All the components were redone. The engine only has 50,000 miles and it didn't need to be overhauled. Got all the air brakes working with all new air lines. We put a new gas tank in."

Work on the 426 cubic inch gas engine was performed by family friend and fellow Stovebolter, Scott "48BigTrucks" Ward.

"All I did was get it to run," Scott relates. "I don't believe the engine was overhauled."

Because of the low mileage and generally excellent condition of the truck overall, the Aldersons and Scott decided the engine didn't need anything more than a tune-up ... once they figured out how to get it running again ... When the truck was stripped down for restoration, the plug wires had been pulled.

"Someone assumed it was the same firing order as a pick-up version, but it wasn't," Scott says. "All I did was figure out how it goes together and re-timed the plug wires. The best part was hearing it start up and run just like it ran just yesterday."

Lastly, the interior work was performed by another Stovebolter, Mike "OlTrucks" Taylor.

"Mike did all the interior work for us and the glass. He did a great job with the doors, especially. He's really good on those '50's trucks."

Arriving with a faded red and white paint job, the Aldersons found the truck's cab, frame and axles were painted Navy gray. It won't stay that way, though. The truck's Navy days are long over.

"We were ready to paint it and Wayne wondered if we wanted it to be red or green with black fenders. But I wanted it to keep with the company theme of black," Bill states.

What's the key to getting a restoration of this caliber done over the course of a single winter? According to Bill, in addition to having a team of family and friends, it requires sheer determination.

"A half-done truck isn't worth anything to me," he states. "We all have the drive to keep going until you get it done. My job is to get the parts hunted down. The way I run my business, I am an efficient worker. I've got every piece of dirt moving equipment that I need to do the work timely. Everything I do is like that."

Living the dream

The truck, like its barn mates in the Alderson collection, has already started making a big hit -- especially when paired with a lowboy trailer.

"We took it to an ATHS show in Missouri right out of the box and people really liked it," Bill says. "We had a meeting at our shop with the Genuine Chevy Truck Club -- maybe 75 people. It was sitting in there - we pull a low boy with it - so it is a matching set. I had it in there as a center piece in the room. I had table cloths on the low boy with chairs set up to it as a table for people to eat from."

Also sitting in the room was one of last year's projects -- a 1981 GMC General.

"We had the General in there and some farm tractors that we had restored. It was a lot of fun," states Bill. "It's nice to take the 640 out with The General. It's cool to see the difference between the 1981 and the 1951."

The truck won't see a lot work in Bill's excavating business, though.

"I don't know how much work I can do with it but I can transport stuff locally and have a lot of fun with it," he explains. "It will be in local shows but won't go out of town because of the cost of fuel. The ATHS national show is in Massachusetts this year ... I might go but I don't think I can take the truck. The fuel cost is putting a hurt on everyone."

Just getting enjoyment out of the project, and sharing the finished product, is enough for Bill and his family, though

  Living the dream -- Bill with the family's 2010 project, a 1981 GMC General.

"The Alderson family are great enthusiasts," says Scott, who travels from Iowa to help with projects. "They care about trucks, equipment and anything with a history. They preserve that history for fellow enthusiasts and future family members. They are willing and eager to share their knowledge and learn from anyone. I have no doubt Bill will go to his grave living and breathing old truck history. For such busy people working full time first, doing restorations second, they belong to more clubs than most of us combined ... that's dedication."

Where that dedication is found is pretty straight forward, according to Bill.

"It comes from these people I've known," he explains. "Restoring the truck that I remember them by is a real inspiration to me and helps to motivate me."

Bill's dedication is infectious, according to his co-workers.

"I like the Aldersons devotion to a project," Scott adds. "The project usually has an emotional attachment to it which makes it important to them to do the best possible job and to see it through to completion. I enjoy being regarded as an equal when it comes to my part of a restoration. I'm only on my second piece but by their reactions to my work and their promise to keep me busy, I feel honored to be considered worthy of their standards. They've done many restorations (100's if I were to guess) and now I'm apart of the process."

Typically humble and low key, which belies his 38 years' experience in subterranean development (including pioneering techniques for turning played-out limestone mines into underground storage facilities -- complete with road networks, environmental controls and rail systems), it's not hard, though, for him to share his passion.

"They enjoy people with the same passions whether it's on a large scale or for just one piece," Scott says.

Bill puts it a little more simply.

"They are just old trucks ... " he says, and then pauses. "They all have something to do with things for me growing up. I so much wish some of these people were still alive and that is sad for me ... that these folks who once had a truck just like this are no longer with us.

"These are things I have wanted to do in my life time and I am fortunate enough to be able to live out my dreams."



Stovebolters will be able to see this truck at the 2012 Stovebolt Reunion in Kansas City.


We could practically build a whole website on Bill, Wayne and now Troy's old truck collection! We are getting them into the Gallery a few at a time (since they try to focus on one truck a year -- that helps!). All their trucks have great stories. It's overwhelming and it's awesome. We were fortunate enough to see some of the fleet while in Kansas City. MO for the Annual Stovebolt Reunion at the Midwest All Truck Nationals.

What we've got on the site so far are a 1926 1-Ton Chev, a 1947 First Series Chevrolet 2-Ton, a 1971 GMC 6500 Fire Truck, and the 2011 project truck: the 1951 GMC 640 Truck Tractor.

If we can't do a website, at least we did an Alderson calendar to show off some of these beauties!


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