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A Cool Old Truck

John Atherton's

1959 SWB Chevy Stepside

10 August 04

From John:

          Here's our 1959 SWB Stepside 235 cid with SM420.

          Frank Atherton, my Dad (who passed away two years ago), bought this truck new in ’59 for his welding business and to use on our California ranch. My twin brother and I learned to drive in it as did my three younger brothers. Growing up we learned to re-do the brakes, and the usual maintenance needed on a truck of that time. When we got to high school, the truck just wasn’t cool and we didn’t like driving it. No heat, (it was built in the LA plant and Dad didn’t opt for the heater) no radio, and God forbid air conditioning.

          This was a basic truck with the 235 straight six and the “Granny” four speed transmission. He built a heavy rear bumper, added front bumper guards, and a boom winch to it. It did everything from pulling the horse trailer to actually drilling water wells! That was something to see! Dad replaced a rear wheel with a rim that had a big connecting rod welded to it. That was connected to a weight that was dropped onto the top of a well casing pounding it into the ground! When the casing was deep enough, he re-adjusted the apparatus, added another length of casing and pounded it some more. I know of several wells he “Drilled” in Central California with the truck.

          Over the years time and neglect took its toll. The wood bed got pretty sad and Dad just welded a diamond plate over the wood. (the wood’s still there) We did repaint it a metallic Gold/Brown around 1969 or 70. [ image ]

          When Dad retired he cleaned it up, new paint, interior (still bone stock) and left the mechanicals pretty much alone. These pictures are the way Dad had it when he passed away a year and a half ago. I’m slowly going through the mechanicals now.

          The first project was a complete restoration of the front axel. (I remember always fighting the wheel as it drifted down the roads of the Sierra Nevada Mountains). I also upgraded the brakes to a dual chamber master cylinder. An alternator conversion is in and I just received the new wiring harness and it will go in soon.

         Long term, I’ll put heat/air in it for the first time it its life! Who knows, I my even splurge for a radio (reproduction stock and always on Country, see Dad I did pick up a few things from you.) It will always stay in our family and from talking to my brothers there will be no shortage of homes or love for it.

John Atherton
Stovebolter "JohnnyWah"
"Keeping Dad's '59 in the Family"

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