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27 October 2008
# 2462

  Owned by
David Bush
Bolter # 19149


1951 GMC 100 Deluxe Cab


More pictures of my old truck

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From David :

This is my latest acquisition - a 1951 GMC 100 Deluxe cab. Just for chucks I thought I’d write up the story of this “find” to share with you all. If you read all the way through this treatise, you’ll also find some warnings about moving old iron with no brakes.

This truck was bought new by my wife’s Great Grandfather. It was used as a farm truck until roughly 1976 (the date on the license plate that’s on it). At that time, with only 24,000 miles on it, it was put under a shed for the next 20 years or so. Unfortunately, roughly 10 years ago it was removed from the shed and stored outside under some trees -- until now. The owner at that time got it running again and started fixing the brakes before he lost interest. He filled it with antifreeze and rolled it back into the woods. My Father-in-law, knowing that I had an interest in old trucks (I’ve got a 1946 Chevy 1/2-ton), persuaded the current owner to sell him the truck if I’d come and haul it off. So far my Father-in-law won’t tell me what he paid for it.

Being the independent thinker that I am, I discussed it with my wife. She had really loved her Great Grandfather and remembered the truck from her youth. She encouraged me to accept the offer and I did. How can you turn down a deal like that?

So on Sunday, October 5th, off I go the 60 miles to Dallas, Georgia to check it out. I had a photo that my Father-in-law had sent me that looked pretty good. I found out later that the photo was 12 years old. You can see from the pix that it was in need of a bit of TLC. OK, a lot of TLC. It’s damned rusty. Bad cab corners, front and rear. Bad fenders. Hood rusted where it meets grille surround. Cab floor rusty. Bed sides rusted through. Bed wood rotted away. No brakes. Tires all dry rotted. Bad glass, except for the corner windows, which are amazingly perfectly intact. Hasn’t run in roughly seven years. How could any sane person look at this neglected source of tetanus and be excited?

Now for the good parts. It’s all there -- rusty, but there. Oddly, the grease pencil markings for the assembly line inspections are still clearly visible on the firewall and the inside of the hood. That’s pretty darned cool. The price ain’t bad either – it’s a gift!

That first day, we hooked up a tractor to it and dragged it out of the woods. With fear and trembling, I pulled the dipstick looking for that telltale brown foam or water droplets mixed in with the oil – nothing – whew! At least for now. Next step was to pressure wash it to see what was under the crud. I also wanted to blow some of the grime off of it before taking it since I’ve got no good place to do that at home. [ pix ] That was all the time I had that day. So we pushed it back out of the way and I promised to return ASAP to see if I could get it running.

My work schedule is pretty strange in that sometimes I work days and other times I work nights (I edit for television). It so happened that I was on the night shift that week. That meant I was back at it on Tuesday, the 7th.

My first thought was to see if the engine would turn. Under the hood the old truck looked pretty good, relatively speaking. Everything was original: clamps, hoses, fan belt. The firewall was bright red with original, shiny paint -- the truck must have been quite a sight when it was new. I only wish someone had thought to throw a car cover over it.

I put the charged six volt battery out of my ’46 into place, carefully hooking it up as the old one was with ground to NEG. Then I stepped on the starter with the key off. The starter ground slowly and the engine turned. YAY! I crossed one more potential disaster off my mental checklist. I disconnected the battery (didn’t want any possible fires).

Now I had to worry about getting gas to the engine. I pulled off the old fuel filter in line between the tank and the fuel pump. It fell apart in my hands. No gas came out. I crawled under the truck and managed to get the line loose from the tank bottom. A slight bath in stale gas rewarded me for my troubles.

I drained some gas into a clear container -- not too bad, no rust, no particles. After a liberal application of WD40, I got the petcock to turn on the tank bottom, shut it off and pulled the old line loose. It was totally stopped up.

At this point, I put about a gallon of fresh gas in the tank, which amazingly seemed to have survived intact and unrusted. I thought it might act as a solvent of sorts to get the old, stale gas out later. Since I was out of time I headed back to shower and go to my real job.

Wednesday I lined up a car trailer to pull behind my Excursion on Friday. Only a few days left to get her going or I’d have to pull her onto the trailer with a come along. In the meantime, I made a checklist of things to take for the extraction. Fortunately, I check on the Internet to ask questions. That’s how I found out about GMC being POS ground. Yikes! Had I screwed the pooch? I didn’t know and posted asking for whatever information anyone could tell me. I also found another site that suggested a clever way to determine correct battery polarity. You simply hook up your battery and turn on the headlights. If the ammeter shows charge, the battery’s in backwards. If it shows discharge, all’s right with the world. No response had come by Thursday, so I took off to see if I had cooked anything with my backwards battery.

First, I re-connected the battery with NEG ground. Headlights on -- what do you know, the ammeter worked and it showed charge. Flipped the battery to POS ground. Same test, discharge -- AHA! Next I took a large, empty gas can I’d brought and hooked up a hose from gas tank to drain into it.

While the gas was draining, I headed up under the hood to continue. I pulled the battery cable off the starter, filed everything to clean metal and reassembled. Did the same with the ground, noting that the battery cables were sized for a 12 volt system, not the big ones used on 6 volts. Going to have to change that -- (damn, I haven’t even got it running and I’m starting a parts list).

I installed a new, clear fuel filter between the tank and fuel pump so I could see the gas coming through and trap any stray particles. I ran a temp fuel line back to the tank, but didn’t connect it. I then pulled the top off the carb -- pretty dirty in the float bowl, but otherwise the carb didn’t look bad. Turned out, the previous owner had put a kit in it about 10 years ago.

I pulled the carb off entirely and cleaned out all the crud -- it looked like very fine dust when I scraped it out. Got everything clean and shipshape and reassembled. Hooked up the choke wire, which had been dangling and gave it a blast of WD40 to free it up. Next, plugs. I had to soak them down in WD40 to get them loose, but first I used a short piece left over from the flex fuel line I’d brought as a blowpipe and blew the crap out from around the plugs. Don’t want any of that junk going down a sparkplug hole! Once I got them out, the business end of the plugs looked pretty good -- clean burn, no rust.

Things were looking up. I filed and gapped the plugs correctly. OK, now on to points. The old ones were pretty corroded. No worries -- the owner had given me a new set he’d bought. Unfortunately, when I pulled the old ones out, I realized that the new set didn’t fit. OK, fine. I filed and cleaned the old ones, reinstalled and set the gap. Getting close now.

While all this was going on, the tank had finished draining. I inspected a bit of the gas and was pleased to see it was clear and without any particles. I attached my new fuel line and opened the petcock. Next, one gallon of fresh gas went into the tank.

The biggest problem I had now was to get the fuel pump to prime. I put a bit of gas down the carb throat, set the oil bath air filter back in place (no carb fires, please), got the fire extinguisher close at hand and turned on the key. Full choke, step on the starter. With the battery and starter terminals cleaned, the truck turned over a bit faster. It ground over several times, then I heard a brief pop. Damn, it fired! I knew I needed more cranking juice, but it fired!

I pulled the top of the carb again, and filled the float bowl with gas. Then I pulled my 12 volt car up close. I then used another suggestion from the web (what did we do without the internet). I hooked up the positive and negative cables to the 12 volt battery, then I hooked up the positive cable only to the truck battery. I lay the negative cable in the seat, away from any thing metal. Here we go again.

I started cranking the truck on the 6 volt and, as it turned, I reached over and hooked up the jumper cable to the negative terminal. Big spark and the truck started turning over at double speed. It fired and ran for about two seconds!!!! I immediately pulled the jumper cable off. We’re on to something here! I ran up front to check the fuel filter. Hot damn, there’s a bit of gas in it -- looked like the fuel pump was trying to work. OK, once more with feeling. Checked the float bowl and refilled. Accelerator pump was working, but the pedal linkage was binding. A liberal dose of WD40 fixed that in short order.

Here we go. Started cranking again and hooked up the 12 volt battery. The engine cranked fast, sputtered a few times, started and died. I cranked a bit more just hoping it would prime the fuel pump and … she started. I pulled the jumper cable loose and she was running. RUNNING!!! Loud, no exhaust. Through the stained glass of the instrument panel, I watched as the oil pressure gauge rose to 50 lbs. Ammeter showed charge. YAHOO! I shut her off and basked for a moment. It was a terrifically satisfying feeling and I just had to enjoy it for a second.

Back around to the front. I pulled the dipstick, no froth, no water. Fuel filter full of clear gas. No gas leaks. I thought, “OK, wonder if the radiator will hold any water.” I pulled over a garden hose close by and filled her up. There was some leaking from the radiator top hose from small split, but the tank seemed to hold pretty well.

I hoped it would start again. I turned the key on and stepped on the starter without the booster battery. She turned over about twice, fired and ran. I jumped out and tweaked the idle screw to get a fast idle going. I then shoved all my crap out from in front of the truck and jumped back into the cab.

Big test #2: will it move? Clutch in, ease that column shifter into first. Ease the clutch out. I didn’t think it was going to go, but the clutch was adjusted way out so that it didn’t engage until almost the top of the pedal. The truck began to pull and then, pretty as you please, rolled out from her spot into the drive. No brakes, so I wasn’t going anywhere, but damn, that was a satisfying 20 foot trip.

I called up the former owner and told him the truck was running. I think in a way he was sorry that he hadn’t spent the time to get it going, but was glad that I had. Since I was out of time (again) I carefully backed her back into her spot, pulled the battery cables and headed off to clean up and go to work.

I wasn’t worth a damn at work that night, because I had scheduled Friday as an “off” day to go and get the GMC. That night in bed I was thinking about that feeling you used to get on Christmas Eve when you thought the night would never end. It’s a good feeling, and one you don’t get too much as an adult. I finally fell asleep.

Friday morning I awoke to a sick dog. After a quick trip to the vet to get Kate seen about, I was off to get my trailer. I got hooked up and hit the highway. Once I arrived in Dallas, I greeted the former owner, who had graciously stayed home from work (he’s self employed) to help me load. We went over to the truck and popped the hood. Everything looked good: the radiator was still holding water and there were no gas leaks. I hooked up the battery, then I choked her and started cranking … nothing. I pumped the gas pedal and tried again and she fired up.

The former owner looked pleased to hear it run. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, we got the trailer positioned and loaded the GMC under its own power. Due to the trailer setup, we had to load her facing backwards (damn, reverse worked too) to keep the tongue weight down. This is just too easy, I thought. [ pix on Photobucket ] Little did I know what the day had in store for me.

The trip back to my home was uneventful, except that I had to keep reminding myself to watch the road and not the rearview mirror to admire my new truck. I pulled up in front of my house and my wife came out with my 5-year-old daughter. They were both thrilled (what a family, huh?). Now I had to get it off the trailer without any brakes.

To make the story from here on out make sense, you’ve got to picture the arrangement of my house and the road it’s on. I live across the street from a lake that was man-made in 1948. My house is on a very high hill with a steep driveway going down to the road. My driveway intersects the road at a right angle. Where the driveway and road meet, there’s a dip formed where the slope of my driveway (about 35 degrees) hits the flat part of the street. This keeps me from backing a trailer up the driveway -- the back overhang of the trailer would hit the driveway. Furthermore, the road slopes away down another hill from the driveway. Directly across the street is a house that’s also got a steep driveway going down to it. Past that house is the lake. On either side of that driveway is a drop off. Got the picture? I bet you can see where this is going, can’t you?

I had the trailer pulled up so that I was facing downhill on the road. No problem. Once I unhooked the chain binders, the truck was facing uphill resting against the stops at the front of the trailer. I fired her up and drove her off the trailer. I got a bit of momentum going off the ramps, but the uphill run sapped that pretty quickly and I pulled her over to the side and killed the engine. Clutch out, chock behind wheel, easey-peasey. I turned to see my wife with her eyes filled with tears -- seeing the old truck go past brought back a lot of memories to her. We talked for a minute, then I went and dropped off the trailer. Now would come the fun part -- up the driveway.

So the plan is to chain the GMC to the back of the Excursion and pull it up the driveway. Since the GMC runs, I’ll drive it and give it some gas to help with the pull. At the top of the drive, we’ll stop, chock all four GMC wheels with some old tires and chocks, rearrange the Excursion, hook up a come along and winch it the rest of the way by hand. This could all work.

Unfortunately, I’ve made several errors in judgment. One, I should have secured the hooks on the tow chain -- they had no keepers. Two, trying to drive the GMC was a bad idea since the Excursion had plenty of power to make the pull unassisted. That would have kept tension on the chain. Three, I should have had more than one chain as a safety precaution. Ahhh, the benefit of hindsight.

Here’s what happened: We chained the two trucks together at the bottom of the driveway. The chain was wrapped around the trailer hitch on the Excursion and the front axle by the spring on the GMC. I fired up the GMC. We started the pull. Due to the noise of the unmufflered GMC, my wife and I couldn’t hear each other. Up we went. At the top of the driveway, she stopped and I pulled forward, clutch slipping, a bit more. When the chain slacked, the hook fell loose from the Excursion.

By the time I realized what had happened, I was booking down the driveway backwards. It was damn near instantaneous on our steep driveway. I did what you do instinctively in that situation: I slammed on the brakes. Oh yeah, did I mention THERE WERE NONE.

I was rolling backwards at a pretty good clip by now, mind racing. We’ve got landscaping timbers along one side of the driveway and I thought I’d see if I could scrub against them to slow down -- not much help, but maybe a bit. I angled to cut the sharp turn at the street as wide as I could, but it was still pretty much a right angle turn.

When the GMC came loose, my wife jumped out of the tow vehicle and started running down the driveway after me. She literally did it so fast that she left the Excursion in gear. Fortunately, it just rolled forward a few feet and bumped into a concrete wall. No damage done. As she was running down the driveway, she watched the whole scenario unfold.

When I got to the street, I was cutting it trying to make the turn, knowing that if I went straight, I’d either end up through the wall of the house across the street or go over the drop off and flip end over end until I hit the lake. I knew I had to make the turn. I was not aware of it, but my wife told me I made the turn on two wheels. I do remember thinking that even if I cut the turn, a tire blowout would roll me.

The dry-rotted tires held somehow. I was now on the street, still rolling backwards with a good bit of speed. If I stayed on the road, I knew the hill got steeper and then went to an intersection with another road -- not a good option. The only option I had was a ditch and embankment on the uphill side of the street. I went for it thinking that it would stop me, but probably roll the truck. As I went up the sharp embankment, the truck lost speed rapidly and rolled to the driver’s side. I was thinking, “Great, now I’ll fall out and the truck will roll and smash me like a bug.”

Just at the tipping point, the door latch on the driver’s door let loose and the door flopped open and dug into the dirt, catching the truck. I’m seriously rethinking my opinion of the existence of guardian angels. [ pix on Photobucket ]

The engine died. I turned off the key and shakily got out. My wife was running down the road screaming my name (kind of nice to know your spouse cares about you). All the neighbors came out and tut-tutted about it and expressed amazement that I wasn’t dead. And no, before you ask, I didn’t have to go and change my shorts (although I’m not sure how I escaped that particular embarrassment). After taking a few minutes to regain our composure, we rehooked the tow cable and pulled the GMC off the embankment and out of the ditch.

I popped the hood and checked the engine. Other than a lot of water from the rotten radiator hose that split a bit further, there was nothing amiss. I took the key, hopped in the cab and gave her a try. Damned if she didn’t fire right up.

Total damage: banged up the fenders at the bottom on the driver’s side (where they were already rusted out) and a tweak in the cowl section of the cab where the driver’s door caught the truck and hyper extended a little bit.

About 15 minutes later, we tried again with cable ties on the tow chain hooks and also steel cable and a tow strap for triple redundancy. No problem. The truck is now in the garage.

By the way, the old master cylinder is already off (unrepairable chunk of rust that it is) and a new one ordered. Next, brake lines, flex hoses, wheel cylinders. That SOB isn’t moving again until I can stop it!!!






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