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1941 Chevy Canopy Express

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Leonardtown, Maryland


Owned by Will Corbin
Bolter # 17295
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

24 July 2011 Update
# 2399

More pictures of my old truck

From Will :

Well, our 1941 Chevy Canopy Express has now become our 1941 Chevy Woodie Hybrid (as we call it). She's pretty much complete and we are on to another project challenge: a 1949 Jeepster which is great fun. It is in about the same shape as the old CE was when we got her. The Jeepster was driven in Georgia and put away wet.

As you can tell from the Photobucket pictures (or just this one if you want a quick peek), everything about the original truck was shot. It looked like it sat in a creek bed for a long time. It was probably worked on a farm until it wouldn't go any more. it was parked in a corner of the farm and left there. We had to bring it back from the dead.

Restoring this old truck turned out to be a nice project and a huge challenge. We had to remove every piece from the truck and put it back together slowly.

One night I woke up and thought "I can make a Woodie out of this." So that's the direction we took. Its original intent was a vendor truck.

I was talking to Jim Carter about the truck and he said there were maybe five of these trucks in the world. When I told him I was making one with table sides, he said that's the only one in the world then.

I am not a collector. I like to do projects. Right now, with it being done, this truck is "in the way" -- although, it's pretty special. .

I am a "learn as you go restoration" guy. On most of these old machines, we thought it was not worth doing high-grade metal work to re-shape the body. You need specialized equipment to re-create molded forms. They have nice carriages to work on. We took perforated aluminum sheets and formed them in the shape of the body and riveted them in. We roughly shape the metal, the lay bondo on it. It makes for a very sturdy surface. It looks good on the street.

We even did the painting. With enough sand paper and rubbing compound, you can fix anything that you try with paint. We selected Cream and Mocha as the colors. I went to the store and looked at different color choices. The stock color for these trucks was green, I think. Almost everybody painted them black with red fenders or yellow with black fenders. After a while, most of these trucks ended up being custom colors, especially for people who used them in a business. We picked colors that would accentuate the wood!

My Dad (who is now in his 80's) volunteered to help with the wood. He made a career out of this! He cut out templates and tried to make them work. He shaved off here and there. The skin is lightweight wood and is heavily varnished. The trim is plastic molding. It looks good and is a little more durable.

For the engine, the original engine was long since frozen. I bought two others and from the three, we came up with one 216, half pressure motor. It still has the same block that it came with.

In the interior, I wanted to quiet the vehicle down so I installed a headliner. There was weakening of the metal in the roof and it was dinged up pretty bad. I re-enforced it with wooden bows and fiberglass. The original truck would not have had a headliner. I had to make bows in order to attach the headliner to it. I got vinyl fabric from a fabric store (on sale!).

You should see the junk we get for projects. It is stuff that no one else is interested in. This Chevy made a bench mark that will be hard to match. So, now everything has to meet that standard.

10 August 2008
# 2399

From Will :

        Hey Folks! Here is my work-in-progress 1941 Chevy Canopy Express for the Gallery. I don't know where they got off calling a 40-mph six-cylinder "express." This is how she looked when we found her .

        I found the truck on eBay while casually shopping for possible next projects. (My previous undertaking, a 1936 Ford (Boo! Hiss!) Phaeton, was nearing completion.) One look at this Canopy and I was hooked. I paid a little more than a thousand dollars for a rusted, dented hulk sitting in a reeking horse pasture (with a lot of other wrecks) on the Alabama-Tennessee border.

        The truck was advertised as a 1946, but a helpful Stovebolter told me later that it was more likely a 1941. His suspicions checked out, with VIN and date etchings in the original windshield glass.

        I don't know the truck's history. I bought it from a guy who wanted to use it for his barbecue restaurant in Alabama, but he decided it was beyond his restoration budget or capabilities. It may have come from a farm background in the upper Midwest. It certainly shows signs of being worked to death.

        This GM Art Deco truck now has a working chassis -- with a Frankenstein 216 babbitt-pounder made from three separate blocks. It has a body that is slowly taking on something like its original shape (with some guesswork where the rust left no clue).

        We're departing from the original Canopy to make it a Woodie hybrid. Where canvas originally covered the open box sides, we're building wood inserts that will fold down as tables on both sides of the truck. The tailgate (the original being long gone and irreplaceable) will also be made of wood and dressed up Woodie-style on the outside.

        This should end up being an extraordinary truck and definitely unique.

        In the meantime, I'm engaged in that worst kind of automotive substance abuse, a growing dependence on Bondo.


Will Corbin


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