A 'virtual garage' of antique Chevy & GMC trucks from around the World
1954 Chevrolet 6400
10 March 2008
From Jim :
I've been a Stovebolt member for about a year and a half, hoping to send in pictures of my completed 1954 Chevrolet 6400. It's finally done with the exception of the bed. So maybe some of your members can give me some pointers on how to finish from here.
I saw an ad for this truck in Hemmings Motor News. It was located in Phoenix, Arizona at that time. It had spent most of its working life in Nebraska as a grain truck. It looked good in the ad so I sent in my deposit. I made arrangements to fly from Atlanta to pick it up. I live in the North Carolina mountains just two hours north of Atlanta.
My maternal Grandfather, Wesley Clarence Driskill, or "T" as his friends knew him, had an AD Chevrolet 3100 that he used on his Rustburg, Virginia tobacco farm when I was a boy. In addition, he and my Uncle Wayne, had an AD COE that they used to haul pulp wood, or "pupwood" as I remember them saying, when the tobacco fields did not need attention. My Uncles Ed Driskill and Robert Maxey also had Chevrolet AD trucks. Uncle Ed's was black and Uncle Roberts was blue. My Granddaddy's was green which is probably the reason why that is still my favorite color for those trucks.
My Grandfather Davis, who had a tobacco farm near Long Island, Virginia, had a 1949 Ford pickup with a flathead V-8. It sounded good but never captured my attention like the Chevrolets. Actually, other than one Dodge, all the trucks in the Rustburg neighborhood that I remember were Chevrolets or GMC's.
My Father spent a career as an enlisted man in the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed at Langley A.F.B. for four different tours. Vacation times were usually spent on my Grandparents' farms. There was not a better time to be had for a young boy, especially on the Driskill farm. My Uncle Wayne taught me to drive and use every bit of equipment they had.
Being around the Advance Design trucks always brings back great memories of my times on that farm with my extended family which is why I've always had AD trucks in my blood.
I bought a 1953 3100 in the late 1970's. It's black with the side spare, radio, and bone stock. It still runs like a top. The restoration is dated so it's next in line for special attention.
I'm looking for a COE to crown my collection.
So, back to Phoenix and the 1954 6400. I flew out to Arizona in February of 1990 and paid the balance on the truck. After a refresher course on the vacuum assisted 2-speed axle and the dump bed, I began the 2000 mile journey to Franklin, North Carolina. Now, if any of you out there ever take a notion to drive an old Stovebolt cross country in February at 45 mph, a word of advice: take a hammer and hit all your fingers -- the pain doesn't last so long. Then call an auto transport company and pay them to deliver your prize to the front door.
It seemed like I spent a week driving across Texas and that was just about half of the trip. Those heaters don't work that well so I was cold the whole way.
After a couple hundred miles, I watched empty flat beds pass me hoping that one of them would stop and offer me a piggy-back ride. I would have paid good money to go faster and be warm. I will have to say that everyone smiled and waved, but nobody offered me a ride.
After three days I finally made it home. I averaged 15 mpg, used one quart of oil, and had not one mechanical problem the whole way. I remember the defroster and wipers were inadequate but after an hour or two you are hypnotized -- so no big deal.
I used the truck around my few acres for a couple of years and then parked it, waiting for the eventual restoration. In 1998 my wife and I sold our 60 acre farm and house and moved to town. I made arrangements with the new owner to leave the truck there until a later date.
The later date turned into a few months. I went back to get the truck and couldn't find it. She hadn't bothered to tell me that she sold it to a worker who was helping install new fence for her horses. Evidently it didn't cross her mind that I had the title. The aforementioned worker was contacted only to discover that he had sold it to someone else.
After a few months of wrangling, threatening legal action, etc., I recovered the truck after paying about $850 to cover parts and labor for supposed maintenance work. During that ordeal, I learned that possession is indeed 9/10ths of the law. And the wannabe owners learned that after accompanying this truck across these United States, I wasn't about to let her go without a fight.
Fast forward to 2005 when the restoration started. A brief footnote is in order here.
As I peruse the Stovebolt page, I am in awe of the work that members do on their own trucks. Unfortunately for me, I lack the time, tools, and talent to do restoration work so I contracted with a local auto refinishing shop that had done work for me before. I'm comfortable with routine maintenance but bringing back an old truck to like new is way over my head.
There were several clues (that I was real slow to pick up on) warning of an expensive ordeal to follow. The restoration shop charges by the hour, not the job. No big deal. It couldn't take that long. This truck was in good shape to begin with. Also, there is a reason that the chrome is sent off at the beginning of the project. I have more money in re-doing the chrome than I paid for the truck! Then, when you have all that chrome finished and looking good, what is it good for but to put on the finished truck! It would be a waste on the old one -- like a bikini on your Grandmother.
You are hooked! And was I ...
The brake booster had to be re-done at a cost of several hundred dollars. But if you have a nice truck you better be able to stop, especially if you live in the mountains. You gotta protect that chrome!
And so it went. On and on, ad nauseam. [ Dash pix ]
My wife still doesn't know what this project cost in totality. The receipts have been destroyed and all contributors have been sworn to secrecy.
Thanks to Chevs of the 40's, The Filling Station, and a few junk yards for spare parts, my truck looks and runs like brand new. Other than new paint and a rebuilt carb, the running gear was untouched.
On a recommendation of a Stovebolter, I put Yokohama tube type radials on the 20 inch 3 piece wheels. It turns out my cousin used to work on those wheels so he mounted the tires in my garage. My Dad used to mount them when he was in the motor pool and has seen guys get killed. So make sure you know what you are doing or get someone who does.
So, I'd like to present my truck. She doesn't have a name but she's definitely a prima donna. So it'll have to be something fancy sounding, like she's from Charleston or Savannah.
Give me a couple years to recover and the '53 will begin the process.
Oh, and by the way, I've bought some red oak to do the bed. Send me some guidance if you get the chance.