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1940 Chevy 1.5-Tonne (Holden Body)

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Leonardtown, Maryland



Owned by Lionel G. Evans
Bolter # 20384
Bundaberg Queensland

01 September 2009
# 2658

More truck pictures in Photobucket!

From Lionel :

This classic truck came from a yard which has been in one family for three generations. This family business features 20 acres of old trucks! Yes, some weird sort of Heaven and you do not know where to look.

I took a series of panoramic photographs which show my truck's old neighbourhood, for who knows how many years. I had a choice in the yard between this Chevrolet Holden 1940 and a USA built 1942 Chevrolet truck. I chose the Chevrolet Holden as they are more unusual. I have a couple of photos of my truck -- from first clamping eyes on the truck in March 2009, revisiting the truck in July and it arriving at home on the back of a tilt-tray truck in August. Then towing the truck with my tractor from the back of the shed into the fenced area of my block, where my two dogs can welcome any visitors.

The introduction about how to set a DITY Gallery is really good, especially the bit about “your tortured decision to buy the truck and any nights spent in the dog house.” Someone must have lived this experience, too to write that!

This is my second foray into old-truck-dom -- not sure if this is defined as a neurosis or not? My first old truck is a 1935 REO Speed Wagon which is coach built -- timber frame for the cab and tin sheet literally tacked to the wooden frame. After decades of sitting out in the open in a farmer’s backyard and no glass, the timber is all fine for templates -- but little else. I realised early this year that this truck is a long-term project and after joining the Queensland Historic Commercial Vehicle Association, I wanted to be able to drive an old truck sooner than later.


Information about the truck from the plates on the firewall

Firewall Plate No: 1
Holden’s Body No: K5872
Series: 1940
Job No: -

Firewall Plate No: 2
2nd Plate
Batch No: -
Date: KO

Firewall Plate No: 3
Caution! Over loading or over speeding will void your warranty

GROSS WEIGHT: see note 11500


I met some of the members at a local event and learned how they frequently drive their trucks on the road to club meets. Some of the events are over five hours drive away from where they live -- real road trucks not ones that hitch a ride on a semi-trailer and parked at the show. I knew it would be years before the REO was on the road, so I started to pine. I started to think to myself, maybe I should get myself a slightly younger truck which is all steel and can get me on the road sooner!

So I started doing lots of internet searches and found how there are lots of parts readily available for Chevrolets on eBay and from reproduction companies in Australia and in the USA. I started buying copies of a magazine called “Just Trucks” which comes out every month.

The magazine gave me an idea of what old trucks were worth in an unrestored condition; also which trucks were fairly common; and what they were worth once they were restored. I asked some friends if they knew a place where old trucks could be found and they told me about Price’s Spare Parts in Dalby Queensland which is six hours drive from Bundaberg.

A quick telephone call confirmed that they had two 1940s Chevrolet trucks, a couple of Jail-bar Fords and a Dodge plus a Federal. The Federal is a coach built timber frame just like my REO so that was out of the running of ones to choose from. The Chevys are the nicest looking truck. The 1942 USA-built truck had lots of rust in nasty places while the 1940 Chevrolet Holden from first sight looked sad and rough as guts.

Of course, both trucks were on different sides of the 20 acre block of trucks. I went back to the 1942 Chevy and looked at it again and the rust was really too bad and in pretty critical places. I then decided to look past first appearances of the 1940. Upon close scrutiny, I realised that the rough look came from the coats of paint which had seen better days. What looked from a distance like lots of rust was actually a coat of red paint at one stage. In fact, there was very little rust and most of the truck was complete.

The downside on the '40 was the engine -- it was seized. I was told that the 1942 supposedly ran well when it was parked the last time.

Both trucks cost the same amount of money and apart from the rust, it is really hard to get past the big nice bit of chrome of the 1942 front grille. The 1940 trucks always seem a poor cousin in the chrome department compared to the 1942 trucks. I then spoke to one of the guys in the Historic Commercial Vehicles club and a mate of mine’s Father. They both said that Chevrolet Holden built trucks, made right here in Australia, were rare beasties.

Knowing how the motor was seized, I started to do a lot of research in Stovebolt Tech Tips and in the Maple Leaf Up Forum and found information about engine swaps. I came across the information that a lot of old 216 engines were replaced with the 235 Blue Flame motor. I then started searching for a Blue Flame and found one for sale in Victoria for a good price.

The Blue Flame was accompanied by another 216 engine and both arrived home months before the truck did. I got a telephone call from the bloke I bought the Blue Flame off in Victoria and he said, “Guess where the engine originally came from?”

Well this is one of those how long is a piece of string type questions … so I said, “I wouldn’t have a clue!”

The guy said, “Well you won’t believe it. The motor came from Bundaberg!” The Blue Flame had traveled one way 1290 miles and sat in a shed for years, only to make the 1290 miles trip back to get home to me.

Now the bit about the dog house… I thought the idea of getting a truck on the road sooner and being able to practice my skills on another truck, before attempting the REO was a really good one. I thought if I told my wife Leeann, that I had taken money out of the bank to buy an old truck, before she checked the bank balance, I might be able to stave off some heat. Well I was so WRONG! I got the hot tongue, cold shoulder and smoldering looks -- you know the ones some people say can kill! Lots of talk about "priorities" and my "playing with toys," coupled with something about how the roof of our house leaks every time it rains. It was really good that I was about to go away from home for a week. However, it was a bit of a tense homecoming. I think 23 years of marriage was tested a bit. Now that a friend of our's and his wife have both seen the truck and agree in what good condition it is in, things have settled down a bit.

My intentions are honourable with the truck. I was posting some messages to a  great bloke called Mike Kelly on another forum and he mentioned how I should check for markings on the truck to see if it was ex-Army. This was in between my seeing the truck for the first time and going back to finalise the deal -- so months had past.

Once I got a photo from the previous owner, it was obvious that the dominant colour coming underneath lots of coats of different colours was Army green. So in respect to the truck’s history, it will again wear the colour of service – Khaki green. This colour is even mentioned on the vehicle identification plate. That year (1940) was Australia’s second year of involvement in World War II. So my Chevrolet Holden was built for the Army and always carried that colour from day one.

When do I intend starting on restoring my find? Soon as I finish my PhD which was my first mid-life crisis that I started months after turning 40. The second one was buying the REO Speed Wagon when I was 44. Now I have my Chevrolet Holden at the age of 46. A couple of tons of nearly 70 year old iron as an incentive to finish my PhD -- well, I can think of few other really worthwhile carrots to dangle in front of someone, can you?

Perhaps I am just a little bit strange after all!

I will keep you posted how things go. The Stovebolt site is one of the best forums I have ever visited.

Well happy restoring everyone.


There is a bit of a postscript to go with the story already …

I went back to Dalby and spoke to the owner of Price’s Spare Parts and asked Russell, the person who I bought my Chevy off, if he had the contact details of the last owner. It turns out the guy’s brother was in two weeks beforehand so Russell had the contact details. I rang the number and spoke to my truck’s owner. He confirmed the name of barely visible on the petrol tank and also something else. The truck did seize up on his farm nearly 20 years ago and refused to move from the spot. However. it definitely was NOT the motor. When the truck arrived home, the rear right-hand side brake was locked solid. I had to disconnect the emergency brake cable and persuade the lever locking the brake shoes to the hub to disengage. After this the wheel moved okay -- the seize was caused by the right rear brake locking up -- not the motor.

I also found the truck’s ARN or Army Registration Number it carried when it saw service in World War II. So now I have developed an interest in historic Military Vehicles which is a really fascinating area in itself. I never knew getting an old truck could be such a bonus!

Another change / August 2021:

Back when I wrote the description, I did not know about the weight capacity description and thought dual wheels were mounted on bigger capacity trucks. I have since meet the owner of a totally civilian truck made in the same year and it had dual wheels as standard and was rated at 30 CWT which means in England 30 Hundredweight, 30 multiplied by the United Kingdom, a hundredweight is 112 pounds (Long Pound).

Made changes as requested! ~ Editor


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