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A quick run around the Virtual Garage


14 January 2013
# 2998

Owned by
Dave Feltner
Bolter # 1146
A little north of Indianapolis, Indiana

1952 Chevy 1/2-Ton


More pictures of my old truck

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From Dave :

Well, another epic adventure behind me. I have known for a while that any time I do a road trip, especially where trucks are involved, it's never going to be easy. So, of course, this one wasn't.

After my big score on eBay, the realization I was going to have to go get the thing set in. As usual, I planned, carefully. Thought out all the details. Loaded tools in the van. Checked all the fluids. Loaded spare oil, antifreeze, and gas cans. I made sure everything was as right as I could make it.

Oh yeah, I had to run to the farm store and buy new tail light lenses and bulbs for the trailer. The auto parts place don't carry the cheapie snap on lenses I use for my cheap trailer lights. I called my buddy Randy to see if he wanted to go on a road trip, and he says "Sure! I wonder what's gonna go wrong on this trip?"

I use to work with Randy when I was a cop, and later as a medic. He was pretty much a s-it magnet, and any time we worked together, well, it happened. I was hoping finally the streak had ended.

Of course, I was wrong.

The drive from Cicero, Indiana (north of Indianapolis) started pretty much as I expected. The inch of snow that was forecast turned into four inches, and the roads were pretty much miserable. Problem #1.

I thought this might be a bad sign. But, I was on a mission. My deal on the truck was full payment in three days and I agreed to it.

I picked up Randy on the way and we were off. As we went farther South, the roads got better. Once we hit I-70, we pretty much ran a constant 75 mph.

The trailer pulls great and with new bearings and seals, it is pretty much trouble free. I use an old landscape trailer I got for a great price instead of a car hauler. It's higher and I need longer ramps -- but I got the thing for $500 and only had to put on new trailer tires, paint the thing, and beef up the tongue. Oh yeah, and add cheap lights.

We ran hard through Illinois, stopping only for gas and food, and busted into Missouri in extremely good time. Where I-57 ends, State Road 60 begins. It's a great road.

So far, so good.

A few hours later, we are in Powhaten, Arkansas, population 72. A couple more miles and there it set -- my almost mine 1952 Chevy truck.

Upon inspection, the cab was fantastic. No rot. Doors excellent. Pretty much complete. Interior excellent with brand new window seals, headliner. All the glass was good and all painted inside with no blemishes.

I could tell the cab was gutted by looking, and probably was blasted before painting. The truck was running, but sounded rough. However, there was no smoke, no knocks, no rattles. I did notice a slight oil leak from the front seal.

Under the hood was a 350 with a Edlebrock high rise aluminum manifold. On top of that ... a home made adapter plate with an old two barrel carb. Aw jeeze ... maybe I found part of the idle problem.

Then I looked at the wiring and found some of the most hillbilly thrashing I've seen in awhile. Everything had twist connectors intended for house wiring. Tarps straps and a piece of rope held the battery in place, and there was a SIREN mounted on the firewall. Yeah, I need one of those.

The seller mentioned he mounted the gas tank from a Volkswagon under the bed. That's 10 gallon capacity maximum. It didn't matter I thought since all I needed was enough gas to get it on the trailer. That would later turn into problem #3.

I looked long and hard, but in the end I figured the repairs and replacements were something I could live with, and we did the deal. I count out the money while sitting in the van, and he produces an ORIGINAL Arkansas title the original owner had signed off on. The problem is the old title required a notary and this one wasn't notarized. This is problem #2.

My luck was starting to catch up with me.

The VIN plate was missing -- problem #3. The seller told me there was no way I could locate the original owner and find a notary on a Saturday night. I decided maybe I could get a Builders Title in Indiana. I wanted the truck, so I went ahead with the deal.

After I got a bill of sale from the owner, we closed the deal and started to load the truck onto the trailer. That's when problem number #4 showed up.

I've loaded several car and trucks onto the trailer, but this one had those goofy reverse rims that set out past the fenders. The truck was too wide. It was getting late, and cold, and the wind was picking up. Randy smiles and says, "Well Dave, looks like you are gonna have to drive it" or we wait until Wednesday for the shops to open.

Saturday night. Everything closed Sunday. New Years holiday coming. No motels in Powhaten, Arkansas (population 72). I hated to admit it, but Randy was right.

I got in and put the truck into drive. We were off. No plates, a questionable title, a hand written bill of sale, a lowered 1952 Chevy truck with hillbilly diesel stacks being followed by a van with out of state plates pulling a trailer. Yeah. Nobody would notice.

The truck was warm as toast inside when we left, but down the road, I noticed a cold draft coming from the bottom of the doors. Not too bad, but still, pretty cold. After running the back roads, we finally hit the State highway. At 60 mph the draft from the doors turned into gale force winds and all the heat was gone. I was freezing my backside off.

I stopped for gas and got two shop towels to stuff in the huge gap in the doors. We are at problem #5 now.

We set out again and I stuff the towels into the pneumonia hole at the bottom of the door and they come flying right back out. I'm weaving all over the place as I try once again to stuff the towels into the hole. I finally got them in there, but the heater isn't coming close to heating the truck. Still I'm committed and press on.

We stopped at the last gas station in Missouri for gas at under $3 a gallon. That a big 9.6 gallons in the '52 so she was four-tenths from empty. I decide to fill my gas cans. (a good move).

We hammer out again, into Illinois. By this time it's 11 pm and I'm worn out. I had been up since 5 am and Randy is a farm boy. So it was time to quit for the day.

As we head into the motel parking lot, the right exhaust pipe that was red-necked into place with flex pipe, decides to separate. Problem #6. It was loud as hell in the cab. I decided that was a problem for the next morning.

We got a room and called it quits. After I finally got warm, I slept like a baby until my wife called me at 2 am wondering if I was alright. I barely remember talking to her.

I woke up just in time to miss the breakfast buffet at the motel, but Randy told me it was "pretty good" as he headed for the shower. Some 45 minutes later, we are heading out again.

The gas station next to the motel where I had planned to fill up was out of business, so we continued north. I figured the truck might be getting 16 miles to the gallon. I was close. It gets 15. I ran out of gas.

I put in the spare gas I had and pumped the gas pedal, only to find the battery wasn't really all that good. The truck started, but barely. We headed out again.

After fueling and re-filling the cans east of Effingham, I notice a sign for bar-b-q. Since I missed the breakfast buffet, I was starving and I happen to love bar-b-q.

I really love bar-b-q. I learned how to cook it right when I lived in Texas. In Texas, bar-b-q isn't food, it's a religion. Slow cooking in a perfectly maintained temperature, a watchful eye, the perfect mesquite or hickory and melt in your mouth goodness with the perfect tangy sauce to accent, not cover, the smooth smoked taste of the meat. I have learned over the years nobody seems to know how to make the stuff north of the Mason Dixon, with the exception of the St. Louis area.

We pull into the bar-b-q joint in Greenup, Illinois and although a little bit skiddish of what I was going to find, I ordered a sampler plate for both Randy and me. What we got was the most godawful excuse for bar-b-q I think I've ever had. When the girl who worked there asked us how everything was, Randy sat quiet. I could not just simply sit there so, I told her. "I didn't think it was possible to cook bar-b-q by simply dumping kerosene on a piece of dried out meat to cook it. But I guess I learned something today. By the way, the potato salad ... let's be honest ... you guys bought that out of the deli case at the gas station, didn't you? Oh yeah, I told you I wanted hot bar-b-q sauce and instead, you dumped Tabasco sauce on everything. I happen to like Tabasco, but for bar-b-q. I want bar-b-q sauce. I'm sorta funny that way." She simply turned and walked away. My gut was rolling.

We light out again. This time I figure we are getting close enough to home that if anything goes wrong, I can call my buddy with the wrecker. Up to this point, I was holding my speed at 60 and easing the throttle to save gas. Not this time. I hammered the gas as we entered the highway and the 350 came to life. The truck squatted in the rear and the old truck took off with all the power a hillbilly rigged two barrel carb could give.

I was cold, suffering from heartburn, worried about getting stopped by the cops, wondering if maybe I had made a mistake by buying the truck, not to mention damned near deaf from the exhaust -- but all that went away. Dang this thing is quick, even as it is. A good carb, a proper tune up, and some TLC and this thing might just work out well.

I was suddenly happy and felt optimistic. Then I noticed the oil pressure gauge fluctuating and the pressure start to drop a bit. We stopped again at a truck stop. I added a gallon of diesel motor oil to the engine and it brought to level to just past full. I looked under the truck to find the front seal had given up completely and now the back seal was leaking. Before we got home, I would add another gallon.

As we left the truck stop to get back in the Interstate, we got stopped by a red light. I looked in the mirror and see a cop slowing down to stop right next to me. Great. Maybe my luck was about to REALLY run out. If the cop stops me, I'm getting a fist full of tickets. With no way to prove the truck is what it's supposed to be, I'll lose it forever and my money will be gone.

I look at the cop and wave, and he gives me the thumbs up. Whew! A brother gearhead!

As we wait for the light, I'm looking at this switch on the dash and wondering what the hell it does. So, stupid decides to push the thing. Remember I said the truck had a siren under the hood? Guess what it's hooked to?

After the racket dies down, I sheepishly look over at the cop, knowing he probably has his gun pointed at me. He grins and shakes his finger at me. I wave again, smile nervously, and thank God as the light changes. The cop takes off as I ease away trying not to make too much noise, and not to get ahead of him so he notices the truck doesn't have a license plate.

Another tank of gas, and more oil, and I'm backing the truck into the gravel behind my yard. This part is over.

I'll have to deal with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles I'm sure, and I expect a hassle. But in the end, I figure it will all work out. Soon enough the snow will disappear and the sun will return, and an old guy will spend his time turning a diamond in the rough into something a bit more presentable.

Somebody called the truck a "rat rod" and I intend to de-rat it and spend many years just driving and enjoying the thing. I figure if everything goes well, maybe the next road trip will have a little less drama. It’s gonna be awhile before the next one though. I probably won’t thaw out until April.


Keep track of this old Chevy truck restoration project details in the DITY Gallery and check for new photos to the Photobucket album. Any and all questions welcome! If you post in the forum, others can share in the discussion. Thanks ~ Editor


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