Kyle Fort's

1961 Chevrolet 1/2-Ton


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20 February 2006
# 1442

From Kyle:

         I finally got around to taking some pictures of my truck today. She is a bare bones 1961 Chevrolet 1/2-ton. There is literally not one option on the whole truck.

         My Dad bought her from a local wheat farmer about four years ago. The farmer is the original owner of the truck, making my Dad the second owner, and me the third. The truck was bought at the local Chevrolet Dealership, which is still doing business today. A surprisingly healthy 235 and 4 speed combination resides under the hood, which according to the farmer is the trucks factory original hood. I was not aware that this hood was available on a 1961 but I was not about to argue with the man who bought it new in ’61. Could this hood really be factory equipment? My Dad and I have come to the conclusion that it is at least possible that the hood is original due to a production error or some sort of special order situation.

         So, my Dad bought the truck four years ago, but how did it come into my possession? It is actually pretty simple. Last year when I graduated from college, I was in the market for a newer car. My parents told me that they would help me with a down payment as part of my graduation present. I was excitedly searching for a car one day when Dad called me. He informed me that he had put the ’61 up for sale and would send me the money when it sold. I had always liked the old truck and had hoped to acquire it someday. I was unhappy that he was going to sell it to say the least.

         After a week of looking at characterless Hondas and the like, I called my Dad. I told him that I wanted the truck. He just laughed and said, “What for?” I explained to him that I would rather drive the ’61 than have him get rid of it. He told me that I was nuts but if I wanted it, then I could have it. So I drove my college car, a 1981 Plymouth Champ, down to my parent’s house and picked up the truck. It actually worked out perfect because my little brother drives the Champ and I got to have the truck!

         Now that I am the proud owner of this fabulous old vehicle and I have been mulling over some plans for it. Originally, I wanted to swap in a small block and an automatic transmission and go the custom hot rod route. The more that I drive the truck, the more I think that I want to keep it original.

         The condition of the paint initially makes a person think that this truck is in rough shape. Actually the body is in really good shape. There is a small crease / drag mark that runs down the passenger side, and the front quarter panels have a little bit of rust on the trailing edges behind the front tires. Other than that, all of the rust is light surface rust that will easily sand off. It has no cancer of any kind anywhere on it.

         The paint looks terrible but that is to be expected for paint that is 45 years old! I plan on painting it the truck factory green in the spring and doing some general freshening of the body and interior. The truck will remain stock and I am going to keep it rough enough to still be a work truck, at least for now. I feel that if it was built to work, then that is what I should use it for.

         The truck is my daily driver and dutifully performs that task and anything else that I throw at it. I have pulled trailers full of junk and firewood. She has even pulled a nice shiney new Fqrd out of a ditch during a snowstorm! The other day, I took a load of old wall plaster to the dump. It squatted the rear end maybe an inch and felt kind of heavy on the road but still drove well. When I got my receipt the readout said that I had hauled 1,800 pounds! This truck is a serious worker and has no inclination to stop.

         I have had the opportunity to do a little bit of work to the truck in the six months that I have owned it. I got it a new set of tires for Christmas. They are a little too big for my liking but they sure do well in the snow! I have changed the oil, greased the Zerks, topped of the tranny and rear end with lube and done all of the fluid-related things I can think of.

         I had a new exhaust hung by a local shop. I had them imitate the factory piping as much as possible. It is a very clean sounding single pipe with a factory style muffler.

         I spent two weekends pulling out useless wires and fixing some really poorly done splices and connections. The taillight lenses are new, and I cleaned and rebuilt most of the housing and wiring for them. That was a horrible and frustrating job. My taillights did not work right. One didn’t flash and the other didn’t work when the brakes were in use. It turned out to be the grounding clips that the mounting screws for the light housing screw into. I replaced the grounding clips, sanded all of the contact points, and put it back together. All of this work paid off -- my tail lights are really bright and work like new. I have also rebuilt the turn signal mechanism in the steering column which was actually a fun job. My most recent upgrade was a new air filter housing. You can see it in the picture of the engine bay. I bought the filter from Langdon’s Stovebolt and am very pleased with it. The main reason that I bought it was to replace the old oil bath air cleaner which was a pain to change and didn’t look nearly as good! I have the old oil bath in the garage and I might be talked in to selling it for the right price. I look forward to doing more work to the truck as Spring rolls around.

         I am really having a lot of fun with the old girl. She has her troubles but for the most part, she is a great truck. One of my favorite things about the truck is how many people notice it. Little kids are always pointing at it. I get the friendly nod or wave from a lot of the old farmers around town. I have a lot of older guys that come up and talk to me about the truck. It happens at all kinds of places -- my driveway, the grocery store, NAPA, the Post Office, and all kinds of other places. I like owning a truck that has some character and presence. I am really excited to get it painted because then it will get a lot more respect and I will know that people aren’t just looking at my interesting paint job.

         I also get a lot of offers from people to buy the truck. The other day I had a guy follow me from the gas station back to my house and ask what I wanted for the truck. I told him that I really wanted a 5 speed! Seriously though, I told him that she was not for sale. He gave me his card and told me to call him if I ever want to sell. I did not tell him but he is about eighth in line. I have a stack of business cards in the glove box from people that have offered to buy it. I do not think that I will be calling any of these guys. Ever. But it never hurts to have a backup plan.

         I have probably gone on long enough. I love the truck. Love the time I get to spend in it. Love the conversations that it starts with complete strangers and most of all love dreaming about what it will look like when I am finished. Here's one last picture of my '61 and my dog Brandy while I was out camping last summer.

         The Stovebolt Page is my absolute favorite and has helped me in my quest to fix my old ‘bolt. It is nice to know that I share a common passion (pronounced “mental illness”) with so many others.

         THIS PAGE ROCKS -- STOVEBOLTS FOREVER!!!!!

Thanks,

Kyle Fort
"Fort Knox"
Bolter # 9168
Pullman, Washington



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