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"2 Ton Tess"

Owned by Renee Henault
"2 Ton Tess"
Bolter # 23676
Pioneer, CA

Talking about this truck
in the DITY Gallery

20 April 2010
# 2778

More pictures of my old truck

From Renee :

In 1994, I was assigned to a large wildland fire near Entiat, WA. Over Memorial Day weekend in 1996, a group of friends and family were having a campout / dirtbike ride in the same area. We were out riding, taking pictures of wildflowers, etc, when we drove past "2 Ton Tess." It was a 1953 Chevy 6400. Of course, we turned around to check out the truck.

The "For sale" sign had fallen down out of view. There was no one around the nearby farm, so we went on our way. Soon after, I went off to California for my summer job fighting fires. While I was gone, my husband went back and bought the truck for my 24th birthday!

The truck had belonged to the Deatherage Family, and had spent its life hauling apples and pears to the packing house. It had just over 53,000 miles. My husband and friend Craig drove the truck back over Stevens Pass, after nothing more than an oil change.

When I came home for the winter, I drove the truck a little, polished a spot here and there. One day, I decided to check the front brakes and wheel bearings. By the time my husband got back from work that night, the entire front end of the truck was laying on the shop floor.

The body was in great condition, being from Eastern Washington -- no rust whatsoever. Years of strapping fruit totes had taken it's toll, though. Lots of dents to pound and sand and fill and sand. Did I mention sanding?

I tried to match the original paint color, and had my pal at the local airport paint shop spray the outside. We shot the interior ourselves, had the seat re-done with leather, etc. We replaced everything rubber, and decided to upgrade to a 292 and a 12v system.

I had made a lot of progress on the truck in the winters of 96/97/98. Then I got a full-time firefighting job in California in 2000. The truck stayed in WA until I could buy a house / build a garage. The truck came down in 2003, and sat.

When I got the engine back from the machine shop in 1999, there was no hole for the dipstick. I couldn't figure out if I threw out the old dented oil pan and replaced it with the wrong one or what. By the time I was at that point in assembly, the machine shop was out of business. Go figure.

I also came to a couple of dead-ends (cause I wasn't sure how to wire it) with the electric fan, Painless wiring harness -- making it work with 12V one wire alternator, and a couple other things.

Tess finally made it in my new garage this winter. The first thing on the long project list -- we ended up having to drill a hole in the engine block for the dipstick. We also figured out the block had been swapped at the machine shop. (Always write down your block #!)

I imported my friend Craig from Washington for a week to help with the first start of the engine. We all thought it would be simple. By now I knew a bit more about wiring, and had most everything sorted out and connected.

Well, we spent a whole week of looong days beating our heads trying to make it run right, and on more than 2 cylinders. It sounded HORRIBLE.

So, I decided to pull the engine and send it out to another machine shop. The oil had a lovely pearlescent sheen. The final verdict was that the cam gear looked like someone had pounded it on with a hammer. The cam gear was on crooked, and was eating itself. So, I got all new bearings, seals, and rings. (The old ones weren't seating well after sitting for 10 years.)

I got the engine back a month ago or so, and got it started. It runs great. Now, we just have to re-adjust the valves, break it in a little, finish building the bed (I have a bit of welding to do) and bleed the brakes. Of, course there are the final touches, but it's really close. Hopefully I can have her driving before May 3 (fire season 2010.)

I will add some more pictures on my Photobucket once she's all done.

Renee Henault

Renee added a 1948 Chevy Suburban to the Gallery in April 2011 - an "updated" old Stovebolt to handle their high elevation in the mountains. Actually going to use it to replace a 2002 F*rd as their daily driver. Coolamundo! ~ Editor


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