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1961 Chevy Apache

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Leonardtown, Maryland



Owned by Steven Hensyel
Bolter # 20573
Seattle, Washington

Talking about this truck
in the DITY Gallery

02 May 2009
# 2596

From Steve :


This is my 1961 Chevy Apache along with some of the story...

I found this a little over a year ago (early 2008) on Craigslist and fell in love immediately ... had to have it. Thought for sure it'd already be sold by the time I got hold of the guy ... but it wasn't!

I happened to have the cash on hand (neglecting rent, bills, food, beer...) so I bought it right away. Then I sold my '96 Ford Contour for the same amount a few weeks later making it basically a trade.

The previous owner said she'd originally been a work truck at Monroe State Prison here in Washington State. The glove box cover does sport a faded shield shaped sticker along with a list of "RULES FOR BEING A SAFE DRIVER" -- Rule #1: DOES NOT GET IN ACCIDENTS. Brilliant. So even once she's all restored I'll be keeping that just like it is.

Well she ran great aside from a few quirks you'd expect from a truck in her condition. Brakes and clutch were dodgy. I had to pump them both to shift and / or stop and even then they barely worked. Eventually they got so bad, the brakes were non-existent. So I did replace the rear shoes and some of the lines just to get her stopping again. The biggest problem was the rear wheel cylinders. They leaked so bad the inside of the drums were awash in fluid. So I replaced those too and finally had some real pressure on the brake pedal.

She's got a straight 6 which I believe is a 230. Leaks oil all over the place and none of the gauges work except the oil light and the generator light (always on). But I took her on a couple road trips down around Portland and didn't have any problems whatsoever. Most of the year I've had her she's been totally reliable.

Until recently...

Now, this is my own fault for goofing around but here's where my problems started. I was showing it off to a friend and revving up the single barrel carburetor with my thumb higher and higher when lo and behold I went too far and the thing jammed wide open and died. So there I am in the dark removing this screw to get things loose enough to slip back in place and a spring went flying off into nowhere along with the screw. Found the screw a week later but never found the spring. So I figured out a way to bailing-wire it together and maintain idle. Heh. Yay, back on the road!

That lasted a few months until she suddenly started burning oil and in fact died on the highway. The dipstick was dry so I walked on over and bought oil at a gas station to the tune of $25 or so. She started back up but had no top-end power. I could barely crawl from second into third gear and ended up having her towed to my buddy's house where she's been sitting a while now.

I replaced the oil pressure sending unit after I noticed a lot of oil leaking around it, thinking I just wasn't getting enough oil pressure to maintain high rpm. It didn't work. So then another buddy bought a 350 for his '62 Nova and offered me his strong-running Inline 6 as a replacement. I thought that'd be great but looking at his mounts and mine and the bellhousing, it didn't look like it'd just bolt right up.

So then we got to looking at his old motor laying there in the garage and figured I could just take some parts and get this thing fixed in a jiffy. I'd been having vacuum advance issues ever since I goofed up my carburetor so I took his HEI distributor to replace mine and my mechanical vacuum advance. Plus I grabbed his 12-volt alternator figuring I'd double the juice going to the plugs. That's gotta be good right? Then looking at his manifolds, I figured I'd just replace my intake, exhaust and carburetor all in one shot. I knew my exhaust manifold was cracked and needed replacing anyway so why not?

Well, turns out my exhaust manifold wasn't just cracked it was split in two. And his doesn't match up with mine. So now I need a replacement. Mounted his alternator and carburetor onto my stuff and switched out the distributors. Now I'm just looking for an exhaust manifold and hopefully all this will go back together and get me on the road soon.

I know I have some rewiring to do for the 6-volt to 12-volt conversion and I'm not entirely sure the HEI fits right yet but I'm hoping once I get these things configured and adjust the timing that I won't have to replace the motor after all.

Think that about covers it for now. If anybody has some good advice, I'd sure like to hear it. You can probably tell I don't know much about what I'm doing but I'm enjoying (most) every minute of it.



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