The Gallery
 

1954 Canadian-made 1 1/2-Ton Farm Truck




 

 

"Old Bertha"

Owned by Warren Keillor
Bolter # 23195
Ontario, Canada


 
11 January 2010
# 2734

From Warren :

Hi Guys,

I have owned this 1954 Chevy 1.5-ton farm truck with the original flatbed and racks, for close to 30 years. It is all original. When I bought, though, it had a rod out (run dry of oil).

The $50 price written in soap on the windshield caught my eye as I drove by a farm in Beamsville, Ontario way back in the 70's. I was tooling along in my 1969 Citron 2CV, on a brilliant spring morning. I bought it, as is, on the spot. I couldn’t tow it with my 2CV, a two cylinder, four on the firewall, French technical orphan, much loved by students for tipping over during student riots in France, and myself, for the shear pleasure of driving it.

I camped in at the farm and got to know everyone in the area quite quickly. The farmer and family loved old “Bertha” and felt it was going to a good home. Modern farming was changing their needs to a new semi tractor trailer fleet.

I was introduced to the kid next door who was given his Grandfather’s 1954 Chevy car. He was hot to trot to yank the six, and put in a 327. That six only had 37,000 miles on the car since new.

I rolled up my sleeves and went to work helping him pull the engine and hook it on the front of the tractor manure lift. We took it to the farm next door. With encouragement from the nice folks I bought the truck from, I set up a garage there under a big Maple tree.

 

The old photo on the left shows my old '54 Chevy ton and a half at work. She's supporting a model set way up in the air on a parking lot that the actors were walking around on.

By shooting through a hole in the model, the actors appeared to be walking through the science fiction set. Needless to say, this is dead easy in the digital age. The Chev made it easy back then in 1976, being able to move it anywhere to catch the light just so. Both the set and actors were lit but the real sky and matching shadows were not.

I may also be able to find the flying saucer device that just so happened to fit neatly on the back of the truck, too, in shipping crates. I invented it for the movie as a way to make flying saucers appear to fly anywhere you wanted them on location without expensive optical effects. It made it possible to shoot this low budget script back then, saving way over a million bucks in optical effects, and allowing everything to be shot on location.

You can see that old “Bertha” had a good workout in that film with over 13.5 months of shooting. She was also a picture vehicle. I’ll see if I can find her with the actor in my archives.

Things went very well with frequent celebrations in the wine cellar of the grape farm next door, testing the vintages from former years, as neighbours got together after work at the boy’s next door.

Finally “Bertha” was a runner, and what a lovely one at that. She could sit at 60 miles an hour perfectly smoothly all day long, getting 26 miles to the Imperial gallon (bigger than those American gallons).

Since I was working in the film industry, “Bertha” got lots of work as a picture vehicle in various feature films [ “Starship Invasions” 1976 staring Robert Vaughn and Christopher Lee; “Sudden Fury”1974; “Clown Murders” with John Candy, who I am most sorry, has passed away ] and television commercials over the years.

There were other production we used this vintage truck in as well. Until one day I was stopped by a cop who was under instructions from his boss to get the old vehicles off the road. I was on the way to a shoot, but he insisted I was to drive 20 miles across Toronto to the dreaded Falstaff Ave safety inspection station where many were sent ... and few returned. I was given four hours to report to the inspection station. But one can’t not-show-up when working in film. I then had to turn in the plates.

Then the old truck went into storage and was stored 200 miles away at my folks place in a warehouse. After my folks passed away, I sold the property, but couldn’t part with “Bertha.” So I have her with friends, and am putting her back on the road after a complete body off restoration. It will take some time, but she is not in terrible shape. That Chevy has a lot of presence, that I feel like preserving.

I have restored quite a few vehicles over the years: a ’27 Chev sedan, a ‘30 Model A, Triumph TR 3 sports car, and have a ’35 Morris 8 two seater tourer underway, as well. All have been kept absolutely original, except for grief with tires. As I write this, I notice a cute little watercolour painting of the Chevy, by artist Don Lougheed. Clustered around my boat building site, on the Toronto waterfront back in the 1970’s, along with the 2CV Citroen, there is the 1.5-ton while. I was building my ocean going schooner, “Solstice Moon.” Those indeed were cheerful days.

My Chev 1.5-ton has 7.50 X18 tires that I am having a hard time getting. The original ’54 tires are old and cracked. They are the first and only tires she ever had. The truck never was used much, or badly, except run dry of oil by the owner's sons.

Cheers,

Warren
Keillor Film Industries

-30-


Home | FAQ | Forum | Swap Meet | Gallery | Tech Tips | Events | Features | Search | Hoo-ya Shop


No parts of this site, its contents, photos or graphics may be used without permission.

Copyright © 1995-2017
Mechanicsville, Maryland