A 'virtual garage' of antique Chevy & GMC trucks from around the World
1964 Chevy 3/4-Ton 4 x 4 Panel
06 December 2007
From Greg :
This is my 1964 Chevy panel truck. It was built as a daily driver / hauler and it performs those duties without a hitch. While not a vintage restoration, I did want to retain the “flavor” of the original design. Each modification was carefully considered with a nod to the nostalgia of the sixty's era trucks. In the image above, the engine swap is completed, patch panels done, new tires, wheels and shocks.
I bought the truck in the fall of 2005 and have been working on it ever since. I am a retired Army maintenance officer (fleet manager) and was intrigued by the history of the vehicle.
The truck was purchased new out of the St. Louis, Missouri plant by the Department of Defense (DOD) as one of a 14-vehicle order. It began its life in the Army as a “range control” vehicle at the White Sands Missile Base in New Mexico. It was originally painted with good ol’ Olive Drab (O.D.) green paint, which can still be seen on some areas of the truck. It spent the next 12 years bouncing around on the dirt roads of White Sands while its drivers made sure “using units” were observing local range regulations and safety procedures.
In 1976, the U.S. Forest Service acquired the vehicle, through a government pre-auction. For the next 16 years it served as a fire-crew support vehicle in the Lincoln National Forest, New Mexico. A folding wooden bench seat was installed on the driver’s side in the cargo area. It also had an old fuse-type radio and antenna as well as an emergency vehicle light centered on the roof above the “cab area.”
In 1992, the vehicle was publicly auctioned by the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office (DRMO) and purchased by Mr. Harry McNutt. Over the next four years, it was primarily used for local hunting and family camping trips. In 1996, Harry and family relocated to Castle Rock, Washington and brought the truck with them. In Washington, it continued to serve as the family SUV on the numerous logging roads of the Pacific Northwest.
As previously mentioned, I bought the truck from Harry in 2005. By then, time and rugged use was beginning to catch up with the old girl. The engine was suffering from a cracked block (into a water-jacket), the old SM420 trans was very loose and would barely go into reverse and the front axle did not function in four-wheel drive. In other words, it was time to do some serious work. And spend some serious money.
The first priority was to get it running. As the engine was inoperable, a flatbed transport was employed to get the vehicle from Castle Rock to “Ness’s Auto Crafters” in Olympia, Washington. Once there, Bob Ness (the owner) did a thorough inspection of the entire vehicle and together we developed a game plan.
It was determined that the original 230 ci was pretty much shot and not worth rebuilding. As I am a big fan of the “stovebolt” inline six, we decided to go with the venerable 292, which is still readily available and enjoys plenty of aftermarket support. Bob had one on hand and, after “Johnson Machine” did the rebuild / balance, he did the installation and exhaust.
The motor is equipped with a Pertronix ignition unit, an Edelbrock 650 cfm carburetor, Offenhouser intake manifold and split headers with dual exhaust. During the engine swap, all the components were rebuilt or replaced including the water pump, oil pump, distributor and coil as well as all the belts and hoses. A custom-made, cross-flow radiator was also installed at that time. We installed a new replacement fuel tank, pump and all new lines. Bob also added an in-line, spin-off fuel filter / water separator.
Now that it was drivable, the next area to be addressed was the tires and wheels. It still had the original 17” split rims with eight ply, open-lug, tube-type tires. They were the kind that developed “flat spots” when parked and then “thumped” down the road until they warmed up. What a hoot. I went down to the local “Les Schwab” tire center and picked up a complete set of LT285/75R16s with a mild mud-tread. After siping, I had them mounted on “old school” aluminum wheels. The tire shop also installed gas-operated shocks on all four corners. What a difference that made in drivability.
The SM420 transmission and the “divorced” Rockwell transfer case were swapped out for a “married” SM465 and NP205 combination. The good folks at “Thurston County Transmission” (Olympia, WA) did the rebuild including all new seals and bearings. The transmission also came equipped with a “Hurst” shifter knob. It’s not an actual shifter mind you, just the knob!
The axles were next. Even though the VIN and badges indicate a 1/2-ton designation the running gear was all 3/4-ton. According to Harry, that was the way it was ordered by DOD. Indeed, on the DA Form 461-5 (used to “code-out” equipment leaving the Army system), it was identified as a 3/4-ton truck. So, in all probability, it was ordered from the factory with the upgrade.
The original closed knuckle Dana 44 was replaced with a mid-'70's open knuckle version with disc brakes and a 3.73:1 R&P. The rear “12 bolt” was replaced by a newer (again mid-'70's) “14 bolt” with drum brakes and 3.73s. I decided to leave both differentials open as they would see quite a bit of highway usage and any off-road use would be in the “mild” category. I decided to go with the original DOD specs and went with 3/4-ton axles. Both were completely rebuilt with new seals, bearings and brakes.
The trans, t-case and axle upgrades necessitated custom drivelines, which were ordered and installed by Bob. A complete factory replacement wiring harness and all new lights and switches were also installed at this time, as well as an aluminum dash panel and Autometer gauges. A set of leather / power / heated bucket seats from a 2004 Chevy Silverado also found their way into the cab.
I worked with “Zeigler’s Welding” (Olympia, WA) to design and build a very nice custom contractor’s rack. I added two “Line-Ex” coated, 3/4 inch, marine-grade plywood decks to aid in loading and unloading. They also work great as observation platforms at the local racetrack. A couple folding chairs, a cooler and some binoculars and you’re all set. “Custom Coatings” (Lacey, WA) sandblasted and powder-coated the rack, the bumpers, brush guard and grille. [ Bumpers, grille guard, contractor's rack, new glass... it's coming together. ]
I lived in a pretty nice neighborhood at the time and I guess my poor old, multi-colored, partially primered truck just didn’t fit in. One of my neighbors complained to the HOA and, even though it was registered, insured and drivable, I was “pink slipped!” In order to maintain the peace, I decided it was time for some bodywork and paint. This presented a bigger challenge than I had expected.
It was difficult to find anyone willing to do the job. Gone are the days of the “backyard paint shops.” The EPA and local zoning regulations have pretty much made them a thing of the past. None of the local body shops I contacted were interested in doing “full body” paint jobs on older vehicles. I guess there is more money to be made in collusion repair and replacement panels. The shops that were willing to do the work wanted in excess of $10,000! That exceeded by body / paint budget by about $7000.
I needed to get something done quickly. So, it was “MAACO” to the rescue. Rich Ness had already done the “patch panels” including some very tricky work above the driver-side windshield. Otherwise, the body was in very good shape. I really just needed it to be one color and more presentable for my upper-crusty neighbors. So, the body was sanded down to bare metal [ Stripping to bare metal... that was a big job! ] and a primer / sealer and medium blue paint was applied. [ Fresh paint ] I didn’t bother with the little door ding repairs as my future plans include a higher-quality paint job. Although, I must say, everyone that asks, “Who did the paint?” is surprised to hear it was “MAACO.” I guess that’s a compliment.
Along with the paint and bodywork, all the glass was custom cut (light green tint) and all the seals / wipers were replaced. Put in new weather stripping for the front doors and rear barn doors. The rubber floor matt and padding, shifter boots, doorsill plates and a bunch of other little items were also replaced at this time. An “Old-Air” air conditioning and defroster unit was installed. The manual steering gear box, rag joint, steering wheel and horn button have all been replaced. That was the last mechanical system to require attention.
On deck -- I have a “Newport Engineering” wiper system with the “wiper delay option” and a washer pump to install. I have a complete stereo system from “Classic Parts of America” including an AM/FM receiver unit, which also controls a remote 10 CD changer and dash/kick panel speakers. I am planning to leave the junky AM radio in the dash as a decoy and will conceal the new unit in a custom built console. I also have a late model headlight conversion kit with a “retro” appearance and heavy-duty wiring harness from “LMC Truck.”
Future plans include power steering and power brake upgrades and possibly power windows and door locks. As previously mentioned, the detail bodywork and a higher quality paint job will be completed. Once the new paint is applied, I will turn my attention to the interior. I already have matching armrests and visors and will have a custom headliner and console made and installed. I still have some stuff on the “punch-list” to take care of but it’s getting close to being done … if there is such a thing.
This truck has been, and continues to be, a great project. It is a blast to drive and turns heads wherever it goes. People -- from biker dudes to guys in three-piece suits -- just walk up and start asking questions or telling me about the truck their Dad used to have when they were kids. That’s the most rewarding part about driving old trucks … they seem to bring out the best in people. Well, I hope you enjoyed hearing about my panel project. I’ll see you on the road!
Here's another photo of the Panel and a highly modified 1973, Jeep CJ-5 ... preparing for a trip to Mount Ranier, WA.
I am retired from the Army but my wife is still on active duty and we were recently transferred from Ft. Lewis, Washington to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. I drove the panel with 1200 pounds of household goods in the back, our mountain bikes on top and a 1973, CJ-5 on the tow bar. A few months later, I drove back out to our property in NE Washington and picked up another 1600 pounds, our kayaks and a mostly stock 1949, Willys, CJ-2A (that tows like it's not even there). [ The "prime mover" in action at an exit ramp pit-stop in the high-desert country of Eastern Washington. We were enroute to our property outside of Colville, Washington. The boats are for use on FDR Lake and local ponds. ] Both trips were great fun and the truck performed like a champ. I was very glad I upgraded the seats!
Anyone interested in my truck can feel free to contact me via email.
WOW! What a fantastic truck -- to say the least. Thanks for the long winded version. It's more interesting for myself and others to hear how the truck came together and what changes were made. Far better than "Here's my blue truck." I like the idea of the heated newer Silverado seats. It's funny how many of us Stovebolters have Dodges or Jeeps as other vehicles. ~ Mike "Burgandybolt" Allen, Stovebolt Welcome (Panel) Wagon