1956 Chevy 3600
01 July 2005
I found this truck thru a friend in Kansas. It had been parked in his neighbor's yard for years. Every time I asked him what year / make, he looked at me like I was an idiot. "It's O-L-D" he said, implying it was J-U-N-K.
A year or so later, I went to help him move and got to meet the truck for the first time. Love at first sight doesn't begin to cover it. I wanted it bad. (Side note: this is now known as the onset of "Stovebolt fever.")
When I met the old fella who owned it, my second question was about the truck. Gotta be polite, right? He told me I was the 100th person that had asked about it. The first time he said it was for sale ... $1500 and I could take it home.
His Dad had bought it used in '58 or '59, and it had been a farm truck since. I promised him I would be back for it, tho it might take awhile. He said it wasn't going anywhere. LOL I asked "Oh, by the way .... does it run and drive?" He says, "You bet, but if you want to drive it home, you better pack a lunch." It had a 5:13 rearend, I discovered.
I left him with a promise that I would return. 18 months of saving my pennies, I was ready to go get her, finally. Unfortunately, I could only swing one day, (two if I had to have it), away from work to go and get her -- 850 miles round-trip, in February. I hooked the rented hauler to the back of a borrowed 1/2-ton X-cab Chevy (NOT the best choice of a pull rig) and away we went.
We left Colorado about 4 in the afternoon, expecting to arrive approximately 9 pm. Who would have thought that all the gas stations closed at 9 pm during the week? So when we ran out of gas 1/4 of a mile from the truckstop exit, we took it in stride. All part of the fun. Plus, we had an S-10 Blazer on the trailer and a gas can. We only lost about an hour -- not too bad.
We arrived to pick her up at midnight, and Jack (the soon-to-be-previous owner) met us with open arms and cooked a fine breakfast. Over breakfast, he tells me he gassed it up and charged the battery earlier in the day, and ran it awhile. Good thing, considering there was 18" of snow and the temps were around -20F. We went out to load her up, and I was amazed when Jack jumped in, pulled the choke and she started rite up! (-20 F!!!)
It took a few tries to get her to get up on the hauler, with the cold bias tires and the icy ramps, but we finally had it tied down and ready to go. (Here is where the poor choice of tow vehicle reared it's ugly head.) It took a few tries to get rolling on the ice, but somehow I kept us out of the ditch. Westward Hooooooooooo!!
The roads cleared up, and we were able to make decent time, considering that at any speed above 55 mph, we did a great snake impression. No problem. It was 2 am and the highways were pretty quiet. So we ran 50 mph and rolled right along, stopping at regular intervals for fill-ups. We didn't t want to repeat the fun from earlier. We joked that we could put the pull rig on the trailer and take it home with the '56. :D Little did we know.
At every fuel stop, one to ten people would gather around the truck. Comments ranged from "Cool truck!" to "My Dad had one just like it!" "Is it for sale?" Amazing the effect of an old truck on people.
So we keep rolling along, cursing the 1/2-ton tow rig every time a semi passed, or we went downhill. All was going well enough. Somewhere near Nowhere, USA (West Kansas / Eastern Colorado), we noticed that the gas gauge says 1/2, and there is no sign of a town. We keep rolling and start hoping. We passed a whole bunch of nothing, on and on. Now a quarter tank. Still nothing. "E" still nothing. "W" for walking -- comes soon after, and still no gas station.
Since we were on the side of the road with nothing better to do, I had plenty of time to think back to my childhood, where Grandpa always kept a siphon hose behind the seat of his '53 5-window. (The '56 didn't have a ball on the back.) Sure enough, we found a hose!! And since Jack had gassed it up, it was a quick fill and away we went! Jack and the '56 did end up saving the day after all.
I arrived home with my treasure at 10 am, after 18 hours of driving. I still couldn't wait to unload her and drive around the neighborhood just once. She's now in process of a frame up, as you can see. My wrecking crew made quick work of taking her apart, and we're getting her back together a little at a time. Easy restoration, since the only missing items were the bedwood and wiper knob. All original, 235 engine and 4-speed. After this, I have a '53 5 window, a '56 / '57 panel, and a '58 shortbed to do.
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