Kimberly McDowell's

1954 Chevy 3100 5-Window

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03 June 2005

From Kimberly:

      Greetings again Stovebolters! I am pleased to share pictures of my '54 5-window 3100.

      About 10 years ago, my husband Jim and I bought the truck for $250. You see, my dad bought a 1946 F*rd pickup from my grandfather when I was about 11 (shown in one picture here). I was Daddy's helper in the garage at first. Then, like most projects, it got set aside while us kids and life got in the way. By the time my younger brother hit high-school, Dad was ready to get serious with the '46. He and my brother finished it as a father/son project just in time for my brother's high school graduation.

      Not too long after, my husband and I found this '54 sitting on the side of the road with a "For sale by owner" sign on it. My husband was fresh out of the Marine Corps and we were stone broke at the time. But we blew our entire income tax refund that year on the truck.

      Time passed. Jim and I returned to college and got responsible jobs. Along the way, we dropped out the original 235 and replaced it with an Olds 350 Rocket. Then, it sat and sat and sat. Whenever we had money, we never had time.

      I guess it sat too long, because the 350 engine started to smoke and we yanked it out in favor of a Chevy 305 that came with a newly rebuilt 350-T from another donor truck. We also replaced the rear end with one from a 1975 Chevy 4-wheel drive pickup and had the driveshaft machined (three times!) to fit.

      Jim and I eventually went back to graduate school and our situation changed from never having the time to never having the money. Finally, as Jim and I were in our final two years of our doctoral programs, Dad said he was going to finish the truck up for us as our graduation gift. He performed the major body work over the past winter in the garage in his spare time -- which was no small feat. The truck had been victimized by some large farm implement on the passenger's side and was ripped, torn, and crunched along the cab and rear fender.

      This spring, Dad put Jim and I to work stripping most of the truck to bare metal and prepping it for paint. It took the three of us about three solid weekends (long, long days) of sweating, swearing, and fighting . . . Oops! I meant sanding, priming, and prepping. Then Dad and his brother, Gary, shot the paint the second weekend in May.

      We spent three weekends and some weeknights painting the interior, applying a bedliner, reinstalling the trim, and troubleshooting some electrical gremlins.

      I am so grateful that we've had the chance to share this project. The truck isn't perfect, but we couldn't be happier. In addition to giving Jim and me an opportunity to spend quality time with Dad, we've both learned a tremendous amount and we have a cool ride to boot.

      As you can see from the pictures, we still need some new rims and tires. The original 16" rims are still on but we'll be switching to something a little better looking that fits a radial. We're also planning to replace the pine wood in the bed with a new pine bed kit (for strength); after that, we'll be done!

      We're already looking forward to the next project - a '59 Skyliner that we found on eBay. Dad, my youngest sister - Melissa, and I hauled it back from Ohio to North Dakota in one marathon 36 hour, 2200 mile trip. It is meant to replace the Skyliner Dad sold for $100 when he left to serve in Vietnam - which is another great story, but you'll have to read about it in the Greasy Spoon (2 girls, a Dad, and a '59 on a Cross Country Adventure). That trip gave Melissa the classic vehicle bug. She's already eyeballing my '63 3/4-ton 'bolt (already pictured in the gallery); she just might get it if she keeps it in the family.

      Thanks Dad! I hope it was worth the sweat. It was to us!


Kimberly McDowall female
Bismarck, ND

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