'16 - '35 The Early Years
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01 December 2014
# 3097

1928 Chevy AB Canapony Express
Owned by
Dean Meltz
Bolter # 329


1928 Chevrolet AB Canopy Express



More pictures and feedback in Gallery Forum

From Dean :

Here are some pics of Justin, my 1/2-ton 1928 Chevy AB Canopy Express. He is a 'National' series (built on the AB National car chassis), not a Capital series.

I hope to find out more of the story of the old truck but here is what I have so far.

A Boeing engineer by the name J.T. Morgan bought an 11 acre farm in Martinez, CA in December 1954. JT found this truck rusting away on that property. JT's daughter let me scan a couple of family photos from 1956 that show the truck on the farm. Those pics are here and here.

Ole JT pulled the truck into his garage and tinkered with it for the next 54 years until his death in 2009. Some time during that long spell of tinkering, he replaced a lot of the wooden body parts and re-did a lot of mechanical stuff. Sad to say, he never got it running. Not sad to say, because the truck was being worked on all the while, it spent all that time inside JT's garage, out of the weather.

After JT passed away, nobody in the family wanted to take on this unfinished project. They did feel strongly that they wanted to truck to go to a good home, since it had been such a big part of JT's life.

Thanks to Lurch's notoriety ( Lurch is Dean's 1927 1-Ton Chevy Cattle Truck ~ Editor ), I was told by a friend-of-a-friend about this truck. I contacted the family. I was privileged to be able to buy it in the summer of 2010. I named it Justin (JT's first name) to honor the truck's previous owner.

There are some photos in the Gallery Forum that show:

  1. The truck being moved from his home in the Sacramento area (JT Morgan moved from Martinez to Fair Oaks in the late 1960's) into the "fairy tale trailer" (not mine, borrowed for the day).
  2. Four pictures showing me and my friends unloading a reluctant Justin (four flat tires and one seized brake) from his trailer and into his new home in my carport.
  3. One photo of Justin at the 2014 Ironstone Winery Concours D'Elegance
  4. Two pics of Laura Forbes (JT's daughter), her husband Ron, and their grandson Eli visiting me and Justin at a car show in 2016. This is the first time that Laura saw the truck together and running since she was six years old!! I gave her a ride and we both cried.
  5. One photo from 2018 when I got permission from the current owner of the Martinez property to drive Justin there for a photo op. This is the first time he drove under his own power on that property in over 60 years!!!
  6. One photo of Justin in the Cherry Festival Parade with fruit crates and fake fruit going to market. Notice the name on the side of the truck, "Justin Tyme Produce". ;-)

It took me two years to find and fix JT's mistakes. ( It is impressive to see Justin in his "before" state as compared to the picture we have on this page ~ Editor ) If I listed everything that I did on the truck those first two years, it would take three pages!  But here are the highlights, pretty much in chronological order.

  1. Put Marvel Mystery Oil in the cylinders while I worked on other stuff. The engine soaked for many months before I even tried to turn it over manually.
  2. Brakes - They had new linings, but needed some pins and adjustment bolts.
  3. Replaced one split wheel hub. Here are three photos of the hub puller I built because the threads of the hub were destroyed: here, here, and here.
  4. New tires and inner tubes
  5. New throwout bearing
  6. Lubed speedo gears and had re-magnetized
  7. Replaced all lubricants
  8. Installed vacuum tank for fuel delivery (this was missing)
  9. Had gas tank cleaned and sealed
  10. New fuel lines and filters
  11. Rewired whole truck with modern wires
  12. Had radiator cleaned out. The core was good, but lot's of junk in it
  13. Flushed and back-flushed engine with clean water. After sitting for 40 years, there was a LOT of rust and junk in the cooling passages.

At this point, I need to say that a lot of mechanical stuff was done to the engine in 1971, but it never fired for ole' JT. New pistons, new rings, new babbitt bearings, valves ground, and some other stuff.

A couple of crucial mistakes that JT made, which I corrected:

  1. The flywheel was oriented incorrectly so the timing marks did not match up with TDC and 25 degrees BTDC.  I painted new timing marks on the flywheel.
  2. The distributor was 180 degrees from where it should've been.
  3. Tightened rod end caps. They were on finger tight, but at least the cotter pins in!

On December 19, 2012, I fired up the truck for the first time in close to 60 years. winkie That engine is completely original and ran nice. After I drove him around for a while, the ring and pinion gears stripped. I replaced the rear differential and torque tube with a good, used unit.

Since then, I've continued to make repairs and adjustments to Justin so he can be a driver.

Last summer, Justin attended a few car shows and was quite a hit. Like Lurch, he provided a unique contrast to the don't-touch-me-unless-you-are-naked trailer queens. winkie Here is a photo of Justin at Ironstone Winery Concours D'Elegance in 2014.

I took him on a 120-mile joint tour with the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America and the Durant Motors Club.. He performed magnificently!! 

Bill Barker, the Webmaster of the VCCA, visited my house on his way home from the 2014 VCCA Route 66 Bucket Tour. While visiting, he took a video tape ride around my neighborhood. If you want to read the whole story about the VCCA Route 66 Bucket Tour, here is a link to the beginning of it.

Last year, I took Justin for a "Show and Tell" day at the local high school auto shop. I spent the entire day. It was a blast!

Five separate classes spent their class time exploring my truck and asking questions about it. I also left a handful of VCCA G&D magazines for the students to read.

To say they were excited and interested is an understatement. They snapped pictures, and both they and I had a ball.

Evidently, Justin was talked about the next week at "Back to School" night. A lot of the students' parents had great things to say about Justin's visit to school. In a few days, pictures appeared in the slideshow on the high school's web site.

In my search for more information on Justin, I tried California DMV records, but they don't go back that far. I am tracing the property ownership for the farm. So far, I've found that the guy who owned the farm before JT Morgan started a construction company which is still in the family and still in Martinez. I've contacted the family, but nobody currently living remembers the truck.



I would think it safe to say that Justin will be as big a star as Lurch. It is a mighty fine thing you have done. Not only saving old iron, preserving the history, but giving a name and story to it all. Some of those kids may not remember the years of the trucks, but they will remember their names, and their adventures, and the enjoyment of keeping it all alive. Here's hoping Justin has as fun a career in the limelight as Lurch has enjoyed. And you, too! ~ Editor


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