A 'virtual garage' of antique Chevy & GMC trucks from around the World
1939 Chevy JC Pickup Truck
01 October 2007
From Ken :
Hello from Bolivia. I have been working on the 1939 JC Master pickup for about a year now, a little bit at a time. I am now getting to the last stages! I am trying to upgrade this truck to make it a daily driver. Some people in the States are more purists and I understand that. Here where I am, to go back to original with the truck would have rendered it undrivable. There are no car museums or shows to take it to. So the only way to enjoy the truck, is to upgrade it as much as possible, making it safer and more reliable.
Don't get me wrong, the '39 was built to be reliable, but it was also built to carry heavy loads on bad roads at low speeds. In 1939 they didn't think about stop and go traffic ... so I installed a reconditioned 1977 model 250 six and a 700r4 tranny. (Frame and engine). They didn't think about parallel parking ... so I installed power steering. They didn't think about quick stops .... so I installed power discs up front and new brakes on rear axle.
I have just finished sandblasting the cab, which removed a ton of bondo and the current white paint, a green layer, a blue layer, and under it all was the original color of the truck, which was red. (Front)
Actually, after removing the dash, we found a patch of original red color that probably has never seen the sun. After polishing it a bit, the brilliance came back and I could only imagine how the truck looked when it was new. It must have been pretty sharp.
So, that is the color that I plan to match to repaint the truck. It is a Sherwin Williams automotive paint. Everything has been sandblasted, painted first with wash primer, then a primer coat, then paint on top. The frame has four primer coats and two final coats.
The reason that Chevy mounted their bumpers to the frame with leaf spring cushions was because the Huck brakes were so poor. They would stop, but after pumping them a time or two and then they would slow you down. In our traffic here you need better brake response.
Another thing I have done with the truck is to keep it as Chevy as possible. I don't like Japanese parts on an American classic, but here in Bolivia, I am very limited on the parts I can find. When I discovered that a Nissan rear end was 1/2 inch narrower that the original Chevy rear end and had 6 lugs on 5.5 centers, just like the original truck design, I found a rear end and bought it. It was brand new. The brake shoes and drums had zero wear. The wheel cylinders were still shiny. When I pulled the axles, the ring and pinion had no wear. The gears were not even marked. I bought the whole rear end for $300.
I pulled the axles in order to change lug studs to 1/2 American instead of metric, all four wheels have the same lugs. I also installed a Toyota power steering box because it fit the frame perfectly and I bought it for $80.
On the front axle I have Toyota rotors because they are 6 hole and GM calipers on my disc brake setup. I imported a 1991 Chevy truck tilt steering column with column shifter that I bought off eBay. The transportation and import duty cost more that the column, but at least I have a collapsible column. So if I do have a wreck, I wont have the steering wheel in my chest.
I know there are kits available for disc brakes, but I made my own at a fraction of the cost. Also there are power steering kits, but I have done it for a fraction of the cost. It has been a real learning and understanding experience.
When I am through with the truck, it will have power steering, power disc brakes, emergency brakes that work, a collapsible steering column, a 250 GM six with flow tech headers, 9.5 pistons, Clifford intake, and electronic ignition. I am using a Rochester 2 bbl app 420 cfm. The truck will have power windows and door locks, for security reasons. I will also install an air conditioner, but will rig it from Japanese parts here because it will be much easier to work on later if need be. I know I could get an AC kit in the states, but it would be unique here and would be hard to get parts for in the future.
All in all it has been a costly but rewarding experience, and I am looking forward to driving the truck. I am not building it to sell, or show, or stick in a museum. I am just building it for me to play with. I think I will have a lot of fun with truck, and I have definitely given the '39 a new life. If I hadn't bought it and done what I have, it would have been running around town with Toyota engine and tranny with no suspension work and plenty of bondo and pretty paint.
I do have one question for anyone that has changed their original door locks and replaced them with bear claw latches. My original door locks are very worn and need to be replaced. I have looked up the bear claw latches on the Internet, but I don't know enough about them to say I need the small ones, medium ones, or large ones. Hopefully, one of you has made this adaptation and has more knowledge about it than me.
A little more history on the truck. I found my truck by driving around. Actually it was on a used car lot here in town. I don't know of any other way to find old cars or trucks here but to hit the road and look for them -- and by word of mouth with the old car club members here. There were a lot of American cars imported from the 1930's to the 1970's. After that, the Japanese cars took over.
Thanks for any info you may have about door lock swaps. Regards to all and the best of luck on your projects.
18 December 2006
From Ken :
Hello from Bolivia! I am an American citizen that has lived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia for the last 12 years. I am the recently proud owner of a 1939 Chevy JC pickup truck. I bought the pickup here in Santa Cruz, Bolivia and am presently doing a frame up restoration. I have installed disc brakes on my straight axle and have installed roller wheel bearings.
The "JC" denotes light delivery, or 1/2-ton pickup with short bed. I think that was the way it was described in '39. I think that was the only year this designation was used. Unfortunately, my truck does not have the original identification plate on the firewall. All I have is the original engine number.
I am waiting on an order I made for king pins and tie rod ends, drag link ends and such as well as body and bed mounts to continue. Meanwhile, the truck is stripped to the frame and awaiting its next life!
After buying my truck, I surfed the net looking for information about it and encountered a wealth of information on old Chevy trucks. Previous to this, I hadn't considered that the old Chevys had such a following. Thanks to this purchase, I have met several fine people over the net and have received an enormous amount of advice, help to find vendors, and technical tips. It seems that quite a family of Stovebolters has formed around the world.
It's funny but when I bought my truck, several Bolivians asked me why I had bought an old junky truck. But after showing them pictures of restored trucks on the internet, they were astounded at the beauty of the the restored trucks. It's already been quite an experience for me and I am sure I will continue with this. In fact, it has come to my attention that Bolivia is an excellent hunting ground for old Chevy trucks, because many were imported over the years.