1958 3200 Chevy Stepside
From Bobby :
I grew up in the small town of McAlester, Oklahoma. About the time I turned 12, I saw my first 1957 Chevy BelAir convertible and decided it was the car I wanted when I was old enough to drive. Of course, I didn’t realize how popular those cars were, and how impossible it would be to find a nice drivable one. Growing up in a small rural town, pickups were pretty popular, too. So later I decided I’d like a pickup instead. I didn’t have any particular type in mind, and it never really crossed my mind that I might get a truck quite this old.
In 1989 I turned 15 years old. My Dad was working in Anderson, South Carolina, and he spotted this 1958 Chevy 3200 Stepside sitting on a car lot. He knew how I wanted a '57 BelAir or a pickup. So, thinking this might be a nice combination of the two, he stopped in to check on it.
The truck was completely stock and looked pretty good. The story he got from the salesman was that the guy who bought it brand new in 1958 used it as a trade-in for a 1989 model. Dad made a deal on it and picked it up for $1500. He loaded it up on a trailer and hauled it back to Oklahoma.
I fell in love with the truck the first time I saw it. I believe the time between getting the truck and turning 16 so I could get my driver's license was about the longest time I ever spent in my life! Learning to drive the 3 on the tree was quite an adventure.
The truck had a decent paint job on it in the original blue color with white trim. But Dad decided to go ahead and have it re-painted for me so I could start out with a shiny new finish. I kicked around the idea of going candy apple red, but I finally decided to stay with the original color. I sure am glad I made that choice. I also added a set of mag wheels. Here is a picture of me standing by the truck shortly after I got it back from the paint shop. Notice the white painted bumpers and grille!
All my friends were fascinated with the different features, like the starter on the floor and the amount of room under the hood to work on the 235. Old Blue was my everyday driver all the way through high school, and most of the way through college. She became my everyday driver on several other occasions, too. When my newer but less reliable vehicles would go in the shop, or the other times when I was without any other means of transportation, she was there. I got really good at driving in the rain with vacuum powered wipers, or in the cold without defrosters. Driving down the road with the wheel in one hand and a towel to wipe the fog off the windshield became second nature to me.
The heater is a box heater mounted under the dash where the factory heater would have been if it had one. It’s just a simple box with a fan behind it that blows air straight through the core. I had to have it re-cored several years ago, and the core is three or four inches thick. I was told it came out of a mid '50s Chevy school bus.
Blue didn’t come with many extras when she was new. The radio blank is still in the dash (I’ve got an old Audiovox mounted in an underdash box). The heater is a later add on, and the engine has never been outfitted with any kind of oil filter. About the only extra that came on her was the big deluxe back window.
I said earlier the truck looked to be in good condition when Dad brought it home. All that driving I did started revealing everything that needed to be fixed or replaced. Over the years, almost every single component on the truck has been gone through and rebuilt or replaced.
If I recall, the rear axle seals were the first thing to go. By the time I was in college, the 235 was using a quart of oil every 60 miles, and I was buying it by the case. It never failed to start, though, usually before the starter turned over more than twice. Those old 235s are tough!
A friend of mine helped me later to rebuild the engine, and I’m working on my third tranny now. Old Blue has pretty much had a complete running restoration over the past 20 years, but many things are ready to be re-done again.
I’m starting to get a lot of rust in the typical places. The Oklahoma mud and moisture hasn’t been kind to the sheet metal, and I never really had a place to park her indoors.
This photo of me and Old Blue was taken my senior year in high school. (Notice the the chrome bumpers and grille.). I had been in an accident a few months prior. A girl with a two-day old driver’s license ran a stop sign in her Mother's 1982 Lincoln Continental and hit my front end at an angle, taking out my front bumper, grille, and right front fender. The Lincoln was a total loss, but Blue was still drivable. The replacement bumper and grille I got out of the salvage yard were chromed. I had the front bumper re-chromed and the rear bumper chromed to match.
I work for the U.S. Army, and currently I’m stationed in Kuwait. I’ve been here for about two and a half years. I’ll be here for about one more. Once I get back to the U.S. though, I plan to do a thorough restoration. I’m going to keep things mostly stock, but I would like to make a few upgrades, such as install an original style overdrive. I’m kicking around the idea of adding headers and more carburetion, and I definitely think it’s time to get some kind of oil filtration system installed, but I haven’t decided how far I want to go with all of the upgrades.
Old Blue has served me well for 20 years now, and I just can’t see changing something that is working for me! Blue has never been a trailer queen, and she has done quite a bit of the type of work she was designed for since I’ve owned her. I’m not planning to restore her to the point where I’m afraid to drive her in case I nick the paint or something, but I would like to get her ready for her next 20 years.
Maybe someday if I ever get around to settling down and having kids, they will have as much fun with Old Blue as I did, at least if I can make myself turn loose of the keys! I do have plans later on to find a second chassis and body to fix up and modify with a modern drive train and some more bells and whistles, but that will be sometime down the road.
This photo was taken a few years ago. I’ll be sure and take more pictures, including the interior and under the hood as soon as I can.
I look forward to starting this project and getting all kinds of good advice and pointers from the folks on these forums!