A 'virtual garage' of antique Chevy & GMC trucks from around the World
1953 Chevy 6400 Flatbed Truck
18 October 2007
From Jake :
Howdy Stovebolt Staff! Here is the story of my Stovebolt. It is a 1953 Chevrolet 6400 series flatbed that has become a six month Father-Son adventure for my Dad and I.
Back when my Father was young, this truck was owned by the S.W. Parmenter and Sons Orchard in Kent, Ohio. As you can see by the side-view picture of the truck, some of the original door art has been preserved, as well as the phone number for the orchard. My Dad remembered seeing this truck tooling around the Kent-Ravenna area and always had a certain admiration for it. Its life fell into obscurity for a few decades until it came into the possession of a long-time friend of my Father's, who, as best as we can guess, bought it off the Parmenter family when they decided it was time for an upgrade.
My Father's friend (Frank) used the truck for miscellaneous hauling. Its duties ranged from hauling scrap to watering down dirt race tracks at the local fairground.
About 17 years ago, back when we lived at our old house on the same road as Frank, Frank decided to park the old Stovebolt behind his house. There it sat for essentially most of my life. But every time we went down that road, my Dad wondered what had become of the old 'Bolt.
Back in April, he asked Frank whether he still owned the old Parmenter Orchard truck my Dad remembered from his childhood and, as it turned out, it still sat in the same place it was parked for nearly two decades.
One rainy April day, my Dad said we were going over to Frank's house but he wouldn't give me a reason other than "I think I may have found a rat rod for us." Intrigued, I eagerly waited for our arrival at Frank's. My Dad and I walked to the back field and, barely discernible through the vast amounts of multi-floral roses that had grown up around (and through) it, there sat the '53.
For the sake of sounding a little corny, I'd have to say I was head over heels for it as soon as I saw the truck. Although there was scrap stacked as high as the stakes would allow and all the windows were busted out (thanks to some local kids) and I could barely open the door because the foliage was blocking it, my Dad and I agreed it would be a worthwhile venture. The body wasn't great, but the frame was solid and it had the classic "It ran when I parked it" back story.
Later that week, Frank, Dad and I decided to move the old 'Bolt from its 17 year slumber. With the help of Frank's monstrous articulated all-wheel-drive Ford tractor, he picked the rear end of the truck up with the bucket and, with me steering as best I could, Frank drug it out of the brush. (Here's a picture of Frank and I and then here's one of Frank and my Dad.)
Finally, we were able to clearly assess the truck. The windows, as I said, were all but gone. The floor was pretty rotted out from all the rain pouring into it over the years. The interior was a heap of junk, but it had potential. The three of us cleared the scrap off the bed, removed the stake sides, and Frank agreed to haul it out to our house on his roll back.
About a week after this endeavor, I got a call from my Dad just as I got out of class. Frank was on his way over, so I flew home and arrived just as the 'Bolt was being unloaded in the driveway. Not long after Frank departed, my girlfriend arrived and (thankfully) she fell for the truck, too.
I ended up spending the rest of the afternoon with my Father and girlfriend cleaning the refuse, mouse nests, rotted interior pieces and busted glass from the inside of the truck. I also pulled the plywood sheeting off the wood bed to reveal the original wood. Once it got warmer out, I found out it was oil-sprayed because of the massive pools of motor oil that oozed out of the bed when it got hot.
Days later, my Dad and I hooked a battery to it and had a key cut for the truck. As it turned out, the clutch was rusted together, which is why we thought the motor wouldn't turn over. Next thing I knew, a tow strap was attached to the tow hook on the '53 and to the hitch on my Dad's Chevy 2500 HD and we were dragging it across the driveway. Finally, the clutch broke free and the truck rolled.
Unfortunately, this didn't solve the engine problem. The motor was seized, and dragging wasn't going to cure it. So, Dad and I pulled the plugs and about a can of WD-40 and three days later, we punched the starter and it broke free. Pleasantly surprised, we pulled the gas tank out, cleaned it, installed new fuel lines. We cleaned the carburetor, points, and distributor cap. We ran the oil pump while the distributor was out and re-installed everything. After all those years of immobility, it ran like a top. Gotta love the iron clad 235's.
After it got running, we started hitting problems. Thankfully, we found a shop manual for a 1954 Chevy heavy duty truck, which became my Bible. I also was fortunate enough to come across a great deal of Chevrolet truck parts in possession of my girlfriend's Grandpa. I bought all of them.
We had to replace the oil lines going to and from the filter, because we soon learned that the old ones were junk (and were pouring oil all over the driveway). We replaced all the glass (and broke the drivers side windshield pane in the process). We threw the old seat in the dumpster and found one out of a 1993 Dodge Dakota that all but bolted in. Then we had to start tackling wiring issues. I wound up having to fix a huge amount of the wiring that the mice found rather tasty. I had to put a turn signal system on, so on and so forth.
As it turned out, after some frustration, all the lights and signals worked, but the system didn't charge. We had to put a 6 volt alternator on the truck and do all the general mechanical stuff like a tune up and a carb rebuild. I also got the pleasure of re-doing all the brake lines. I had to either replace or rebuild all the wheel cylinders. Oddly enough, the brake linings were basically new. We decided to try and update the system from the single master cylinder and Hydrovac unit to a dual master cylinder power brake unit.
We settled on a master cylinder and booster unit from an 1981 1-ton Chevy Suburban which the junkyard owner was kind enough to donate for the project. It worked out nicely and the truck's got quite a bit of stopping power.
We're planning on fixing the floor using a coating process since it's not feasible to replace the sheet metal. We've got to replace the tires since they're all dry rotted. We've managed to fix the oil pressure gauge and fuel gauge and the truck is basically road worthy. I'm thinking about putting a 2-speed rear end in it in the future since one came with the truck. It's got power and steers / drives pretty nicely. The photo at the top is my first ride!
The flat bed is still in pretty good shape (minus the oil-based biohazards that seep out of it whenever it gets warm). The only rotten part of the decking got dealt with when I fell through the bed the second day I had it. I made short work of the rotten wood with a 4" cutoff disc. Now it's not much of a problem.
All in all, it's been an enjoyable and occasionally frustrating journey, but I'm looking forward to seeing the looks of passersby when they see a 21 year old driving a 1953 6400 flatbed around the neighborhood. I'll take an old 'Bolt over a rice burner any day of the week. My Dad and I've had a lot of fun and hopefully we'll be able to do another one here in the near future (maybe a 1/2 or 3/4-ton). I owe a lot to him for giving me the opportunity to work on the truck because he's been an enormous help and I had a blast. It's been a good Father-Son bonding experience to be sure.
I'd also like to thank my fellow Bolters because their help has been invaluable in the process of resurrecting this old Stovebolt. This is such a great website and being so welcoming to the younger generation of bolters like myself. Everyone's been a big help in the process of getting this truck brought back to life.
If you have any questions, feel free to give me a shout!
That's a good thing that you and your Dad rescued the big bolt as it was obviously slated to be a flower pot for eternity had you not pulled it out of the back 40. I'm glad to hear that you guys enjoyed spinning wrenches so much together that you're ready to take on another one! Once you start, it's hard to stop. Your truck looks great. You look very happy in the driver's seat there. ~~ Mike "Burgandybolt" Allen, Stovebolt Welcome (Panel) Wagon