John Shipman's

1940 GMC 1/2-Ton

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18 September 1999

From John:

       One day back in 1988 I was looking through the PennySaver and spotted an ad for a 1940 GMC long bed pickup. I didn’t have the grand the owner was asking for it so I offered to trade the 1955 Olds --a $75-beater that I had been “gonna fix it up some day” for the last 12 years. He went for it.

       The GMC was driven to my one car apartment garage where, without ever driving it, I started its slow transformation. Having started reading R&C in 1961, I’m partial to the '60’s style of chrome wheels and Caddy taillights, so I planned a “traditional” hot rod of that era. By traditional I mean: If it doesn’t make it go, stop, or handle, or make it safe, it probably isn’t on the truck. I either hand made parts, adapted them from something I already had, or used the least expensive available that were of acceptable quality and would work. For example, smoothie wheels are cheap and traditional, ’59 Caddy taillights I already had so I used them, and the total chrome shop bill was 20 bucks! A friend gave me the halogen headlights, and I got the shock absorbers and gauges on sale at Chief Auto Supply.

       I performed ALL work including engine and transmission building, metalwork, painting, woodwork, upholstery, wiring, and assembly in the garage at home. I modified the chassis as follows: a 1973 Malibu donated its entire drive train from the fan to the 10-bolt rear axle. Lowering blocks on the stock GMC springs stagger the axle 3/4" forward. I used the Malibu drive shaft as- is. The 400 small block got new heads and intake, and home made headers now reside where the running boards were. Hot rods don’t have running boards anyway! I reversed the front spring shackle mounts and removed two spring leaves to bring the front end down and soften the ride, then I put an ECI disc brake kit on the stock front axle. I’m glad I put brakes on that STOP. The stock steering gear mounts a 1954 Chevy wheel, but I’m looking for a ’41 to ’46 Chevy or GMC steering to replace it. The homemade brake pedal and bracket carry a 1984 Mustang booster and master cylinder. 185/14 and 235/15 Pep Boys whitewalls carry the load in style and comfort.

       Most of the body had green enamel paint put on with a roller but where the paint wasn’t, the metal wasn’t either! I had to replace the bottom 5" of both doors and the lower cowl area with good German steel from a VW roof. I chopped the top 3 1/2" in the process of repairing the rust at the belt line. I leaned the back of the cab forward to resemble a coupe profile while retaining the stock size rear window. The front fenders were a shredded mess so I reshaped them into frame-hugging fairings with ports to allow the headers to exit to the side pipes.

       The paint is Geo Metro Competition Blue lacquer with custom blended colors on the ‘40’s-style flames. I made the bed and the storage box out of birch, using several hundred brass screws and over a dozen coats of spar varnish to hold it together. Originally I upholstered it with some Guatemalan serape material, but I wore it out. Last month I gave it the natural leather treatment on an Astro Van seat frame-fits nice!

       This truck has been on the road since June of 1993 and carries a MIDNIGHTERS plaque all over Southern California.

John Shipman
Bolter # 8309
Los Angeles

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