1957 Chevy 1/2-Ton Truck
From Jon :
My Father (Rod) was a farm adviser for Mendocino County in Ukiah, California. The county provided him with this 1957 Chevy 3100 truck on June 28, 1957. Dad used the truck to go visit local farmers to advise them on what to do with their land. He and the truck traveled many back country roads to test soils. Among other things, he would take samples of the dirt and tell the farmer if it was good for sheep, goats, alfalfa, etc.
In August 1962 the county retired the truck and Dad bought it.
Dad used the old truck on our family's 50 acre farm ~ a vineyard ~ as well as driving back and forth to work. It was a workhorse on the farm. We would crush grapes in the back of the truck. It would haul, tow, pull; move fertilizer, dirt, debris.
When we were about six years old, my Dad would let us (my sister, brother and myself) sit on his lap to steer the truck. When we got a little bigger, we could sit on his lap and shift the 3 on the tree. In the late 1970's, Dad installed a four on the floor shifter and we all learned how to drive stick in this truck.
Some days, Dad would come pick me up from high school and once we got off the main road, he would say, "I don't feel well. I don't think I can drive home." Then he'd let me drive the last three miles to our farm. It was truly a special deal to drive Dad's truck.
We all loved the truck. Dad said he was going to be buried in that truck. Us kids would jump in the bed for the ride to go get ice cream from Thrifty's. We'd lay in the back when we went to the airport to watch planes take off and land. Here's a cool photo I recently found of me at about five years old with Dad's truck.
None of us got to do much work on the truck. I took shop in high school, so Dad let me change the oil but that was about it.
When Dad retired from the county, someone gave him the personalized plate UNKLROD (and hence the truck's name). Dad was known in town as "Uncle Rod." He turned in the old plate and I've been trying to look at old photos to see if I can track down the number. It's only had three plates its entire life. Back in the 50's in California, the plates were yellow with black lettering. Then they went with the black plate with yellow lettering. They turned in the yellow and got the black one.
Dad drove the truck up until 2005. It sat in the field for about a year when my Dad was sick. When he passed away in 2007, he gave the truck to me.
I spent the next three years restoring the truck back to the original condition. I rebuilt the engine and put the 3 speed back on the column. This truck was meant to stay original. When I restored it, about 95% of the parts are original. We did a complete frame-off restoration. Re-did the bed wood. Sand-blasted everything. The major body problems were the fenders (from a run-in Dad had with a ditch). Other than that, very little rust.
When I got the truck running again, my wife would not ride in the truck. She said it smelled funny. Huhh? It smelled like a great old truck to me. She thought something was dead inside. Well, as I was tearing it apart, we did find dead mice in the glove compartment and seats. Dad had put poison there when he had parked it for that year he was sick.
I took the truck to its first car show this past September. When we unloaded it, several people came up and asked, "Is that Uncle Rod's truck?" It will always be "Uncle Rod's truck" ... shoot, I even still call it "Dad's truck."
Dad always kept a notebook in his shirt pocket and wrote down anything that happened. He saved all those notebooks. It was fun to come across the one from 1957 with the entry for June 28. It just said, "received new truck."
I am trying to find old photos of the truck at work on the other farms. I've been in touch with the county and some of the local farmers. I do have the original pink slip and plate number.