Jim Sutherlin's

1954 Chevy 3100


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20 July 2006
# 1592

From Jim:

           My wife, Lynne and I decided in 2000 that we would begin a search for an old early '50s AD Chevy truck. I had owned a 1954 3100 in high school (acquired as my first car in 1968 for $175). This old beater and I became almost inseparable. I regret that I only have a couple of old photos of my original '54. It was a 3 window with lots of fond memories.

           I went off to college, acquired a second vehicle (a well-used 1968 Barracuda). I came home one weekend, and found my Dad had sold my old truck for $65 to a friend of his. I last saw the truck parked in a field near my hometown in the late 1980's.

           We searched for several months and decided to acquire a 1954 3100 which we found in a newspaper ad in west Texas. The truck was last registered in 1989 and had been parked since that time in a cotton field in Lynn County, Texas. This is in the arid Texas Panhandle. We had the seller move the truck to Port Arthur.

           Nice complete truck, had been repainted 10 to 20 years back, but had plenty of fence post dents in the fenders. I was particularly pleased that the truck had a sm420 transmission, and the factory radio. Everything was there, (except the radio knobs) but nothing worked. Everything was full of red dirt.

           I figured we could get the truck running and drive it in several months. This was Spring 2001. Lynne and I eventually did the complete disassembly in our backyard. Cab on saw horses and all. What the heck, it was only money. But we spent about three times our original estimated project fund. The project was completed in 2003 (Fall).

           As with most first-time projects, I wish I had another shot at doing the restoration over again, this time I might better understand and organize the project.

           Thunder was named by our next door neighbor (during a significant drought in 2001). When we first cranked the old worn out 235, our neighbor ran outside and said “Did I hear thunder?” We had all been hoping for rain. The name stuck.

           Thunder is a weekend driver today, won prizes at several local shows, usually because there aren't many near original AD trucks at car shows. We enjoy the truck, especially in first gear, in local mardi gras parades.

           Many thanks to assembly guidance, mechanical expertise, advice and patient support are owed to mechanical “grand wizard” K C James, who saw the truck completed, and always gets it back on the street. Lynne and I have many hours and dollars invested in Thunder, I like to believe we would do it again.


           The remainder of the truck is restored close to original (couldn't make myself paint the wood bed, it is varnished pine). Added a tach under the steering column, and turn signals (required a left side tail light). The replacement windshield is tinted, bed walls and running boards are “bed-linered” to make these features more durable and useable. Best thing about Thunder: It makes people smile. Headaches: Doors, speedometer, and gas gauge.

           I really appreciate the opportunity to "show" my truck on your site.

Jim Sutherlin
Bolter # 1376
Port Arthur, Texas

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