Kurt Szalla's

1952 GMC 9300

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06 February 2006
# 1400

From Kurt:

         I purchased a 1952 GMC 9300 truck from a farmer in Grand Forks BC, about 20 years ago. I offered him $300 for it if I could drive it around the field once. (I had to cut down a tree that had grown between the front bumper and the grille first) The engine was seized, of course, but in an 2-3 hours, I had it fooled into thinking it should run and drove it around the field. Good to my word, I bought it.

         The floor was more missing than there. The doors didn't close and there was only hints of wood in the bed. It didn't matter to me because I could see what it could be. What I didn't see coming was my wife's reaction to all this. I think you guys know what I mean. On the positive I could tell my wife I could use this truck to get to work and she could have the car. Genius!

         It took me and Father-in-law seven hours to make a 2.5 hour drive home as rust flakes from the gas tank kept plugging the fuel line. That was fun.

         Well, years go by quickly and by 1992, I managed to scrape together funds to do a reasonable rebuild and paint. However, the wife did ask me whatever had possessed me to pick the colour green that I had?

         I replaced the cab with a 5-window one that I had found in the bush from a 5-ton frame. It was sitting over a hornets nest ... figures. Yes, the hornets were home and it took forever to get those four rusted cab mounting bolts off. That was fun.

         I had the engine changed out to a 235 from a buddy's 1959 GMC pickup that he had rolled. I continued to drive it year round. Here in the great white north, we have snow from time to time and with that snow, comes salt and rocks on our roads. It took its toll on the old girl. So in 2004, I was able to convince my wife (bless her heart) that we needed to do her up right. I sharpened my pencil and checked some prices and drew up an anticipated a budget of $7000. The neighbour had bought a new vehicle recently and let me use the old one for as long as I needed while I worked on the truck. It was meant to be.

         We took out a loan and I was off. I began to strip the old girl down to her cracked frame. (This was a sign that I should have heeded and run away.) She was in far worse shape than I had imagined. (I can picture my wife with her arms crossed tapping her foot when I told her.) I wound up repairing another cracked frame I had found and had it checked at the alignment shop. I sandblasted everything and painted with satin black epoxy. I replaced all the metal from the cab back, including the running boards. GM restoration parts are without a doubt the best. Replaced cab corners, cowls, brake lines, drums, refaced the gauges, replaced wiring harness, all rubber, door handles ... etc.

         I was fortunate to find a jet fighter hood ornament used exclusively on GMC trucks here in Kelowna. I also found an original GMC radio which my Father-in-law was able to repair. I think I'll keep him around for a while. I changed the rear end to 3.55 ratio using a Patrick's kit. (Note: for my fellow Canucks -- on our Canadian trucks, we must mill the Patrick's crown gear attach holes about 1/16" to fit to carrier -- a machine shop must do this.) For some reason the Canadian manufacturer drilled the holes a little different than in the USA . Somebody probably saved a nickel, who would ever know.

         For those of you who are adding this up, yes, I was over budget a few sentences ago. I had hit the wall. Do I sell it all to some smart guy in a suit for less than it had cost me, with free labour thrown in, or go on somehow? I really struggled with that. I had a rolling chassis at that time and most of the sheet metal sitting in boxes. My wife was not impressed and suggested I get my head examined. I think I still had her on side?

         After some soul searching I, er we, decided to finish it. My wife, however, would now choose the colour. I finished the truck in 14 months and wound up with a loan for four times what I had anticipated. Every time I walked into the bank, I felt like NORM at Cheers -- except they weren't serving beer. There was only one body shop in town that would paint her and I took it in the ... well, you know where, as a result.

         But all that grief went away the first day I drove it to town. It all seemed worth it to me and I grinned all day. The old girl's still got it! (I didn't ask my wife for her opinion.) I have driven her to Seattle and back twice now and she will do as Patrick's claims -- 65MPH on the freeway. I love spending some time in the left lane.

         Also, in the top picture -- fyi: the parking meter is fully operational.  I work for the City in law enforcement and have written 1000s of tickets to vehicles parked at expired parking meters in my 14 years on the street.  The City gave me this one for old times sake.  It seemed only natural to have some fun with my guests when they come over. (The City gave me several old ticket books as well and I guess you can figure out the rest)   The meter lights up at night with a photo cell and looks great.  I'm never off duty, you know:  "So many violators, so little time!"

         I would like to leave you with something a lady said to me one day when I stopped for lunch in a small town in Washington State, She had tears in her eyes and her hand on my arm when she said to me: "Thank you for restoring this old truck. My Dad used to drive one just like it and you have brought back a wonderful memory of him just now."

         By the way, I never did have to sleep in it!


Kurt Szalla
Bolter # 10,094
Kelowna BC, Canada

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