Tom and KathyTruhlar's
1953 Chevrolet 3/4-Ton Model 3742
01 May 2005
I had some email correspondence with you last year concerning my 1953 Chevy. It has been quite a task, but we have finally finished the project! Here is a picture of the truck. We were able to reuse the original 235 engine. Finding parts for the body was extremely difficult. I didn't want you to think I forgot about your answers to my questions.
A short 'bio' on the truck and what we use it for.
There are not many of these left of on the road. It is a 1953 Chevrolet model #3742 3/4-ton forward control chassis with a Grumman aluminum body.
We found the truck in a small town in southern Wisconsin. It had been sitting for well over 20 years behind an old building with other older vehicles. There were grape vines and blackberry bushes growing up in the cab area where they had a wonderful southern exposure through the delaminating windshield.
We trailered the truck to a friends house where we tore into it to find everything mechanical was in need of dire attention. We rebuilt the original 235 6 cylinder engine, 4-speed transmission and the brakes. After doing research, we found the standard rear end gears for this truck were 5.14's! Before we even took it for a test drive, we found a 1963 Chevy 3/4-ton "camper special" pickup with standard 4.56 gears that fit with a little grinding of the original axle shafts. It will go down the road at 50 mph now.
Fortunately, most mechanical parts cross over to the '47-'53 Chevy 3/4-ton pickup and the local NAPA could get just about anything we needed. The interior is very spartan with a single seat on a pedestal and a simple set of Chevy gauges. The sliding doors have roll-down windows, which we have since found to be rather rare. The interior dash, seat, wiring and panels all needed attention. The body was riddled with bolt holes from shelf units bolted in. The driver side rear curved corner aluminum was smashed in and one rear door was junk. We handmade a rear door, filled all the holes and hand rolled a piece of aluminum to replace the smashed curved area.
All the glass had to be replaced. We found a 1964 Ford camper with the same Grumman body as a parts vehicle (mainly to get its very hard-to-find curved glass pieces as ours were broken). We had all the flat glass removed to be re-cut with new glass.
After that, we had a sodablaster come in and use 1100 pounds of baking soda to completely strip the aluminum body of its paint. Once the grinding and sanding was done, we sprayed the truck ourselves with two shades of green with a white roof section.
The new glass and the used curved pieces from the Ford made it look like there was a chance to resurrect this old workhorse. Our glass person was able to replicate the complicated gasket materials for the front and the roll-down windows. Some modern stepvan supplies (like the door handles, sliding door hardware and gaskets and floor screws) are still in use today, so they were no problem finding new.
To clean up the interior, we used an oxyalum product that really took care of the oxidation, then we took a buffer to the inside panels to shine it up.
Other than the new glass, the soda-blasting and the welding, we did all the work ourselves (yes, Kathy knows what a 'DA' sander is).
We had a reason to redo this old truck as we own a small dairy plant in southern Wisconsin and we handmake a popular ice cream bar called the BIG BAR. We take our bars on the road to car shows throughout southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Our goal was to have this truck ready for one of our largest events, the Spring Jefferson Swap and Car Show in Jefferson, WI on April 23-24, 2005.
A week before the show, we finally finished it up and put on graphics with a very 1950's theme (even used our 1950's three digit phone number on it). We know it will be a big hit as our main hauler of our other vending trailer is a 1972 Chevrolet 3-door Suburban and it is a hit with the car show crowd.
The stepvan is all setup to sell BIG BARS. There are several pictures of the stepvan restoration on our website as well as our car show schedule. You are welcome to use any parts of the above information for your use.
Thank you for the opportunity to share our trials of getting this old truck on the road.
Tom & Kathy
Kent's Ice Cream
Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin
Wow! Want more? We did! So we asked Tom to send us more pictures and details ... and we've got "the rest of the story" in our Features section! And after all that (May 26), Tom sent us in some information on the '72 Suburban ~~ Editor
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