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Preserving your Bolt's History

by Steve “Builder” VandenBerg
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So, whatcha got there? Anything special?

      This tech tip came in right on the heals of a Gallery submission by James Heckhaus. James' 1966 Chevy C-20 Fuel Truck is one of these Bolts from a historical setting. And so are the ones like Jim Justice's 1933 Chevy 1.5-ton. All these old trucks come with a story. Hopefully, you'll be fortunate enough to find it.

Restoration begins before you buy the vehicle.

James Heckhaus' 1966 Chevy C-20 Fuel Truck      Is there something special about the history of the vehicle you just picked up? Granted, most vehicles dragged home don’t have any more historical value than most old cars on the road. You may want to be careful if there is historical significance to the vehicle you find in a barn. You might want to research with key people that may have information on the vehicle before doing anything that may ruin the authenticity of the truck. Get as much history (and photos of the truck in action if possible) from the seller, previous owners, company records, etc. as possible. Search the truck for maintenance and other "things" that may give clues to its true service and ownership. Just talking with the seller may give you clues that don’t reside anywhere else.

      With any restoration, the original markings, such as wax pencil, painted stencils, old registrations, and/or maintenance records should be photographed and well documented. Keep the original paperwork and manuals found in the glove as well as placed somewhere like under the seats. 1967 and later Corvettes have the order sheet attached on top of the gas tank). If you do have a historical find, even cleaning the vehicle has to be done with care so you don't remove a factory marking, or to discover them. Sometimes service journals were nothing more than writings with a pencil on the inner fender or inside the hubcaps. Maybe they wrote it on the glove box door. These may need to be preserved to authenticate its time and/or where it was in service, or be a clue to a person who may have left initials. These people may be able to identify your vehicle and also authenticate its use. Those records may also be the proof of original miles.

       Many records are still available by the factory or someone who was savvy enough to save them from the trash. Many of these records have been destroyed by the manufacturer, or lost in fires over the decades.

      I bought an old Corvette that sat in a shed for 30 years. I made sure to tell the owner not to even wipe the dust off of it, or clean it out. "As Is" means with the dirt and garbage that might be in the vehicle, just for the purpose of authenticating the vehicle and the possibility of history of the vehicle being destroyed. The seller felt embarrassed to show the car in that “dirty” of a state, and wanted to clean it up first but, I assured him that the dirt wouldn’t detract from its value. I told him straight out that it was important to see and document (photograph) the car as it sits without disturbing it. I also wanted to be a part of digging it out of the menagerie of items that were stacked around it. The owner may not be aware of an original part that may belong to the vehicle, and move it aside to be lost forever.

      With antique motorcycles, many people get a great barn find and the first thing they do is repaint it. A disassembly of the bike and cleaning of the original finishes would have created a value of much more. I've seen $45,000 motorcycles turned into an $18,000 to $20,000 bike because they ruined the original finishes, when a good cleaning and polish would have done. I guess some people can't do with out shiny. At least do the homework before the restoration to make certain it will not detract from the value.

      If you restore, refurbish or just find it and clean it the wrong way, you will just end up with another vehicle without its specific value or history.

Steve VandenBerg
Bolter #6449
Sioux Falls, SD

     Steve's got a number of trucks in the Gallery: a 1948 Chevy 3/4-Ton Stepside; a 1957 Chevy Suburban; a 1958 GMC 1/2-Ton; a 1951 Chevy 1.5-Ton; 1958 Chevrolet Apache Fleetside; a 1972 GMC 3/4-Ton; a 1952 Chevy 1/2-Ton Utility; a 1951 Chevy 5-Window Flatbed AND quite a few in the Alternative Gallery: a 1958 Chevrolet 290 HP Fuelie Corvette and a 1957 Chevy 150 Delivery Wagon ~~ Editor

       Be sure to check out our extensive Forums discussions -- from General Truck talk, Electrical Bay, Big Bolts, Panels and Burbs, Engine and Driveline, Paint and Body, Interiors, Tool Chest -- The Stovebolt Collective can help in your quest and walk you through the mire and magic of working with old iron. ~~ Editor .         

v. June 2006

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