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Leonardtown, Maryland

Big Red
Not pretty... But it IS all there!

'49 Chevy 4400

John Milliman
Bolter # 1
St. Mary's County, Maryland


Project Start Date: January 1999

    To fully understand the gyrations we underwent searching for this truck, please peruse the 2 Guys In Search of a Truck series. What you see here is the ultimate end result of a several month-long quest to find a decent, restorable larger flatbed truck that would be used to haul hay, antique tractors and horsedrawn vehicles. In short, this truck was located using the Stovebolt Page (Thanks, Sam!). In the first photo, you see the truck as we first saw it in December, 1998. It had been garage kept it's entire life until 1996. At that time, it lost its space in the barn and was pushed outside. What you see is the effects of two years out in the weather. It also had both headlights bashed out and the passenger side windshield busted in. Other than that, it appeared really solid and rust free -- but it was weathering/deteriorating rapidly. It had to be saved soon.

Getting it home

    Once we settled on a price, we had to figure out how to get it from Mt. Sterling, KY to Georgetown, KY (About an hour trip). We settled on towing it with a chain. Not the smartest option, but it actually worked out. As soon as we hit the road (We were towing it behind a '96 Dodge V10 1-Ton dually), I started double clutching it. After about a mile, it started and ran. After about another mile, we stopped and took the chain off and the big, old Advance Design was under her own power for the first time in 5 years. Unfortunately, but expectedly, just before Paris, KY, she ran out of gas and we went back on the chain. A quick fill up in Paris and we were home free all the way home. Except for that 4-way stop just inside the Scott County Line when the brakes froze...

Love the Signal Stat Arrows!


    As with any restoration, the first thing we did after getting "Big Red" home was to take a thorough inventory of the truck's condition. With a digital camera and a notepad, we went from stem to stern documenting the different systems' conditions and taking stock of what the truck was equipped with. Here you see the period aftermarket Signal-Stat arrow turn indicators. Some folks don't like these, but I sure do. The 4400 I rode in as a kid with my dad had ones just like this and I love 'em -- THEY STAY!!

A Brief Interlude...

    As is bound to happen now and again, the fates threw a monkey wrench into our best laid plans -- A change in jobs relocated us from Georgetown, KY to Leonardtown, MD. I found a really good hauler on the Yesterday's Tractors website who moved the truck to Maryland. Here you see the truck earning its keep by hauling a 500-gallon water tank around our Maryland farm so we can pressure wash the paddock fencing.

The bed comes off. It went to the burnpile.

Getting Started

    After documenting the truck's condition and setting up the spreadsheet to track our work plan and budget, it was time to get serious and start turning wrenches. First to come off was the bed. A little heat from the "Gas Wrench" (Oxy-Acetylene torch) and the bed u-bolts came free. As the bed is the original oak bed Mr. Gilvan bought to haul his cattle to the stock yard, I needed some help lifting it off. Some chains, a tractor and the Bobcat lifted the bed off without much problem.


Front Clip

    Once the bed was off and stored down in the implement lot (It finally went to the burnpile in January, 2008), the truck went up to the shop for the real fun -- removing the sheet metal. Naturally, we started with the front clip. If I had more room in my shop (as you can see, only the front of the truck fits), I would have removed the grille and fenders as a unit, rather than taking everything off separately. From what I'm told, and what I saw, it seems like it would be easier to unbolt the front clip as a unit, roll it forward so it ends up inverted in front of the truck. Just be careful to pad and support everything so you don't twist or bend anything.



Teardown Tricks   

    From my Volkswagen days, I learned to organize my parts as I disassembled the truck. The system I developed for myself involves putting each separate parts (and associated fasteners, etc) into a ziplock-type plastic bag. My wife gets these from the Dollar Store in gallon size. I use a permanent laundry marker to mark each bag's contents. I then write down each bag's label to enter into my spreadsheet. While this may be overkill for more organized people, I've found this makes me work slower (less foul ups from rushing!) and I don't get stuff spread all over the shop I also use to maintain the farm vehicles -- with me, chaos could result fast if I don't do this.    All the bagged parts, after entering into the spreadsheet, then go into a box. Beats the heck out of a coffee can full of stuff!





Teardown ends -- Finally

    Over the 4th of July weekend (2000), the cab came off with some help from my neighbors. On the left you see the frame right before I pulled the engine and driveline. Now that the truck is completely disassembled (just a frame on stands), I'm working the frame to get it ready first. My sheet metal parts (cab, doors, hood and fenders) are going to a local bodyman (who only does restoration work -- he's great) to work on while I do the frame and mechanical work. On the right is the frame sans engine and driveline. As you can see, I've already sandblasted the battery box area and treated with POR-15. I'm going to work the frame in sections and do the back last. I haven't quite figured out yet how I'm going to sandblast the underside of the frame -- I may just run a chain through the wheels and lift it up on it's side. I'm afraid I'll bend the running board supports, though.

The first section of refinishing.

Frame sandblasting, repainting begins

    15 July 2000 saw the beginning of the frame refinishing. What a chore. I'd sandblast until I ran out of sand, use the POR-15 metal prep, rinse, blow dry and paint on the POR-15. I could usually do about 4 or 5 feet of frame at a time this way. I didn't worry about seams in the finish, because I was going to top coat with the Chassis Black for POR-15 anyway. Nonetheless, it was sloooooooooooow going this way. I hate sand blasting....


The frame -- ALL DONE


Frame sandblasting, repainting ENDS!!!

    Waa HOO!!! DONE -- FINALLY... And it only took a year. Yup! Well, I have a farm to run, you know... Anyway, here's the finished frame, still upside down, in July, 2001. What an odyssey! Did I mention how much I hate sandblasting??


The new rear axle...

Rear Axle

    Last year, I went to Illinois to see my good friend, John Smith, who had found a bunch of stuff for me. Among the treasures was this 2-speed rear axle from a '52. Here, I've removed the rest of the frame and bed from the axle (easier than the other way around, let me tell you...) and I'm going to start blasting it prior to POR-15 application. Did I mention that I hate sand blasting?? Anyway, this step also involved a trip to the ER after a bout with blood poisoning from a rusty metal cut on my hand... THAT was fun... NOT!


front axle installed
Front axle on! teardown ends, build up starts!

 January, 2002

    After spending a LOT of quality time with the blasting cabinet, I had all the "little" suspension parts refinished and ready to go. I also had my spring eye bushings and new spring shackles -- it was time to 'round the bend and actually start putting the truck back together. I started with the front axle build up. On a cold, but clear, 20th of January I reassembled the front and rear axles. The front axle build up went without a hitch. Okay, maybe it didn't -- installing the new spring eye bushings proved a chore (getting the old ones out wasn't so fun, either). Of course, it was a struggle getting that heavy rear axle in place and aligned, while juggling spring leaves, u-bolts, impact wrenches and floor jacks ... I think I have a little fine-tuning to do back there before we venture out to the road ... someday.

The nearly complete frame and suspension sits in it's new home, Summer of 2005.

Fast forward to Summer, 2005

    Since 2002 and the last entry, we've moved again.  Never fun, moving.  Especially a farm, tools, equipment, etc.  By now, I have reinstalled the rear axle, installed all new brakes including lines, wheel cylinders, shoes and master cylinder.  And I've refilled the system with silicone fluid.  This summer (2005), I rebuilt the steering box and repainted the steering column.  I also rebuilt the drag link and reinstalled it.  At this rate, it will be 2015 before I can tell if my alignment is correct...  I also broke out the sandblaster and got a few items done, such as the radiator mount, two more wheels and the running boards.  I decided to mount the running boards because I am growing big calluses on my shins from walking into the running board arms all the time.  Because my shop also has to house a mower, as well as be the place I service the farm equipment, battling dust accretion on the chassis is a constant battle.  

    But I long ago gave up ever winning a trophy at Carlisle...

Rebuilt steering box, repainted column and rebuilt drag link all reinstalled.
Passenger side running board reinstalled.

Major Milestone -- Engine rebuild Complete! February 9, 2007


Above: The '58 235, freshly rebuilt, loaded and ready to go home.

Above: After seven years, the rebuilt motor is reunited with the frame.

11 Feb 07 -- Billy called during the week to say the engine was ready. What had initially been just a compression check and a repaint turned into a full-blown engine rebuild -- from top to bottom. The head was pulled, the pistons removed, the crank and cam shafts were reground, the cylinders honed.... New pistons, rings, bearings, valves, rockers, push robs, lifters, timing gears, oil pump... Yikes. But hey, it's ready for another 50 years. I brought the engine home, got it out of the truck and it is currently sitting in the frame (I seem to have lost the front engine mount bolts...). So we are once again on hold until I can find them or get replacements.

    Here are a few larger images for you to see. Right side. Left side. Bottom. Block.

    Note on the engine -- This engine was in the truck when I bought it but it is not original to the truck. This truck originally had a babbited 216 splash-oiled engine. That engine must have died earlier in the truck's life and this one installed. From the casting numbers, it appears to be a '58 truck engine. As usual with such mods, the replacement was done with utility in mind, not preservation of the original truck -- so the radiator frame and shrouds were hacked to accommodate the longer water pump. As I will be trying to put the truck back in it's original configuration, the engine will be getting the short-shaft water pump.

    If only I could turn the clock back a couple of years... If I knew then what I know now, I would never have sent this engine off to get rebuilt. It was a pretty good runner when I took it out, so I think I would have sold it and found a Cummins 4BT to install instead. Oh well. Live and learn. The Cummins idea will have to wait until I'm ready to start the restoration on the '49 3800.

Driveline installed -- 24 Feb 07

    I got as far on the engine as I could while awaiting parts, so I turned to the driveshaft. I had gotten the transmission and rear axle out of the '51 truck a few years ago and I had grabbed all the pieces for the driveline (especially the universal mount for the end of the tranny -- the '51's have those great driveshaft parking brakes.

    I degreased all the parts, sand blasted them, POR'd them and I was ready to put them back together. All I needed was new U-Joints. I went to my local NAPA (Guy Auto Parts in Clement, MD) and they had them in stock! Of course, it wasn't easy to find them as the books didn't go back that far, but Howie Guy is a patient man and whipped out the caliper and soon enough, he found the right ones. I needed three, they had exactly three in stock.

    The next task was to get the U-joints pressed into their carriers. I tried the first one with my bench vise. It sortta worked. I thought finding a neighbor with a press would be a much better way of doing it. Ha. None of my neighbors had one except for one of the Mennonites. And he wasn't home. Figures. So I called Gary (a friend from our local ATHS chapter) and he had one. So I went over to Gary's Saturday morning and between watching a History Channel show on giant rowed galleys of the Greeks and Egyptians (Gary has cable in his shop), we got all the u-joints installed.

    I trotted right home and went to work. Man, getting those nuts on the bolts for where the u-joint bolts up to the output of the tranny was hard! It would have helped if I had smaller hands. I got 'er done, though.

    So now I have the driveline completely connected! The picture above left is a a shot of the carrier bearing. Here is one of the overall driveline.

    Also this weekend, I painted the engine the correct color and started installing the ancillary equipment. Here's the generator.

Body work/Paint Completed -- 25 July 07

Darvin inspects the truck with the cab newly replaced on the chassis

Wednesday evening, Mr. Tucker stopped by with the big news -- the body work and paint was done and I could come pick it all up! Waa hoo!!! After 4 years!!! It was hard waiting until Saturday morning, but a friend of mine (a retired Marine who's into M-38s and flying) came over Saturday morning and we took two trucks and a trailer over to pick it all up.

    We got all the sheet metal home and quickly realized that even though we were both Marines and still every bit as mean and green as we ever were, we're ... um ... not quite as .. lean. Time to get at least another set of hands if we were going to get this cab up and over the steering column. As we pondered that, we quickly realized that the transmission cover and shift tower (and parking brake handle) were going to have to come back off. Dan got to work on that (being that he's an M-38 restorer as well as a CH-53E crew chief and certificated A&P, I was pretty sure he could handle my wrenches better than I could...) while I hopped in the Gator and went next door to my Mennonite neighbors, Shawn and Eugene Stauffer, to see if they wanted to see the next major milestone in this project they have been watching me flail with for 5 years. As luck would have it, they were both in Shawn's barn and were more than willing to come see what dopey thing I was up to now (morbid curiosity...). So they, as well as their two sons, Darvon and Kent, piled into the Gator for the quick jaunt back to my place.

    We rolled the chassis outside (we thought it better to do that than risk slamming the cab roof into the roof trusses...) and before you could say something witty in Pennsylvania Dutch, we had the cab up and on with only a few scratches on the steering column... Note to self -- next time, wrap the steering column! (Peggy Note: NEXT TIME ??!!!????)

    You will note we decided to change the color of the truck from red to light blue. Not only do we have three red trucks already, but after seeing the lighter colored trucks that Sweet, Phil and Bill Marlow have. So what if it's not 100 percent correct? It's a ton and half conventional with a '51 tranny and rear axle, and a '57 235. We left the reservation many moons ago... But so what? This darn thing is starting to look like a truck again!!!!!

    Some more photos:

    Well, we have some work to do now, and through the winter. With the cab on (even though it's not bolted down yet...), I can almost see the end! I'm setting a goal of having it ready as a complete cab and chassis for Macungie '08!

Fenders On! -- 12 Sept 07

    With the wiring harness mostly installed, the engine re-fitted with it's components and the Radiator back on, it was time to fit the fenders! What a job!

    It turns out that the radiator cross piece (attaches to the fenders at the top), the fender braces, the inner fenders and the fenders themselves pretty much all go on at the same time. You have to keep all the bolts loose until everything is lined up and all the bolts are in place. Of particular note were the fender braces (the ones that go from the radiator support to the inside of the wheel opening of the fender). To get everything aligned (and to keep the radiator stand aligned with the inner fender), I kept the other side all tight (i.e., when I was working on the right side fender, I left everything semi tight on the left side). I also left the lower bolt loose so I could rotate it somewhat to get it to clear the fender lip -- hard to explain, but you'll know what I mean when you go to do it.

    The biggest trick is to be patient and willing to do everything three or four times until you understand how it all goes back together. I think putting the inner and outer fenders together before mounting them on the truck may be easier than installing them separately -- not sure though.

    Anyway, the darn thing is really starting to look like a truck again!


Hood On! -- 27 Nov 07

Christmas Eve 2007    My Sister and Brother-in-law, visiting from Maine for the Thanksgiving Holiday (and to help us as they do every year with our first weekend of Christmas tree sales) helped me get the hood on today (we needed to get it out of our basement!).

    We found that attaching the hinges and spring unit to the truck, and then attaching the hood to the hinges worked best. Two people lifted from the sides and matched up the bolts, while the third held the hood from the front in the "open" position. We had mounted the hinges to the front and upmost position. Once the hood was attached, we adjusted the hinges until we were happy and then tightened them. Then, we attached the spring units (already loosely attached to the truck's firewall) to the hood and tightened them down.

    We still have some tweaking to do with the fenders, but that will have to wait until the grille is done and ready to reassemble. We still have to get through December and tree sales, so I probably won't be able to get back to work on the truck until Christmas Day.

    I'm only really this far because fellow 'Bolter Mike Roache stopped by the other day with pictures of his new truck and I got all motivated. (See Mike's Gallery page - a great story!)

To some restorers, installing the glass may be easy. Not us! But at least it's FINISHED (um, the glass, that is...)

Progress continues!
Windshield installed 9 Feb 2008

    After the B-W Chapter meeting in Jessup, MD, Mike Roache stopped by and helped me install the windshield. After a couple of hours, a half bottle of Murphy's Oil Soap, two scratches in the cowl and one thrown tool, we finally got 'er done!!

    Mike and I had a difference of opinion over whether we should install the gasket in the cab first, or install the glass in the gasket first. We ended up doing it both ways (one side was one way and the other half was done the other way). Who was right? I said put the gasket on the cab, and then put the glass into the gasket. Mike said put the gasket on the glass, and then work it onto the cab. Personally, I think both ways were equally difficult. But to be fair, doing it my way (the first half) resulted in two scratches in the paint, followed by some adult language and a thrown tool. Mike's way resulted in some adult language, a dropped tool but nothing launched, and no scratches.

    Also to be fair, my way involved putting some string in the groove to work the gasket flap over the glass. Although appearing impressive at the start, it failed miserably.

    So... do I man up, square my shoulders and admit I was wrong and Mike was right? That his way was, indeed, the better way?? Heck No. Well, okay ... Mike was right and I was wrong. There. I did it. Seriously, it's great to have all the cab glass installed. It is really starting to look like a truck again! It was a big job and I couldn't have done it alone. Thanks Mike!

    So stay tuned ... We might get the interior done next time!

10-Year Anniversary!! !
Grille installed 6 Mar 2009

    Yikes!! Where does the time go? I've now been working on this project for more than ... 10 YEARS. But today ... Today, we achieved a major milestone -- the front of the truck is starting to look like a truck again.

    Since last time, we really didn't get a whole lot done as for the past few years, the only time I get to actually do serious work on this project is in February and March. In February, I got the correct manifold installed (the one that was machined flat and had the boss for the horn on it), as well as the issue with the front motor mount addressed. No exhaust leaks (the truck idles nicely and quietly now, and no sparks flying off the harmonic balancer ... :) )

    After botching the painting of the outer grille bars, I threw in the towel and carried them over to Ray (same guy who painted my fire truck) and in a week, he had them done -- they look fabulous. During the big snow storm, I turned up the heat in the shop, broke out the grille reassembly kit, and went to work. Today, Mike stopped by after work and we wrestled the front sheet metal to get the grill installed. Took us about 4 hours. As you can see from the photo, I had put the front of the truck on jack stands and removed the front wheels -- a huge help as getting to all the front sheet metal bolts would have been frustrating with them in the way.

    Also, having to muscle and cajole all the holes into alignment to get everything bolted back in is not a job for a single person, so it was good Mike came by to help -- it really is a two-person job.

    Next time (Sunday???), we hope to get finished and then actually align the hood and be completely done with the sheet metal! Stay tuned!

Hood/Front Sheet Metal aligned!
Official end of Body Work -- 15 Mar 2009

Anyway, we got the grille back together and reinstalled and then it was two full day's effort to get the sheet metal all realigned. It's not perfect, but it's close!

We followed Mac Klinghorn's Tech Tip on hood alignment in the Tech Tips. But we found out that while it probably works like a champ for the light duty trucks, we need to make a couple of addendums for medium and heavy duty Advance Design Trucks ...

What we ended up doing was loosening EVERY bolt that had ANYTHING to do with the hood, fenders, radiator support, grille ... ALL of it. We then started with Mac's adjustment measurements on the fender support braces but ended up slackening them both off considerably to get the fenders in the correct configuration.

We then fiddle farted for about 3 hours with the braces and the hood hinges until we started getting the right clearances and alignment ... a LOT of loosening and tightening here and there until things fit better. WHAT a pain in the patootie!

One of the smart things we did was to put the truck on jackstands and remove the front wheels and tires -- made getting to all those bolts easier.

Also, getting the right number of shims under the two radiator bolts (center bottom of the radiator stand where it connects to the frame crossmember). This was really critical and seemed to be one of the key pivot points of the whole process

After that, we decided to press on and install the 2-speed vacuum switch on the frame ... But we found out that 1.5-ton frames are different from 2-ton frames (apparently) and the holes aren't there to mount the switch!! Time to break out the drill, I guess.

2 steps forward, one step back. Lot of fun, though! Great day in the shop. It sure helped to have a friend helping.


Bumper installed !
Mar 2009

Well here she is, all outside and looking mostly complete! It's amazing to look at the picture at the top of the page and look at this one. What a journey this has been.

Today (Monday) I got home from work, checked on my bumper (the Rustoleum Aluminum was dry), so I decided to put the bumper on. The stainless fastener kit I got from Jim Carter only has enough bolts to mount the pickup bumper so I need to find three more. Otherwise, the bumper went right back on. Well, not exactly .... somewhere over the last 10 years, one of the bumper mounting tabs on the end of the frame and gotten dinged out of position. A couple of whacks with the sledge hammer (very nerve wracking swinging a sledge hammer generally at a freshly restored grille ...) and we were in business.


2010 -- Year 11
The truck goes to it's first official show -- ATCA National at Macungie, PA

Big Blue at Macungie, PA with its friend, Billy Marlow's '46 Chevy COE

We putzed the truck around, tinkering with this or that, but 2009 was a pretty busy year -- between farming, grandchildren and the other things in our lives -- and the big Blue Marriage Test pretty much took a break from being center stage at the Theatre Milliman.

That changed in 2010. A little ...

Starting with the Stovebolt Homecoming, the truck got back out of the shop and ran some. But then we decided the truck was going to head to it's first big show -- the Antique Truck Club of America's National Show in Macungie, PA. This show is always fun and one of our gang's favorites. So I cleaned her up, loaded her on the gooseneck trailer behind the '72 GMC 9500 and off she went.

Loading the trailer is always sporty due to the lack of traction this truck has (because of no bed yet and the street drive tires). So by the time the drive wheels make it up the ramps and the beaver tail, it's always interesting to see if we still have all four tires on the trailer (let alone lined up on center!) or if one of the outboards is hanging off the side of the trailer! Fortunately, all four were on the deck and close enough to center for Government work, so I chained her down and joined the convoy to Macungie.

Our little Southern Maryland group consisted of a '52 Ford rollback with a '60-something Ranchero on the back, a '59 Reo road tractor hauling a modern Suburban and a golf cart, Mike B's Stovebolt fire engine, a '70-something Peterbilt with Mike Roache's '52/'54 Big Bolt on the trailer and several modern vehicles hauling campers. Along the way, we added The Gene-ster with his "outlaw" '62 IH roadtractor, so we had an impressive rolling museum of antique trucks rolling up I-83 from Baltimore. Remarkably, even though it was June and it had a Detroit Diesel stack infront of it, the Blue Truck was amazingly clean upon arrival and didn't require a lot of detailing. Which was good because ... we had made the decision to try selling it. It sat in the for sale corral all weekend. No bites.

Other noteable trips the truck made in 2010 included its first roadtrip under its own power -- the 5-mile drive to the annual picnic of our local chapter of the American Truck Historical Society. This was the first time to get it out on the big road and wind her up to highway speeds for a sustained run. Other than a really annoying buzz from the parking brake handle near the top end of the RPM band, the trip was great -- what a thrill to run a truck that I had completely disassembled, restored and reassembled with no issues. Nothing broke or fell apart! Wow!!! Top speed -- 48 MPH.

Last Major Component -- November 2010
The truck finally gets a bed!

Bear inspects the rounded corners on the bed, recently acquired from Mike B. The back of the bed is closest. Love those curved corners!

After years of wondering what I was going to do about a bed, an original factory bed became available close by (I love when that happens). One of our 'Bolters - Mike B - decided to restore his 1956 NAPCO Brush Truck (off-road fire truck) rather than use the NAPCO components for a different project. This freed up the bed on the parts truck which he then graciously made available to me.

The bed came from one of Mike's Task Force parts trucks (a 4400 also) and appears to be a factory bed (rather than a shop-built one-off). It is surprisingly simple and light-weight. The whole thing is bolted together (rather than spot welded) so restoring it ought to be a heck of a lot easier. And it's in very good condition. Only one of the seven cross members appears to have rust damage requiring a structural fix. The rest of it appears to simply need to be cleaned, surface rust removed and painted.

All of the wood is rotten (except for the one board you can see in the picture). All of the other boards came off merely by pulling them by hand. One of the two 2x6 oak long frames is solid enough to be removed and used as a guide for the new ones. The other one is completely rotted.

The only thing that could prove challenging about this bed is finding the correct stakes to fit the unique stake pockets. I have two (from the headache rack) to use as guides. Hopefully, I'll be able to find more.

I guess I now know what my major winter project is going to be :)

Bed Making -- January/February 2011

Tear down complete
Bear inspects the disassembled bed components. He failed everything except the 3 outer rail pieces and the 14 crossmember-to-longitudinal-frame brackets. The seven cross members will have to be re-fabricated ...

It's hard to believe that we've passed another anniversary on this project ... 12 years. Yikes.

After Christmas Tree sales were all wrapped up, Hambone helped me get the bed into the shop so I could get it disassembled. Mostly, that was done one bolt at a time with the gas wrench. Over the course of the weekend, I got it disassembled. It was slow going, as I was trying to get severely rusted bolts undone without tearing everything up. Careful/slow work with the torch and I was able to get everything apart -- even the clutch head bolts that held the outer frame rails to the crossmembers.

Once everthing was apart, I could lay all the pieces out on the shop floor (as seen in the image at right) and inspect each one. It turned out the outer frame rails were good (good thing as they were what this whole effort was all about), but hardly much else was going to be good. Six of seven crossmembers needed to be replaced, so I took the best one over to Lloyd Wenger, my neighbor who has a welding shop. Within a week's time, he had reproduced all the crossmembers very accurately. I doubt most people would be able to tell the difference if they weren't side by side with an original. At any rate, Lloyd doesn't have the original dies or a press big enough, so he had to use a metal brake and fab the cross members up in three pieces (center and two outers) and weld them together. I think they look great. Now it's time to start hunting up the giant oak boards that will form the longitudinal frame for the bed -- the part that mates to the truck's frame.

There's a good thread in the Big Bolts forum where you can read this for yourself, but a few of the knowledgeable guys

John assembles the first cross member for a trial fit. Aren't those oak boards pretty? Nice day, but only about 20 degrees in the shop.

gave me a real education on this bed. It *is* a factory bed, although for the 55's through '59's or so. I can live with that. The other interesting thing is that a few manufacturers were contracted to supply the beds, made to GM's specifications. One of those specs was that the longitudinal frame pieces were to be of wood (oak). I don't know why. The experts say the after market beds are pretty much all steel and welded. Only the factory GM beds were bolted together on a wooden frame. Interesting. At any rate, I had to find a source for two oak boards that were 2x6.5 or so. I started checking with my Mennonite neighbors as we have a few furniture makers in the community.

One of the furniture makers is a chair specialist, and it turned out he had the boards I needed in stock -- rough cut 2 x 8 x 13. Monsters! He offered to run them through the jointer to clean up the edges. I didn't turn that down! I went back that Saturday morning to get them. In the photo at Left, you can see me starting to piece everything together to make sure everything fits. With as many new pieces as I have, I want to make sure everything fits where it is supposed to before I start drilling holes in a $90 piece of wood.

So, at this point, I have the bed all pieced together, except for the rearmost cross member. I thought it was useable, but it wasn't. So I took it over to Lloyd to have him recreate it. Once I have that, I can finish my trial fit and drill the holes in the wood. Once that's done, I will disassemble everything, put a coating of something on the wood (probably a spar varnish) and a final coat of semi-gloss black on the metal pieces.

<< click the image for a larger view >>

Here's the bed mostly back together in a trial fit. The point is to ensure all the holes in the new pieces line up and that everything is square and true before I take the drill to that expensive oak! In the photo, you can also admire Lloyd's precision handiwork in recreating the factory cross members almost indentically.










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