1947 Chevrolet 1-Ton Panel Truck (slightly modified)
This is my 1947 chevy panel truck. I plan on making it a reliable daily driver.
After a couple years of searching I found this 1 ton panel truck. It was listed in the greensheet for $800.
I responded to the ad and the seller told me it was in a storage yard. I rushed down there to have a look, the yard was locked, so I went through some woods to the side and saw the truck. I knew it was right when I saw it. In my excitement and haste I tripped and fell on some mesquite, jabbed a thorn into my palm.
I arrange a time to meet and showed up with a AAA towtruck and my weeks pay in my pocket, $200. Mike was sad to let it go, but he saw my enthusiasm. He had big plans and also had a 350 torn apart. He wanted to go through everything and build it right. He hadn’t done much in the 10 years he owned it. Some boyscouts had recently broken the windows, so he decided it was time to sell. There was no engine or transmission, one of the rear windows was the only unbroken glass, no seat(s). This was a delivery van for Planter’s Peanuts. The logo had been scrapped off but was easy to see. Henderson Distribution Company painted on the sides, a Mr. Peanut and 5¢ on the doors. The original Green had been painted over, brushstrokes visible, Silver body and Red fenders, they left the mid band, and grill green with pinstripe. The plates were 1954, there was a nasty dent above the rear of the drivers door, and a dent in the hood. I don’t think it had been driven more than 7 years. I could also see words in the silver paint, looked like spraypaint had melted the silver. The spraypaint was no longer there, but the words remained: Loco for Sale. I imagine this was used as a billboard for a weed dealer in southwest Texas.
I handed him the $200 and said I would pay the rest each week with every dollar I earned. He just said to go ahead and don’t worry about it. I had it towed to the driveway of the house I was renting where I replaced the windshield and door windows. Later I had it towed to a storage space where I rebuilt the brake cylinders.
After two years, I went to a junk yard and asked if they had an engine for me. Recently a ’58 DelRey with a pickup camper mounted to the back half had arrived. This was a dream machine that a mechanic had built to live in during his battle with cancer. I purchased the 235 and had them remove it and deliver it to a mechanic. At the time I was living in a ’58 Viking bus RV in a trailer park. There was a mechanic next door that agreed to take on my project. They set up the engine and told me to get “the Beast” out of their yard. I stored it for another year at the neighbors. I found another mechanic to continue. I went back to the junkyard and found a dumptruck with an SM420 transmission. I had to go back several times to wrestle that out. The mechanic was making slow progress. I had gotten my daily driver truck stuck in the mud, so I went to the mechanic and told them my panel truck was ready. I started driving it the 20 miles to work until I got my truck unstuck.
I had to get it legal, so I had a patrolman come out and verify the numbers. They took the number off the engine, I wasn’t there at the time but my neighbor in the trailer park said he had trouble finding the number. Titled and insured I worked on it now and then and drove it occasionally. Off to college I would drive between Waco and Austin for the weekends. My F100 threw a rod, so I started making the 2 hour trip in the panel truck. I could go 60 mph floored. It was loud, shakey, and walked a couple feet when hitting a bump. There was an old F250 with 3.55 gears behind my girlfriends place in the woods. I had the panel truck jacked up on stumps in the mud swapping that in. Pulled some U-bolts from a junk yard and made an offset by drilling a couple holes in metal plate. I didn’t like it. Yes it was faster, but behind the 235/SM420, I had to start in the compound low every time unless going downhill. If I rolled up to a light that just changed from red to green, the engine would struggle in 2nd gear, or I would have to stop and shift to 1st. I had float shifted in the f100 on the highway, so I knew it could be done. Might be o.k. on a country road, but I needed consistent drivability in the busy city. That and one axle was bent.
I found a rear end from an 86 suburban with 3.73 gears. Now I could go 80 mph floored, loud shakey and walking a foot or two when hitting a bump. It would also make a sound at higher speeds, maybe the angles of the driveshaft. I would tell passengers it’s balking. Mostly a weekender, driving around town or short trips vehicle. One day there was a wretched sound from the engine compartment, a loud rattle. I pulled to the side of the road and shut it off. When I started it again, the valve that had snapped, wedged between the head and cylinder, engine siezed. I had another 235 installed.
I trailered it to Seattle and was commuting across town for a few years. I had the knee action shocks replaced with cylider shocks, and also added shocks on the rear as well as get the rear end re-installed correctly. The shocks helped eliminate the walking sideways when hitting a bump at high speed. I decided to get the numbers on the title squared away since the vin was from the blown engine I left in Texas. Washington had issued me a title when I surrendered the Texas title. I got the appropriate documents and drove to the state patrol where they looked at the ID plate and agreed to issue a title based on the number on the ID plate.
I really had to stand on the brake pedal when stopped on a hill, no fun. It mostly just sits. I start it every month and drive around a little. I want this to be my main vehicle. I could drive it around running errands, but after it gets hot, it is difficult to start. I have to not touch the gas pedal, and maybe it will start, or I’ll have to wait awhile. I need to be able to get in and go! A few years ago I picked up a 1988 GMC k2500 to use as a donor. Recently I found a shop to take on this project. I have been looking at options and haven’t found anything close to home. I went by one custom shop and they said there is a two year backlog. They also said they don’t know how to NOT take everything apart, blast everything, paint everything, and put it all back together. I just happened to stumble across a compound with several shops and walked into the body shop. At first they thought I was crazy and said they do $10,000 paint jobs, but as we talked, he said they don’t usually do that kind of work, but it would be fun. It’s a shop with a floor and tools and resources, I have none of that so this may be the place.
TLDR: Frame swap ’47 panel truck with ’88 k2500. I’ve had the panel truck for over 20 years and daily driver for 10.
After being at the shop for a year, I brought my Panel Truck home last October. I paid twice what I wanted, and it’s not finished. They took a lot of time scratching their heads or re-doing mistakes. I may not have done better myself, and certainly not in the time frame. I have a list, and put in a couple hours a week or so. I have had driveshafts made on 3 different vehicles, and I have got it wrong 3 times, this one included. It should work, but it could be an inch longer. Since it’s been home, I have put in the driveshaft, fitted a custom radiator, moved the rear shocks back. Now I’m relocating the axle bumpers, and the spare hanger.
This will be a unique ride. I will keep the mechanical speedometer, I have been working on a motor drive for the past year and it works well. The foot starter will be modified, that part has to stay. I plan on recreating the footstarter action, press down alittle and the linkage contacts a button, push down alittle more to activate the button. The Parking brake will be the lever to the right of the stick shift. I’m considering using the vacuum wiper motor, I’ll have to see how well it works with the V-8 vacuum. The wiper motor mechanism is my favorite part of the truck, I was amazed to discover how it works when I opened it up. I did put in an electric motor, but was dissappointed that it was just as slow as the vacuum wiper. The electric motor however did have the strength to operate later model wiper arms with springs to hold the wipers to the glass, the original wipers didn’t do so good going 60mph in a storm.
When it was my daily driver, my mom came to visit. I had some business at the city building, so I took her with me in the ’47. I parked on the street, and after I was done, I could not find my keys. Found them in the ignition, yes, I didn’t lock the doors either. As I proceeded down the road, around a left turn, the passenger door flew open as my dear mother hung on for her life. I found that I could cock the inside handle and it would latch, so that’s what I did from that point on. It was obvious that my mom was proud of my Panel Truck. She would talk about it occasionally if we encountered an old truck on display somewhere, telling random strangers about it. She would sat I fixed it up and drive it. I didn’t do all the work, but I did do what I could, and had a shop do whatever alse I felt it needed. I have been wanting to modernize the Panel Truck for years. My mom passed away Two years ago, and I decided it would be a good idea to fund this project with the settlement from her estate.