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#1404741 Sun Apr 04 2021 02:31 PM
Joined: Mar 2021
Posts: 14
1938 half-ton coal truck

Heres my 1938 half ton truck. I found this truck by sheer accident. I own it over 20 years now. I saw an ad for a 72 Chevy truck in our local merchandizer and went to look at it. Turns out it wasnt what I wanted but this 38 was sitting in the back corner of the big dark dirty garage. The owner was close to 90 years old and was in the worst stages of Alzheimer's. He had a man who was taking care of him and was his power of attorney. This man was told to sell off the vehicles...except the 38 truck as this truck was the old mans pride and joy. The old man owned a coal delivery business in a small town. He used this truck to deliver small loads of coal to the homes in town. I live in the coal region of Pa so coal was very common to use back then. This old man bought the truck brand new. He was meticulous with maintenance and keeping records of what he did. Anyway...I asked the care taker if i could look the truck over. He said yes but its not for sale. I said if you would take my info and should you decide to sell it id be interested. Some time passed and I got a call. I gave him $100 down to hold the truck till I came to pick it up. When I went back with a trailer the care taker came out and said that old man cant tell you his own name but he knows that truck is leaving and hes going crazy. He asked if id go back on the deal. I couldnt bring myself to do it...hurt the old man that is. I took back my down money and let. I was very disappointed but felt it was the right thing to do. The friend whos trailer I used really got angry at me and said Im an idiot and will never see that truck again. Well a few months passed and one day there was a knock on my door. It was the care taker. He lost my contact info but remembered I drove an orange 72 chevy truck and he drove all over the town I lived in to find me! He spotted the orange truck! He said the man is in very bad shape and the family said all property must go...including the truck. I paid a rollback to pick it up for me as the other guy was not an option I got the truck home and own it ever since. After the old man passed away there was auction in his garage. He had tons of things from being in business since the 1920s. I found the windshield crank handle in a box of junk and bought that! He had the windshield gooped closed as it leaked. He removed the handle but kept it. Luckily I found it! The auctioneer went on with the sale and at one point he looked at me and said I have a few pictures you may be interested in. I got original pics of the truck piled high with snow in the bed and also a little note book with all the dated maintenance he did to the truck. If he so much as touched up the paint...he jotted it down. I got the tuck running...all it needed was a battery and fresh gas. I had to clear the float needle a few times but thats it. The carb didnt even leak. I checked the brakes and rewired the truck. I drove it around for a few years then one day the brakes locked and i parked it....a few years passed again and I decided I needed to run it again. I rebuilt the brake system and been running it. Two years ago I bought a 235 to swap into it and been picking up parts to do a T5 and open driveline conversion. I also plan to do a dual master cylinder swap. Thats where I'm at now and how I came to this site...and oh by pre68daves guidance too. I want to leave the truck visually as I found it. I feel the patina tells a story. You can see the wear on the door where the mans arm wore through the paint and where his knee rubbed the paint away on the inside panel. The steering wheel is worn smooth where his hands always held it. Thats all lost in a restoration I feel. I feel privileged have this truck actually. I love driving it. It represents a time when being self sufficient and hard work was a way of life. Its simple and to the point. I work in auto collision and see what "trucks" have evolved into now and my 38 really defines the word truck. So theres the story. I hope I wasnt to long winded...
Last edited by Peggy M; Sun Jul 17 2022 06:40 PM.
Joined: Oct 2018
Posts: 109
Not to long winded, great truck and great story.

Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 2,572
Workshop Owner
Your truck is in remarkable condition. Thank you for sharing your story and posting the picture for all to see. When you have the time it would be cool if you were to add a few more pics of the truck including one or two that you acquired at the auction.

I bet the old guy is looking down and pleased that you are taking good care of his pride and joy.


J Lucas
1941 Chevy 1/2-Ton
1942 Chevy 1.5-Ton SWB
1959 Chevy Apache 31 Fleetside
1959 Chevy Apache 32 Fleetside
1969 Chevy C-50 Grain Truck
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Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 3,598
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What a truck and what a story. You best part was when you were kind enough to let the dying man have his wish and the caretaker returned the favor by going out of his way to find you. We need more people like you two in this world.

Wonderful plan and we’re here to help you achieve you goals. Good Luck!

Moderator, The Engine Shop, Interiors and Project Journals

1952 Chevrolet 3100
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‘59 235 w/hydraulic lifters
“Three on the Tree” & 4:11 torque tube
Updated to: 12v w/alternator, HEI & PCV
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 2,324
Crusty Old Sarge
It's a great story and great old truck. Thank you for sharing.


"Living life in the SLOW lane"

Come, Bleed or Blister something has got to give!!!
'59 Apache 31, 327 V8 (0.030 over), Muncie M20 4 Speed, GM 10 Bolt Rear... long term project (30 years and counting)
'58 Viking 4400, 235, 4 Speed (Thor)
Joined: Mar 2021
Posts: 14
I sometimes think the old man has a hand in the truck's life yet. Its weird because when I decided to do the 235 conversion and I bought an engine.... I needed to find a T5 trans and soon after I got the engine I found a trans for sale a few miles from where I work. Then I needed a rear axle and soon found one locally from a 46 3/4 ton and then another one with 3:90 gears from a 55 truck. I bought both...the first rear had 4:56 gears and the second had 3:90...the first has a good housing but the second one the housing is in bad shape...just so odd to find what I need so quickly and so close to home. When I first went to put money down on the truck I talked with the man...he was telling me stories of him and his father logging on the mountain near where I live. He was just a little boy. He said how they had the logs on a trailer and pulled by a team of horses. Coming down the mountain was scary dangerous as the trailer was skidding and pushing the horses. He remembered those days like it was yesterday but about every 2 minutes he's ask my name and where I was from. Id tell him every time but his disease wouldnt let him remember. Sad that this man who had so much history in his head couldnt even remember how to feed himself. The fella that was caring for him asked what my plans were for the truck. I said possibly restore it but not hot rod or chop it up. He liked that idea. After having it so long I decided to keep it looking as it is. Its still very solid but dented and worn. The engine and trans upgrade is just so I can enjoy it more and not blow the 216 apart...LOL

Joined: Nov 2019
Posts: 558
Nice looking truck and a great story to go with it.

"If you can't fix it with duct tape it's an electrical problem"
1949 5 Window 3100
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Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 111
Love the look of your truck!

1938 Chevy 1/2 ton
She looks good at 50 yards and 35 miles per hour on a dark night.
Joined: Dec 2014
Posts: 319
Pretty cool 38 coal truck your about 30 miles from me.

Joined: Jan 2016
Posts: 1,103
Love the truck. Can I send you $100 to hold it for me?

Dave from Northern Kentucky
My 54 3100 []
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