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Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 723
F
'Bolter
1948 Chevy 1/2 ton truck 5-window deluxe

“The Heartbeat of America”

This 1948 Chevy 5-window deluxe ½ ton pickup truck was my 1st project of this sort after dreaming about it for years. I did not start the restoration, but believe that I have now finished it. The age-old question in this hobby: are you ever done with a restoration?

In 2009 I had received a tip from my wife Martha’s cousin Steve that this truck was available. When the previous owner from Cadillac, Michigan had to let go of the project, I was in the right place at the right time for once in my life! After making multiple phone calls and visits in person to check the truck out, we negotiated a fair sale price. The unfinished truck (and boxes of small parts, along with a truck bed and trailer full of larger parts) was hauled to my pole building in West Branch, Michigan. Once jump-starting the restoration, I was “all in”!

This project became a great stress-reliever from the daily responsibilities of being a middle school principal in a state hard-hit by the Great Recession just prior to that. I retired in 2012 from my life’s work as a public school educator, spending the last 21 years as a building principal. I spent more time in my waking hours thinking about the truck that I should have; it occupied my dreams as well!

The truck was on the road again August 2009, and it now has 8500 miles on a completely rebuilt 235 c.i. 6-cylinder engine pulled from a 1955 Chevy. This engine was bored .060 over, and only had shop hours on it when I purchased it with the truck. The truck has its original 4-speed stick (floor) shift with a 4.11 rear-axle. It runs really sweet at around 55 m.p.h. during my annual driving season of April – October.

This old truck was in the service fleet for the Road Department in Mineral County, Nevada (county seat is in Hawthorne) until the mid/late 1960s. I have talked a few times with the man who purchased the truck from the Mineral County Road Department; it has had multiple owners since then. Included in the ownership is a couple that lived in Texas, who then moved with it to Michigan.

The truck was originally purchased by the Road Department from the “Nevada Garage” Chevy dealership (no longer in existence) in Hawthorne. We believe that a Road Department supervisor used the truck. The Mineral County seals on the side of the doors were compliments of the current Road Department supervisor.

Patched holes from a roof-mounted service light were clearly visible when the headliner was replaced. A period-correct amber Federal service light was purchased and mounted it in its original location, operated by a vintage switch under the dash. K-D 517 amber cab clearance marker lights were also mounted on the cab roof. Five vintage red reflex Guide/Stimsonite reflectors and two amber King Bee reflectors clearly mark the truck box/tailgate and help identify the vehicle as a service truck. The GM accessory road reflectors and Bolser “smudge pots” mounted on the passenger bedside help with that as well. A rare 1948 Nevada “highway department exempt” license plate is mounted on the front of the truck. A 1948 Michigan license plate is mounted on rear of the truck.

Further evidence of the truck’s past includes an original set of “cargo tie-down hooks” that can be seen below the tailgate area. These hooks were used to hold a tarp in place over the truck bed. Additional vintage WWII era cargo tie down hooks were located and fastened in the original mounting holes on the side rails. A heavy-duty tan canvas tarp is once again secured in place. Holes in various other locations around the truck where various items were mounted could be seen when I bought the truck. Three holes below the left headlight still are puzzling—any ideas? IF THESE OLD TRUCKS COULD ONLY TALK! I BELIEVE THAT THEY DO SPEAK TO US, BUT THEY STILL CAN’T COMPLETELY TELL THEIR STORY TO US!

Some accessory items have been obtained and re-installed in some of these holes. A hole in the dashboard is where the wiring for the vintage N.O.S. illuminated Hull compass passes through. A vintage one-quart brass Pyrene fire extinguisher (non-working) is mounted on the passenger-side kick panel near the Harrison heater. The mounting holes for the bracket fit exactly where the pre-existing holes were located in the sheet metal. The same is true for a N.O.S. Casco rubber-bladed fan on the upper-left of the dash.

The previous owner did most of the undercarriage and bodywork. Nearly all the sheet metal is original. Only the tailgate, front bed panel, and the front and side splash panels are after-market replacements.

Amongst a very long list of things I have done to this truck:
• cab interior restored to its original look (repainted the original “champagne/graphite brown metallic” color), including striping of the glovebox door, ashtray, and radio speaker grille
• steering wheel and column repainted
• seat recovered
• replacement interior sun visors w/ original brackets installed

• headliner replaced
• instrument gauges restored
• all correct trim pieces located and installed, including a pair of rear headliner support bars—evidenced by the four small “buttons” in the headliner
• original fresh air Harrison heater that came with the truck was restored, which must have come in handy on cold Nevada mornings/evenings out on the Mineral County roads
• replaced driver’s side inner door panel, driver’s side upper hinge detents, hinge pins + passenger side door latch
• replaced the driver’s side stainless steel inside window trim
• new data plate stamped/installed w/ original “clutch head” fasteners; worn original data plate is in the glovebox
• original jack/handle and complete tool set were located and placed under the bench seat
• Guide traffic light viewer installed
• N.O.S. inner door trim panels installed
• N.O.S. armrests installed on the driver’s side and on the passenger side
• N.O.S. Casco cigar lighter installed
• N.O.S. glovebox light installed
• N.O.S. windshield washer unit installed
• extension mirror and bracket installed on the driver’s set
• dual Delco-Remy seashell horns mounted on the passenger side firewall
• Trico wiper vacuum booster pump was mounted in the engine bay, where that bracket also fit exactly in three pre-existing holes located on the firewall
• Generator (rebuilt) had to be swapped out with the old defective one
• Sway bar added to the front end
• N.O.S. Perry Cooling System filter installed
• Vintage 4-speed shift pattern plate placed on the dashboard

There’s more. With safety in mind, seatbelts had to be added—the only way my wife and son Derek were going to ride with me! Furthermore, the running boards were “Rhino-lined”, and reproduction step plates were added for more sure footing. A unique feature—strictly for safety reasons—is the addition of a 3rd stoplight to the front bed rack/rails.

I’ve added a restored Guide 6004 turn signal switch and Guide D-68 lamps front and rear, Guide B-31 back-up lights, and N.O.S. Guide 5” clear fog lights. An original set of Guide black-metal back sealed-beam headlights are also in use. The rear driver’s side Guide tail light housing/bracket is original. N.O.S. Stopray/Guide taillight lenses are in use. A reproduction rear passenger taillight was added. The original 6-volt electrical service has been completely rewired. My 6-volt battery of choice is the “red-top” Optima.

The side-mounted spare tire (with lock), decorative hood ornament, a restored AM radio and reproduction antennae, and an N.O.S. underhood lamp (a now very difficult-to-find accessory) were added. The bed was refinished. New wheels were painted/striped and mated to a new set of tires, along with new hubcaps. The cab was striped as well. An original GM front bumper is in use.

There are five interesting finishing touches on the exterior that I have been fortunate to include in the restoration. In December 2014 I purchased a vintage “Smash Hit” grille guard from a man living outside of Waco, Texas. This beautiful and rare GM-approved accessory, made from 1” solid cold-rolled steel, was made by The Perry Company in Waco. I had it rechromed and mounted it May 2015. December 2015 I came across a very rare 1953 GM truck outside sun visor made by Dieterich. It was also complete and in need of full reconditioning. It made for a nice winter project. It was installed April 2016. In December 2016 I took delivery of a “Smash Hit” heavy-duty rear bumper from the same man in Texas that sold me the grille guard. I restored it, mounting it April 2017. In January 2019 I ran into a N.O.S. Guide S-16 spotlight, installing it April 2019. Lastly, in January 2021 I picked up a Detroit Products Co. #123 mechanical signal arm, fully restored it, mounting it April 2021. These are all quite the conversation pieces!

New friends have been made through the project the past seven years—some over the phone, others via the Internet and e-mail, and many in person. The information, help received, and locating miscellaneous original parts from the Stovebolt.com forum have been most helpful and appreciated. The H.A.M.B., the V.C.C.A., Facebook and eBay were also good places to find original parts.

Younger brothers Joe and John were a big help on the project. Joe assisted on the electrical side of the project, as well as the body finish. John topped off the restoration by building a set of bed racks/rails out of red oak left behind by our deceased Grandpa K—“the Judge”—who ironically retired from the Bay County, Michigan Road Department. My wife’s cousin Jim has also been a big helper.

On a side note, my deceased father Fred was a big supporter of this truck restoration project. In 1966 he used an early 1950’s Chevy 3-window pickup truck with vented windows to haul building supplies to build a house for his growing family in Zilwaukee, Michigan (outside of Saginaw). When finished building the house, he sold the truck for the same purchase price. My mother passed away in 2019, and my sister Judy directed the sale of the family home.

Driving the “Heartbeat of America” on a regular basis and attending classic car shows across Michigan have validated for me that completing the restoration was a very worthwhile project for others to enjoy as well. Attending the 50th V.C.C.A. Anniversary meet in Flint July 2011 sure was quite an event! The truck has participated in “Back-to-the-Bricks” events the past few summers, which has included trips to the showroom of the local Chevrolet dealer. The truck and I have also appeared on local TV through those events.

The truck has taken part in the Old US-27 Tours the past few summers as well. This classic American truck has appeared in multiple Stovebolt calendars (2010-2011-2012-2014-2015-2016), as well as in the 2013 Michigan Antique Festival calendar. The Heartbeat was featured in Vintage Truck magazine March/April 2015. It has been featured in the V.C.C.A.’s Generator and Distributor monthly magazine September 2010 and February 2012. It also appeared in Hemmings Classic Car magazine December 2011. A newspaper article was also written on it in the Mineral County Independent-News June 2011. It was the featured “truck of the month” January 2012 on the Jim Carter Truck Parts Company website. It was highlighted in a TV advertisement by WJRT TV-12 of Flint, Michigan for the June 2017 “Back to the Bricks” Promotional Tour.

The “Heartbeat of America” has come back to life and lives again, over 70 years after its creation in Oakland, California. As I now have reached age 60, I see this restored ’48 Chevy truck as a tribute to the rich auto heritage of our great state of Michigan.
Last edited by fonz8261; Thu Mar 10 2022 10:50 PM. Reason: photos added
2 Comments
Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 2,417
J
Workshop Owner
Absolutely stunning. thumbs_up With all of those options, including the Casco cigar lighter, it probably would have the Superintendents truck.

Thank you for sharing your story and photos.

John


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

My Flicker Photos! [flickr.com]

Joined: Jul 2021
Posts: 49
S
'Bolter
Very nice. Thnx for sharing!


sambo42xa-Sandown,NH
52 Chevrolet 6100 2T

“all my responses are My own opinions and/or suggestions. I do not claim to know all there is to know, but I May have dealt with it before and offering my knowledge”
I can also be a smart censored, but it’s all good, so don’t take offense.

Moderated by  hardshell, J Lucas 

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