1952 Chevrolet 1/2 Ton Pickup
Back in the late fifty’s, I grew up riding in my grandfathers 1950 Forrest Green Suburban, so this seed was planted over sixty years ago and I am thrilled to be able to share my passion with my fellow stovebolter’s.
I retired in 2012 and a major part of my retirement plan was to restore old cars/trucks. I spent the first year preparing our home to sell, then the next five finishing our new home. Six years later, I was finally able to start looking for that project to fulfill my lifelong dream.
While wintering in South Carolina (our winters in upstate NY in the Adirondack mountains can and usually are brutal), I had been looking on Craig’s list for an old truck. In February of 2019, I saw and ad for a 1952 Chevrolet five window 1/2 ton truck, located in Concord, North Carolina, that just reached out to me. She was over three hours away and just the though of the logistics involved in driving there, obtaining a large sum of cash from the bank and renting a U-Haul trailer to get her home, almost stopped me from calling. After talking it over with my wife, she got me back on track and the rest just fell in place. The owner already had several full price offers when we got there but gave me the first shot, since I was the first one to call. We brought our truck that same day and after a long five hour journey home, she was parked in our yard by eleven PM.
That was the start of our new project…
Our immediate plan was to get her mechanically sound, safe and road worthy, enjoy her for the first summer, then off to a full frame off restoration. That didn’t quite go according to plan, as it took two and a half years before we finally got the mechanicals straightened out to make her safe to drive.
I knew when we bought her, that she was not running. The ad stated that the engine was rebuilt and the seller had the receipts to prove it, so I assumed (we all know how that works) the engine would not be an issue. I had her running after cleaning out the gas tank, rebuilding the carburetor and replacing a faulty condenser. We took her for her first drive (no tags) on the backroads. I drove her about a half mile from our home, enough to go thru all the gears, get her up to thirty MPH, test out the clutch and brakes then home again. Everything worked, a bit noisy, but still worked. We were thrilled ton have a running, driving antique truck!
Continuing on that path to get her licensed, I replaced the brake shoes, most of her wiring and her vacuum wiper motor rebuilt (one of my favorite features of the truck). That spring we hauled her 950 miles to her new home in upstate New York. In July of 2019, I got tags to take her out for her first shake down cruise. It was quite an experience to say the least. She was all over the road and in the words of our own Hotrod Lincoln, “Your herding the truck down the road, not steering it!”, couldn’t have been more true. She was also way noisier than expected and didn’t stop worth a damm. She misbehaved so badly that I dared not take her over forty five MPH and even at that speed she felt uncontrollable. We both had mixed feelings, as we were thrilled to have her on the road, with the realization that we had a long road ahead and before she would be truly road worthy.
During the next year, I rebuilt the front end in it’s entirety, and the entire braking system. A year long battle investigating low oil pressure, resulted in me removing the engine in August of 2020. After disassembling the engine, I found shims under the main bearing caps, the largest being .009”. During this time I was able to talk to the owner (two owners ago) that had the engine rebuilt. He told me when he got the engine back, one of the main bearings ceased up. Apparently their solution was to shim the caps to get additional clearance. I’m not sure why they would install .009” shims on a bearing that needed .002”-.003” clearance. This ultimately resulted in taking the engine to a reputable shop to have the entire engine re-machined, with all new bearings. While the engine was out, I rebuilt the tranny, both rear axles, cleaned up and painted the engine bay. In December of 2020, I reinstalled her drivetrain, then put her to bed for the winter. After two and one half years and several thousand dollars, she finally passed New York State’s inspection and is safe and road worthy!
Our future plans for the old gal have changed quite a bit. We decided a full frame off may not be in our best interests. Seeing how long it took just to get the mechanicals straightened out, we decided that we didn’t want to go that route and tie the truck up for what I believe would take at least two to three years (my wife usually doubles my time estimates and she is usually right), which may turn to five or more. As most of us ‘bolters know , “Every twenty minute job is one broken bolt away becoming a three day ordeal”, a saying a fellow ’bolter used on this forum and seems to be appropriate in this case.
We have been debating since we first got the truck on what color we were going to paint her. My first thought was red with a period correct cream white top and a black stripe separating the two. My wife said it would look like a fire truck and she is right. My second choice was charcoal gray with a light gray top and a red stripe separating the two. My garage interior walls are painted that way, I like it but she didn’t for our truck, so that was shot down. One of the first car/truck shows we went to, we saw a 37 Ford, painted Washington Blue and we both fell in love with that color. Not liking the idea of painting the truck with a competitors color, I tabled that idea. For the next two years, we went to car/truck shows and scoured the internet for a color that we both agreed upon, from her original color Forrest Green to Omaha Orange and the rest of the colors that were available that year. None of those appealed to us and we kept going back to that Washington Blue. We decided that since the truck is not original (has a ‘59 235) and we’ll be making other upgrades, Washington Blue will be her new color and I love the idea. Maybe we’ll have them change the formula just a tad so it’s not a Ford color anymore. I just won’t tell anybody (besides my “Stovebolt” family), where the color came from! LOL
In any case, prior to painting her, she still needs:
* Floor pan and lower kick panels replaced
* Both cab corners replaced
* New bed supports
* Total rebuild of the door internals and hinges
* Multiple dings and dents across the entire truck need to be fixed
* Cleaning and painting the frame (as much as possible)
I believe I can accomplish all of this without removing the cab, breaking it down to one job at a time. This way I’ll minimize our downtime.
Once she is painted, I’ll need to install:
* All new wood in her bed
* All new weatherstripping
* New windshield glass
* Sound/insulating material in the interior
* New interior to match the new paint
* Original styled rims, wide whitewall tires and original styled hub caps and beauty rings.
On the safety side I have already added three point seat belts and a center lap belt.
On the upgrade side, we have grown to appreciate the engineering marvel and originally of the fifty’s and would like to preserve as much as possible with the intent that safety comes first. We would like to add:
* Dual Master Cylinder with power front disc
* An increase in highway speed
* We are also considering adding AC
The first few pictures were of the truck when we first got her, followed by how she looks today. The outside of the truck looks much the same (it doesn’t look like I did much work), but open the hood and you can start to appreciate the amount of work that was done. We have a long path ahead but finally enjoying the fruits of my labor. I hope you enjoyed our adventure, as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Last edited by Phak1; Sat Oct 08 2022 12:39 PM.