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#529491 Fri Apr 17 2009 09:38 PM
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,864
Master Gabster
Excuse the mess! I am in the process of changing directions with this Tech Tip and am now including pictures and more detail. Peggy also want's to make this a real Tech Tip, so it's off to the races. This will be changing daily, so if you happen to find this under construction and you have a comment or wish to help, email or PM me. Thanks thumbs_up

Here's another modified version. October 20 2011

This started out as a Guide to buying a Suburban, but as usual it has become something bigger, I think of it as a Guide to buying a 1947/1955 Suburban/Panel/Canopy Express and a reference guide for the same.

I have compiled this as a living document, I am open to and encourage input and corrections. Please let me know what can be added or should be corrected. I am sure I have forgotten something.

*** *** *** This should cover the 1/2 ton SUBURBAN, PANEL and CANOPY EXPRESS vehicles. One ton models will have the same problems with only some of the body patches being unavailable.

In general, the Cab (front doors forward) fender, hood and grille are the same for 1/2, 3/4, 1 ton trucks, including Panels, Suburban and Canopy Express. The Truck cab was used up to the 3 Ton models and with same issues possibly with slight differences.


Over the years, I have helped a few guys in their pursuit in finding a Suburban. This list should help most people who are not as familiar with the vehicles as some of us. It can also be used remotely when a fellow stovebolter volunteers to look at a suburban for another who lives far away:

Both the GMC and the Chevrolet share many of the same body parts and all of the same problems. The Advance Design Body's were problematic to rust in the same places as the pick up plus areas exclusive to the Panels/Suburban and Canopy Express. My real focus is on the Suburban, but I have also included some of the issues with the Panel and Canopy Express.

Here are a few of the areas to check when purchasing a Suburban, Canopy Express or Panel: Some differences in the Panel and Canopy Express may not be covered, but the following information can be used as a baseline in your search. (Need more input for the Panel/Canopy Express)

thumbs_up FRONT FENDERS This is common to all AD trucks. The area from the Cowl to fender first and second bolt adjacent to the hood can rust. Also the lower cowl to fender area as the fender curves. Picture of repair. Sometimes in extreme case I have seen rust out around the HEADLIGHT No repair panels available to my knowledge. (ALL)

thumbs_up WINDSHIELD SURROUND/COWL: Look for rust or deep pits caused by leaking seal. RIGHT SIDE * LEFT SIDE * REPLACEMENT/REPAIR. (ALL)

*** Cowl vent: Look for unusual rust caused by bad seal. Also look under the dash if you find any evidence of a leaking vent seal. Water collects near the ignition switch and around the steering column and will rust out the lower portion of the dash. (ALL) (NEED PICTURES)

*** Inside visor/header: This is common to all AD trucks. Check this area for rust caused by leaking window seal. (ALL) (NEED PICTURES)

*** Roof rain gutters : This area is susceptible to seam cracking and leaks, rust out can occur in several areas. (ALL) (NEED PICTURES)

thumbs_up COWL TO FRONT FENDER WELL: This area is often RUSTED and hidden by front fender and common to all AD trucks. PATCH PANELS are available through our Stovebolt Sponsor American Classic Truck Parts[/color] and other vendors. (ALL)

thumbs_up LOWER COWL : This is common to all AD trucks. As mentioned in the fender to cowl area, but also on the lower section of the cowl between the fender and the door. Repair/patch panels are available through our Stovebolt Sponsor [color:#006600]American Classic Truck Parts[/color] and other vendors. (ALL)

thumbs_up DOOR PILLAR: This is common to all AD trucks. The lower section just below and including the LOWER HINGE gets rust out. Repair panels FRONT VIEW & BACK VIEW Patch panels are available through our Stovebolt Sponsor [color:#006600]American Classic Truck Parts[/color] and other vendors. (ALL)

thumbs_up DOOR BOTTOM/INTERIOR: This AREA is prone to RUST and is common to all AD trucks. PATCH PANELS are available through our Stovebolt Sponsor [color:#006600]American Classic Truck Parts[/color] and other vendors. (ALL)

eeeek DOOR BOTTOMS (Exterior) This area rusts and is a common to all AD trucks. PATCH PANELS are available through our Stovebolt Sponsor [color:#006600]American Classic Truck Parts[/color] and other vendors. (ALL)

*** [color:#000099]Inner cowl: This is common to all AD trucks. Rust out is common in this area and around the toe board including the emergency brake location. Repair panels are available. (ALL) (NEED PICTURES)

*** Toeboard: Another area that is frequently rusted out. Repair panels are available. Look under the firewall padding. (ALL) (NEED PICTURES)

*** Floorboard: usual place to find rust out.Repair panels are available. Look under the floor matting. (ALL) (NEED PICTURES)

*** Interior roof and headliner bows: This area can get major surface rust and the headliner bows can become loose or rusty. (SUBURBAN) (NEED PICTURES)

*** Seat riser and passenger seat floor: This is usually rusted and the passenger floor is a flat piece of 1/8" steel that hides most of the rust. Make sure you check this area carefully and do an underneath inspection too. (SUBURBAN) Panel and Canopy Express seat riser goes the full width of the cab an is susceptible to rust too. (NEED PICTURES)

*** Running boards: these rust out at the support area. Reproductions are available. (1/2 TON) (NEED PICTURES)

*** Curved area under the rear side windows between the front door and the rear fender (both sides): This AREA is usually RUSTED, sometimes the paint hides the rust out. Check this area carefully. Patch panels are available. (Exclusively made for Jim Carter's Trucks[/color]) (SUBURBAN/PANEL AND CE) [color:#CC0000] (NEED PICTURES)

* Under rear fender flange: This area is another hidden problem. Make sure that you use a flash light and poke around a little. This will show up when you remove the fenders. Limited patch panels are now available (Exclusively made for Jim Carter's Trucks[/color]) (SUBURBAN/PANEL AND CE)

thumbs_up REAR FENDERS: Where it attaches to the running board and the rear corner. Also the fender flange to the body rusts out (SUBURBAN/PANEL AND CE)

[color:#000099]* Body belt line just above the rear fenders: sometimes this can be a problem and it can be hidden under the paint or someone has bondoed over it. Limited patch panels are available (Exclusively made for Jim Carter's Trucks[/color]). (SUBURBAN/PANEL AND CE)

Rear Cab Corners: This is a common place for rust out. One ton rust in the same AREA. Limited Patch Panels for the 1/2 ton (R) (L) are available (Exclusively made for [color:#006600]Jim Carter's Trucks[/color]).(SUBURBAN/PANEL AND CE)

*** [color:#000099]Rear valence: Often missing or damaged. Only available as a fiberglass reproduction. (SUBURBAN/PANEL AND CE) (NEED PICTURES)

*** Body panel just above rear valence: This is sometimes rusted and most always dented. Some patch panels are available but not a complete piece [b](Exclusively made for Jim Carter's Trucks[/color][/b]) (SUBURBAN/PANEL AND CE) [color:#CC0000] (NEED PICTURES)

eeeek REAR BODY SILL This is the piece just inside the rear doors. Usually dented sometimes rusted out. Minimal patch panels available. (SUBURBAN/PANEL AND CE) (NEED PICTURES)

*** Rear doors (barn): Usually dented, sometimes rusted at the bottom and hinges. Missing hardware or hardware not working is common problem. No patch panels available. (SUBURBAN/PANEL) (NEED PICTURES)

*** Clam shell tailgate: Usually dented and usually rusted at the hinges and the inside bottom. (SUBURBAN AND CE) (NEED PICTURES)

*** Hinge support header: sometimes rusted out due to poor fitting lift gate (sprung) can also be damaged due to frozen upper lift gate hinges. (SUBURBAN) (NEED PICTURES)

*** Lift gate hinges: there were two styles of hinges 1947-49? 1950-1955? The early style failed and tore out the header. (SUBURBAN) (NEED MORE INFORMATION) (NEED PICTURES)

headscratch CLAMSHELL UPPER LIFT GATE Usually rusted at the bottom and window area. Hinges are usually sprung or damaged. Sometimes they have been poorly welded in. Look for welds and tears. Check gate supports for proper operation. (SUBURBAN ONLY) (NEED PICTURES)

*** Lower hinge support (Clamshell tailgate): This area usually cracks or is rusted out. climb underneath and check. (SUBURBAN AND CE) (NEED PICTURES)

headscratch INTERIOR REAR BODY SIDE PANELS sometimes RUST OUT will occur when the EXTERIOR FENDER WELLS: get rusted out. This will show up in the area adjacent to the fender flange just above the inside fender tunnel. Make sure you check this area carefully (both sides) VERY LIMITED PATCH PANELS ARE AVAILABLE. (SUBURBAN/PANEL AND CE)

*** Side window openings: This area gets filled with leaves and crud. Check the outside trim pieces as well as the inside trim pieces. Slide the windows and use your flash light for a thorough inspection. (SUBURBAN) (NEED PICTURES)

***Leaded seams: There are a couple of leaded factory seams that may show stress cracks or just have failed. They are located at the top of the front windshield pillars, side cowl to upper cowl panels and at the rear roof corners near the rear doorss. (SUBURBAN/PANEL AND CE) (NEED PICTURES OF ALL SEAMS)

[/font] *** *** ***

Make sure it has all of the hard to find parts or you know what is missing: (NEED PICTURES OF INDIVIDUAL PARTS)

Side window stainless. (Unique to the Suburban) 1947/53 and 1954/55 Two different styles
Side window stops: (Unique to the Suburban) 1947/53 and 1954/55 Two styles of clips. 1947/53 * Reproduction stops available through Jim Carter's
Rear fenders: (Unique to Panels/Canopy Express and Suburban) * Reproductions in fiberglass only!
Rear valence (Unique to the Suburban/Panel/Canopy Express) * Available in fiberglass reproduction only.
Rear door handle and door hardware. (Barn door) (Unique to the Suburban/Panel)
Barn door checks. There are two different styles, one for the Suburban and another for the Panel.
Clamshell tailgate. (Unique to the Suburban and a modified version for the canopy express.)
Clamshell lift gate. (Unique to the Suburban)Rear lift gate support (clamshell lift gate) (Unique to the Suburban)
Clamshell interior tailgate handles (2) (Unique to the Suburban and Canopy Express)
Tailgate cables and retractors. (Clamshell tailgate) (Unique to the Suburban) * Generic reproduction retractors available * Cables can be made to order.
Clamshell Tail light (it should have a round base and hinged) This light will flip down when the tailgate is in the open position. Look for the rod attached to the lower sill when the gate is in the open position. (Unique to the Suburban/Canopy Express)
Clamshell tailgate (Unique to Canopy Express) this is a modified Suburban Clamshell.
Clam shell tailgate chains and hardware (Unique to the Canopy Express)
Spare tire carrier and spare tire. Two styles, 1947/50 and 1951/55 (Unique to the Suburban/Panel/Canopy Express)
Front/Jump, Middle and Rear seats. (Unique to the Suburban)
Front bucket seats. Drivers seat is original equipment and the passenger seat is an option (unique to the Panel/Canopy Express)
Cab divider panel (Unique to the Canopy Express)
Bed rails (Unique to the Canopy Express)
Rear Roof bows. (Unique to the Suburban)
Side window garnish trim (inside and out) (Unique to the Suburban)
Tool box covers Panel/Canopy Express have two and the Suburban does not have one.

Safety checks and tools:

Always take a flashlight, rug/mat, gloves, small hand tools, hand cleaner, rags, masks etc. with you for inspecting the vehicle.
Always check the brakes, including the parking brake.
Always look under the dash for wiring and it's connections.
Always check the electrical components ie: gauges,head lights, tail lights, instrument lights, heater switch etc.
Always check heater an defroster for proper operation and leaks.
Always check steering slop and king pin wear.
Always look at the oil and water.
Always look for evidence of oil leaks where the vehicle is stored, not just where he is showing it.


*Always check the registration to the license plate, body tag, engine number. Make sure that the paper work belongs with this vehicle. Take a picture of the seller with the vehicle, make sure you get the license plate in the picture. He does not have to know why you are taking the pictures. Get a copy of his drivers license or another vehicles license if possible.

Other things to check:

Check the doors for sagging and fit. Lift door when in the open position to check hinge wear. Look for wear on the door striker. Make sure that the door lines are close (they were never perfect from the factory)

Check for missing parts, take a manual with you if you are not sure.

Check radiator for rusty water.

Check heater for leaks and proper operation.

Check engine oil, it should be golden. Further inspection of the engine will be needed if oil is black or worse, gray.

Check the tires for wear and alignment. If truck has been sitting, check for age cracks and de-lamination of the tread.

Check the king pins. Rock the tires back and forth. (The best way is when the tires are off the ground)

Check under the vehicle for unusual rust and modifications.

Check for engine smoke and noises.

Check the front and rear seals for leaks after the engine warms up.

Check all of the rubber parts including window seals,motor mounts, hoses and belts.

Check all of the glass, roll the windows up and down, listen for rattles.

Check for bondo or body repairs (a small magnet will work)

What to expect when driving vehicle:

Steering should be tight and no weaving on the road.

Shifting should be easy and no grinding of the gears.

The clutch should start engaging about two inches from the floor board.

The clutch should start disengaging about two inches as the pedal is depressed.

You should not hear noises as the clutch disengages. Listen for throw-out bearing noises.

Brakes should stop in a straight line and not pull left or right.

You should not smell exhaust inside the cab with the windows rolled up.

The horn, lights and gauges should all be working. The amp gauge should show a slight charging (positive)

Check the windshield wipers going up a grade.

The engine should not move hard when accelerating (bad motor mounts.) Broken rear mounts will cause a hopping effect when shifting or accelerating.





Ray Stanley
Wheelwright Restorations
92 Pine Street
Wheelwright, MA 01904

GMONIZ #1108094 Sun Jun 14 2015 01:07 AM
Joined: Jun 2015
Posts: 18
New Guy
Great tech tip. It is a big help for me. Thanks for the post.

GMONIZ #1131793 Thu Oct 29 2015 01:01 AM
Joined: Oct 2015
Posts: 32
Wrench Fetcher
I think we all appreciate your hard work on this.

GMONIZ #1152394 Sun Feb 28 2016 01:27 AM
Joined: Dec 2015
Posts: 10
New Guy
Great info to have. Thanks

Moderated by  MNSmith, Rusty Rod 

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