New Shop Truck: 1955 Chevrolet 3100 Short Bed Pick Up

55 driver side

 

For a while now, I’ve been thinking I need a dedicated shop truck. About four years ago I sold my 57 Chevy pick up, and regretted it almost immediately. My S-10 is not really up to the task of hauling a trailer with any weight in it, and while thats not the primary need I have, it is a consideration. I found this 1955 Chevrolet 3100 1/2 ton pick up in a “local” (10 hours away) Craigslist ad in Augusta Georgia. A few emails and phone calls later; I’m the new owner.

 

 

55 passenger side

 

 

I’m getting a real education on vehicle shipping; I had planned on renting a trailer and picking it up myself, but realized (taking motels, gas, and time lost into consideration), that it wouldn’t be much more expensive to have it transported on an open trailer.

This particular truck needs everything. The plan is to make it road worthy, and address the cosmetic issues (and there are PLENTY) as time allows. Lets take a walk-around:

 

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You can see some of the “original wood” in the bed (might need some refinishing). Plans here are for a four link 9 inch ford rear (not right away).

 

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“Mint original dash”. Yeah, I know; I have a new dash (uncut) coming for it. The suave buckets may have to stay a while, until I can locate a decent bench seat for it.

 

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Drivers side cab corner. That’ll buff right out.

 

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Nice “in the weeds” stance, with no drivetrain in it. I’ve acquired a Nova subframe out of a State Police pursuit vehicle to get the big brakes, heavy sway bar, quick ratio steering box and V8 coil springs. A little touch up paint on that fender, and you’ll never see that rust spot.

 

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Mint passenger side sheet metal. Obviously, this won’t need any work.

 

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I figure about a thousand bucks in sheet metal wouldn’t hurt this old crow one bit. I don’t think it’ll ever be a show truck, but thats not what I’m going for. The plan is for the subframe , carburated 350 and 700R4 first (road worthy and reliable), then fit the new dash, and make the interior livable. At that point the truck will be mobile, and I can do the metal work at my leisure.   I have the motor, and the trans is in the shop (being rebuilt) right now, and I need to pick up the subframe next weekend. Theres not alot on this truck worth saving, but its got good bones for a 60 year old truck. Should be fun.

 

700R4 002

 

 

Heres the 93 700R4 straight out of a police cruiser. I bought 4 or 5 of these things about 10 years ago, and this is the last of the lot. Ironically, this was the only one that had a good pump, and is in real nice shape. I have a stash of heavy duty parts that will go in this one. I have a 2500 high stall convertor and TRANSCO shift kit coming, to finish it off. Here it is after the initial breakdown and cleaning. Time to clean off my bench.

 

hi stall 001

 

Well, the torque convertor showed up and I’m very happy with it. Its a TORCO, a brand I’ve used in the past and had good luck with. I went for the 2200-2500 stall speed, nothing real radical. Thats the way I set up my last truck and I loved it. Not that outside appearances have anything to do with whats inside a convertor, but I put this along side a TCI high stall I had kicking around, and the welding, fit and finish put the TCI to shame. The TCI was a 29 spline input, and this trans is a 30 spline, so I couldn’t use the TCI.

 

hi stall 002

 

I also ordered a kit to modify the lock-up system, so that it will lock up only in 4th gear, and will do it on one wire; eliminating alot of wiring. Its just a little detail designed to make my life a little easier.

At this point I need to dig out some parts. I’ve got a couple sets of 5 pinion planetaries, some red clutches, a kevlar band, a super sun shell and a kit around here someplace, just need to locate them.

 

55 dash 002

 

 

Well, as you can see; no real (any) progress on the 700. I’ve been real busy around here collecting parts and trying to coordinate the transport of the truck. Story is: it will show up here on Sunday. Right now (Thursday) the snow is falling, so I am doubtful. They’re calling for 6-8 inches.

The new dashboard arrived the other day from Rick at Classic Truck Rescue in Oregon. I’m real happy with the part. Rick shipped this by Greyhound bus, and this was my first experience with them. While I wasn’t overjoyed with Greyhound, Rick really did an exceptional job on getting the part to me (and at a reasonable cost). I’m sure I’ll be getting some more parts from him in the future. The dash was priced right, and it arrived alive, thanks to Rick’s stellar packing. If you need parts for a 55-59 Chevy/GMC truck, call Rick at 1-503-332-9576 or Email him at Rmaylender@hotmail.com (the 1st “r” is lower case, but it looks like an “m” when you type it that way). If Rick’s yard was any closer to me, I’d probably just sign my paycheck over to him. Maybe its a good thing hes on the other side of the world from me. It looks like there isn’t a part he can’t provide for any restoration. In case you can’t tell; I’m very happy.

The dash won’t get spliced in until the truck is a roller. I’ve got lots of work ahead to get the truck driveable, and the last thing I will do is pull the windshield to drop the dash in. The “plan” is to shoot some color over the whole interior when the dash gets installed, but we all know how “plans” go……………………..

 

3-14-15:

Well, the truck finally arrived in Virginia, and I hope that the build will go smoother than the start has. I had been promised a Sunday delivery date (nice dry weather), and the truck showed up on Tuesday (no calls about the delay) in the pouring rain. I had the truck delivered to my daughter’s house (Thanks Crys!), and the driver wouldn’t drop it in front of the house (too much rush hour traffic), so it had to be dropped in a Rite-Aid parking lot nearby.

So there I am: standing in the rain looking at my prize with three flat tires, wondering how I’m going to get the wreck home without the aid of a tow truck. After Crystal came home, she offered to “drive” it down the block while I hooked a tow chain up to it. No brakes and three flats; musta looked like Jed and Ellie rolling down the block. I have to hand it to my daughter; shes not shy about joining in on some of my redneck adventures. She did make some comment about why none of the cars I buy have seats that are bolted in.

I made a preliminary survey of the crab, and found that all the fragile bed mounts are busted loose, due to a bunch of rust and a poor rigging job by the transporter.  The passenger door has rust in the upper section and will need to be replaced (not shown in the photos). The leading edge of the hood has some rust (also not pictured) that will need a patch. That will be a challenge. My initial shell shock has eased; three days later, I am almost over my buyer’s remorse, and about ready to go see the truck in the daylight when its not raining. I have to pick up my subframe tomorrow, and will do a thorough survey of the project, and see what parts need to be ordered. One of my daughters friends contacted her about the truck, and it looks like he might be able to supply some of the needed parts.  I’ll try to shoot some pics when I go over there this weekend…………

 

4/26/2015 UPDATE:

Well, Long time between updates; but I haven’t been sleeping. I’ve been spending money like a drunken sailor these past few weeks/months on new parts. I kinda got shamed into doing a little work on the old toad today. I located an elusive passenger door for my buddy Brian’s ’70 Nova this weekend, and he hung the thing about ten minutes after he got home from my shop. Guess I better get to work…………..

The first of my many purchases was a pallet full of patch panels from Ecklers. Being that the front fenders were removed to do the subframe install; I decided to get them out of the way (They are crowding me out of the shop).

The drivers fender was closest to the door, so thats where I started.

 

RF fender 010

 

The bottom of the fender was rusted about four or five inches up, but I decided to use the whole panel. I figured I’d get a better line that way. I scribed a line and cut it with my DeWalt die grinder.

 

RF fender 011

 

The brace was rotted worse than the body panel and I decided to install the new brace full length too.

 

RF fender 012

 

 

Cutting in high gave me solid metal to weld to, and I had a really good fit from the get go. I threw a few tacks on and started to work my way around. Heres where a little patience goes a long way; the faster you go- the more warpage you get. I stopped after the initial tacks to deal with a bad line on the fender lip. The GoodMark panels fit real nice, but you ALWAYS have to mess with something. This wasn’t a big deal.

 

RF fender 013

 

Tack, cool, tack, cool…………….. I alternated between tacking the panel, the brace, the backside,  and working the fender lip.

 

RF fender 014

 

At this point the fender was getting a little hot, and I decided to do a little sanding. I had stripped most of the paint off with stripper, but there was no shiny metal showing. Thats my goal; to get all the paint and rust gone. I spent a half hour or so with a DA and 80 grit before I decided I needed to GET SERIOUS. I will need to work parts of the fender (mostly the sun-baked top) with my air grinder and 36 grit disks. Thats a job for tomorrow, after I get the rest of my welding done.

 

RF fender 001

 

Both of the fenders have very thin metal where the turn signals mount, with some holes. Better to just cut this out before it gets worse.

 

RF fender 003

 

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I cut a template from cardboard that will get a recessed flange so that it sits level with the rest of the metal.

 

RF fender 006

 

The finished patch, with flange. I’ll need two of these.

 

RF fender 007

 

This will be the rough size of the hole I’ll cut in both fenders. Real precision work here.

 

RF fender 008

 

RF fender 009

 

 

Just checking the fit, and marking the area to be cut. This will have to wait till tomorrow when I’ve got more light and steam. After these patches are in, theres some repairs to the leading edges of the fenders that need to be done, and then some small dents to address. That should keep me busy for a while.

 

5-6-15 UPDATE:

 

front fenders 001

 

 

Heres the plug welded in: Nothing fancy; just clean metal.  I had spent a fair amount of time scrubbing the rust with a small wire brush and Muriatic acid, and it paid off. Theres still some work to go on this fender and the other.

 

front fenders 005

 

 

Ground smooth and the new lights fitted.

 

front fenders 006

 

 

2nd patch ready for welding. The backside is cleaner than the front for welding, but this will give you an idea how rusty the front of the other fender was.

 

front fenders 007

 

Heres the 2nd patch in. At this point I ran out of excuses as to why the bottom of this fender wasn’t fixed yet. All my tools were out and I tore into it. This one needed less massaging when I was done, I must be getting better. Once the welding is done (I still have to fabricate some patches on the leading edges near the bumper), I will have to address the numerous bumps and bruises around the two fenders. They’re not bad, just a little picky.

 

more front fenders 001

 

This is what I’m looking at on the leading edge of both fenders; probably from sitting in the weeds for years. I have just enough 16 guage left from the last project to fix them and then I’ll have to get some more.

 

more front fenders 003

 

 

Heres the right side.  Its an unusual shape, with compound curves. Should be challenging.

 

 

UPDATE: 6/22/15:

 

Well, I’ve been getting some requests for an update. I haven’t been slacking so much, just in “procurement mode”.  I work on the front sheet metal when I can, but the bulk of my activity has been collecting parts for the truck. I have been trying to get the big (expensive) stuff out of the way first, so that I can get the biggest bang for the buck up front. I have been working on the front sheet metal when I can, but the cleanup is monumental. Today I got started stripping some of the 60 year old undercoating and surface rust on the old girl. After doing some more work on the fenders, I decided to grab the inner fender wells and radiator support.

 

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In addition to the Georgia mud on the inner fender wells was some really tough undercoating. I started with paint stripper (about 3 coats) and then some oven cleaner.

 

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After the initial clean up, I sprayed the IFWs with oven cleaner again, and went at them with the pressure washer. This got 90% of the bad stuff off, and the rest of it will break loose with lacquer thinner. I’m more concerned with the engine side than the bottom.

 

crud removal 001

 

Still some work left to do, but a little more clean up and a DA will get it ready to paint. I use cheap oven cleaner; the expensive stuff is more “environmentally friendly”, and doesn’t work all that well.

 

crud removal 008

 

The radiator support is a minor nightmare to get clean, with light surface rust and undercoating. Lots of nooks and crannies to clean. I don’t think it will fit in my blast cabinet, so I soaked it in paint stripper, and then hit it with oven cleaner too.

 

crud removal 009

 

This got most of the rough stuff off and should make final prep alot easier. This is the stuff that stalls most people on restorations: getting the parts clean before the resto. The frame (what I’ll keep) is pretty much clean enough to hang the sub frame. I’ve collected all the parts I need for the suspension, to make it a rolling chassis, so I’m running out of excuses for “making the cut”. Anyone that has literally cut their truck in half, and welded a new sub frame in will understand my hesitation; It takes some gonads to cut your frame up with a sawzall. The first time I did it, it took me a couple of hours to pluck up the courage. I’m a little less reluctant to do it this time, as I’ve done it a few times, and I’m going with a method that looks to be alot faster. I’ll probably shoot a video of the transplant when I do it, and plan to take some time off of work to get the d@mn thing done. I’m not expecting to drive the thing next week, but would like to make some REAL progress soon.

 

UPDATE 7-30-2015:

 

Its funny how life can get in the way of progress on stuff. Its been a month since I updated my site (not that I haven’t been working), but I just haven’t felt that theres been anything of substance to crow about.

Last week my son moved back from Colorado, and we’ve been catching up. I decided to take a week off from work to get some work done on the truck, and my son returned home to find me cleaning up the dashboard to the truck in the driveway, and shot a pic of the dash and posted it on my Facebook account. It struck me that he’s been home less than a week, and he’s done more work on my site than I’ve done in a month. Time for me to get a little more serious about updating my progress (or lack of it).

I’ve been trying out some new tools to strip paint on the old toad, and some of them have been pretty effective (and some not so much). I’ll try to do a product evaluation on some of them shortly. It probably won’t be real earthshaking, but might help somebody out a little. Theres nothing I hate more than wasting money on stuff that doesn’t work.

 

8-1-2015:

 

My son and I have been brainstorming some changes to my site, and hes been showing me some of the features hes loaded on some of the sites hes working on for other people. I keep seeing some of the spray painting artwork that hes doing on his site (  cannedink.com  ), and thought I’d try to impress him with what I can do with a spray bomb. I have a set of old Edelbrock valve covers that are going on the 55 when I spruce them up a bit.

 

valve covers 001

valve covers 002

 

 

Now, I’m not a guy who likes to spend his weekends polishing chrome and aluminum, so I LIKE the “patina” on the covers. As a matter of fact, I had to age the oil cap I bought a little so that it wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Might need a little more work on that.

 

valve covers 003

 

I like the engine color matching inserts on the ribbed covers, so I masked off the sides. The ribs will get lightly sanded after the paint dries to highlight the high spots for contrast.

 

valve covers 005

 

 

I used some VHT Chevy Orange engine paint. Thats what I’m planning to do the motor in, and I like the color.

 

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One side after three light coats.

 

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And the other. I’m not real thrilled about how the paint lays on Aluminum. I took the time to wash the covers with lacquer thinner, and blew them off real good. The paint doesn’t seem to flatten out real good; almost looks like wrinkle paint.

 

valve covers 012

 

We’ll see how it looks in a couple of days. I laid them out in the shop with a fan blowing on them. Once they are cured I’ll sand the high spots and see how they look. They look pretty good to me so far. I’m going to wait until thats done to decide if the filler cap will get the same treatment.

 

8-3-2015:

 

valve covers II 002

 

 

Its been a couple of days since I sprayed the VHT Chevy Orange paint on the valve covers, and it has cured sufficiently to sand off the ribs. The finish has flowed pretty smooth as it shrunk up, and looks pretty good (better than I expected). It also cured enough where it was a bugger to sand off; I have high hopes it will last on the valve covers.

 

valve covers II 005

 

I had planned on block sanding them with 180 wet or dry, but couldn’t put my hands on any, so resorted to the DA and 220 grit. It took a while, but better than hand sanding.

 

valve covers II 008

 

 

They look pretty good after a quick cleaning. I think the oil cap will need the same treatment, and maybe sand the “Edelbrock” lettering, but thats for a day when I feel more ambitious.

 

 

“It’s got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant. It’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas.”    (Elwood Blues)

 

 

More later……………………….

 

 

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