Year/Make 1939 Chevrolet
Owner: John H. Sheally II
What do you tow your Morgan with ?
Story and Photographs by John H. Sheally II
So you wish to hear about my 1939 Chevrolet, grain bed, ton and a half tow truck. Well folks it is what I call a ‘REAL TRUCK’. This baby was built to work and be tough. Quality was important to vehicle builders of the pre-war era. Trucks of that period were built to be strong and simple. There is no plastic parts or paper fender wells held in with paper clips in this machine. Plenty of nickel was used in the steel bodies thus they did not rust out and as a result trucks like mine can be rebuilt, restored or refurbished very easily. Mine was a one owner (same family its whole pre life) from an estate sale in Charlottesville , Virginia . It was a very ugly faded green (original color) and had been worked hard all its years on that farm thus it was an 80% restoration for me. It started with bodywork, paint, new interior, engine work as well as brakes on all four corners and enclosed drive-shaft joints.
My ‘Heavy Chevy’ has been on the road since that restoration 15 years ago, I have done some 10,000 miles a year with it towing to 30 to 40 competition events per year as well as meets and concours. I have competed with several different Morgan Models over these years as well as Cobra, Saab Sonett and two formula cars which have been towed with this dependable machine.
This truck quite often is also entered in shows and wins along with the Morgan being shown for a double header at the show or concours.
The truck is perfect for the job it does. Most of these big Chevy trucks were built as Stake body or flat bed models but mine was one of the rare grain bed model which is like a big pickup bed truck except the beds were built to haul grain and not spill out through openings in the bed. As a result I can carry my tools, spares, tires, air bottles, jacks, generator, etc. The addition of a Tonneau makes it all come together for a nice competition tow package.
The engine was a ‘stove bolt’ straight 216 cubic inch six cylinder referred to as a Thriftmaster Six. When I went to rebuild it two years ago I realized that I would like to have a few more ponies coming out of it because when I hit the mountains with it I would have to really work the four speed gearbox to pull up the steeper slopes. As a result I rebuilt it to a 261 stroker which amounted to a larger bore, longer rods and I drilled a couple of extra weep holes in the head for more cooling. The final package ends up being a Jobmaster Six with 24 more horses on the bottom end resulting in great torque and I can forget the gearbox when I hit the mountain ranges.
The Chevy is sprung stiff and required no special springs or helper shocks as it was built to handle heavy loads when built by the General Motors factory.
I cruise at 55 mph all day long and can hit 75 on a down hill run. I have put Carbon-Kevlar brake shoes on it on four corners and it stops well. It’s a great truck with great working ability and a firm ride.
This black beauty just became a Movie star, making her film debut in the Steven King feature ‘Hearts in Atlantis’, which is produced by Dreamworks.
There is something special about driving a sixty-two year old truck, which was built with purpose and pride four years before I was born.