WILLY THE 36 CHEVY
I found my 36 Chevy pickup in the 1980’s on highway 41 somewhere south of Chicago. It was running but had a big crack in the block, so to drive it I had to carry a bucket of water with me.
My love of the 36 pickup goes back to 1948 when I was four and my dad (just home from the Navy and WW2) was working as a tenant farmer in east central Illinois. The owner of the farm had a 1936 Chevy pickup which my dad was allowed to drive back and forth from our house to the main farm. It was the “first” pickup I remember riding in and the fascination I had for that old truck stayed with me. Needles to say, when I saw old “Willy” (named after my dad) sitting ‘for sale’ along Hwy 41 many years later, I had to have him.
At that time I lived in Terre Haute, Indiana and had a concrete block company and an excavating business. My intention from the beginning was to restore old “Willy”. However as some of you “old timers” might remember, the early 80’s were tough years for the building industry and a lot of old “Willy” projects got delayed.
In 1986 I packed up my family, a few pieces of equipment, old “Willy” and moved to the Charlotte, NC area. The economy was much better there and by 1988 I started an auto detail and wreck recovery business. Old “Willy” finally was getting some attention. When the work crew had some extra time, we took old “Willy” to the frame.
Another hick-up in the 1989 economy put the project back on hold and old “Willy” was destined to become a “pile of parts”. We had to shut the shop down. A sluggish economy, a divorce and two daughters in college paved the way for old “Willy” to remain a pile of parts for several years.
Not until 1999 did I seriously get back on the project. All the chassis parts were examined and many were rebuilt. New brake lines were installed, king pins, bushings, spring pins; any part worn was replaced. The passing of time and moving things around caused a number of parts to get lost. We found a parts truck in Wisconsin and had it shipped to North Carolina. This provided an engine, transmission and a few other needed chassis parts.
In 2005 I contracted with a small paint and body shop to start painting the sheet metal and body parts. There were some real challenges to return a fairly rough and rugged bed, cab, fenders, doors, hood, etc. to “like new” condition.
In 2009 I was finally able to again open my own shop and begin the reassembly of old “Willy”. After all those years “Willy” was about to be complete. I thank our crew, Chuck (manager), Whit (mechanic) and Steven (painter) for doing a super job getting our beautiful ’36 in show condition.
We also want to thank Jim Carter’s Old Chevy Trucks for helping us with several technical questions we had in the reassembly. We were able to get a number of new and used parts from the Jim Carter catalog.
PS: Over all these years, old “Willy” has finally successfully evolved from a truck in a box to a beauty back on the highway of pride.