Owner: Joe Miller
We are proud to have this very rare 1947 GMC as our feature truck of the month. Manufactured in Pontiac, Michigan from only April through about November 1947, this GMC is one of the few survivors of a 1 ton 9 foot bed pickup. They were bought new for work duties! After years of heavy use and limited money by most owners through the 1950’s, most of these models were used until they were not financially repairable. Their heavy weight made them a good candidate for the crusher once they hit a salvage yard.
Joe Miller of Smithville, MO is the person responsible for saving this unusual GMC and making it into a piece of artwork. Most from the 2 year restoration is just like it was when it left the factory. Even the Brewster Green with Apple Green stripe and wheels is how GMC made most. It is suspected this long pickup was even an eye catcher in its early years!
An advertisement on EBay led Joe to this special pickup in Central Minnesota. It not only was what he was wanting but it had no motor or transmission. This reduced the price as well as the buying competition. Joe had a rebuilt 302 GMC six cylinder waiting at home and correct 4 speed transmissions were not difficult to find. After the sale, Joe found he was the only person that had shown an interest in the truck. He has kept it from the salvage yard and later a worse fate!
This big 1947 was totally disassembled and then carefully put together so there were no worn parts. All had to equal new truck quality. A nice blend of new and used are in the final show package. As a retired airline pilot for US Airways, Joe made this his daily hobby (work) project for 2 years. At one time he had restored a 1931 Model A Ford and later a 1967 Corvette but this was a totally different animal. Everything was heavy duty. Many one ton parts are not being reproduced and hunting is the only way.
The following are 4 things Joe added during the restoration to improve driving quality of his 1 ton: They made the 1 ton a pleasure to drive rather than the opposite.
The 5.14 ratio ring and pinion assembly (pumpkin) was exchanged with the highest ratio available in a 4.10 ring and pinion from a 1967-72 3/4 ton improved the highway speed almost 20% with no visual appearance changes.
The original GMC 228 inline six cylinder engine was not used. It was replaced with a 302 cubic inch later year GMC. This is the largest of the 1939 to 1959 GMC inline engines and is an exact fit. It greatly changed the truck’s performance personality! Originally, they were used in the late 1950’s school buses and 2 ton trucks. The larger cubic inch displacement even requires a 2-barrel Stromberg WW carburetor to provide the correct amount of fuel and air to the combustion chamber.
As much as Joe was comfortable with the 17” factory split rim wheels, there was a concern with being in distant locations and not finding a garage with the experience in change tires with this wheel design. Therefore, he found 5 new 8 bolt 16” wheels that would not rub the tie rod ends. Though the wheels each had 4 bumps to hold a modern hub cap, Joe made a modification. With his skill he added inside 1/2 ton spring clips and the original 1947 3/4 ton hub caps fit just right.
Because it was finally a go anywhere new 1947, Joe decided he would drive to the next annual convention of the American Truck Historical Society. In 2013, it was in Yakima, Washington. It couldn’t have been any further from his mid-America home in Missouri. The trip would be almost 2,000 miles one way and touch 10 states. But why not! It was new and he needed a break from the 2 year daily restoration project.
Joe and Co-pilot Bob Dyck of Vassar, Kansas (also a truck restoration enthusiast) began the drive leaving Smithville a week before the convention started. It became a vacation between friends. A few stops along the way included the South Dakota Badlands, Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills, and Yellowstone National Park. The attached photo shows Joe at Powder Pass in Wyoming with 9,666’ elevation and also parked in front of the original 100 year old hotel in Yellowstone Park.
The GMC cruised at 60 to 65 mph on flat lands. Most surprising, it drove up to Powder Pass and stayed in 4th gear. Now that’s pulling power!
At the ATHS convention, even with 825 early trucks on display, this big pickup was obviously a little above most in workmanship and was a one of a kind. The surprise to most was that it did not arrive in an enclosed trailer. It was back in Missouri in a few weeks after the long driving vacation of 3,906 miles. Stops from mechanical malfunctions, flat tires, or restoration mistakes, zero! Of course it was a new 66 year old.
Extra items on Joe’s 1 ton that may be of interest:
He protected the bedwood with black paint just like the factory. He was well aware that no General Motors truck would have left the factory with a smooth finish varnished bed.
Note a very unique feature of a 1947-48 GMC truck; the pickups, 1/2 , 3/4, and 1 ton have a 3 bar grille just like the 1 1/2 and 2 ton plus the Cab-Over-Engine trucks. It is assumed the one size fits all idea was to save production costs, is why this was done. Beginning in 1949 the smaller GMC pickup used a lighter weight 4 bar grille.
In addition, the 1947-48 1/2, 3/4, and 1 ton GMC’s used a different front splash apron and bumper (nothing like Chevrolet). It is slightly curved on the top and bottom and each far side has 3 holes to support stronger bracing. The center grille guard appears to be standard equipment. Look at the strong grille bracing in the attached photo of another 1947-48 GMC.
Yes, you can make a 5 window deluxe cab from a standard 3 window cab. Joe, with the help of a very skilled body shop, found a badly damaged deluxe cab and used the 2 corner windows. They look like they were installed by GM.
Check out the tall gas spout on the un-restored truck. On a 1947-48 GMC 1 ton pickup it is between the bed and cab and connects to an under bed tank.
A little more padding in the seat plus pleating to hold it in place would make it more comfortable for long rides on more rough roads.
Joe’s new daily driver is now quickly recognized in his town. It is a pleasure for him to drive and it is said he doesn’t even miss not having air conditioning in the Missouri summer.
You can contact Joe at: firstname.lastname@example.org