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1936 Chevrolet 1 1/2 Ton

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Our monthly feature truck is an 80 year old regular driver! Born in late 1936, it found a great home in mid-Missouri about 10 years ago. It was found in Western Kansas where the low humidity slows rust on metal left outside. To keep it looking much like it was found, the remaining Brewster Green paint was untouched and the surface rust from many years in the elements was also kept as is.

What is interesting is the mechanicals. They have been kept pure 1936 Chevrolet and are restored to perform as they did when they left the factory. Therefore, it cannot be given the title of a “Rat-Rod”. These usually have very up to date hidden mechanicals.

When you know the proud owner, (Mike Russell of Columbia, Missouri) you can understand why he is a real example of what the antique car and truck hobby is all about. There has never been a time since his teenage years that Mike hasn’t owned an early vehicle. In his case they were usually Chevrolets. He even brought his son, Sam, home from the hospital 37 years ago after his birth using the family’s 1935 Chevy Coupe!

This feature truck of the month project was begun because Mike had got an “itch” to have an older 1 ½ ton in about 2005. Therefore, on a Saturday in that year Mike and a friend were driving a distance to evaluate a 1940 Chevy 1 ½ ton that was advertised. During the drive they noticed a farm beside a mid-Missouri rural back road that looked like nothing had been discarded in 60 years including all their past worn out farm machinery. The surrounding grounds were loaded with rusty stuff. They got out to look just because of curiosity.

In 10 minutes looking Mike saw an interesting site in a distant field. It proved to be a 1936 Chevrolet 1 ½ ton (short 131” wheel base with 5th wheel for towing) attached to a long flatbed trailer. Both had sat in that spot for many years! One of the attached photos is just what Mike saw that day!

What became even more interesting to Mike was the attached trailer. It still had its rear gate with the large stamped letters: FRUEHAUF. He thought: It must be about as old as the truck. Could there be any others left in the world?

Mike had to have them both! No doubt the owner was very excited to sell something out of his large junk collection but of course he kept this to himself during the money negations.

So, now Mike is the new owner. The pair are soon at Mike’s business. The Show Me Powder Coating Co. in Fulton, Mo and an evaluation of this new purchase begins.

Sadly, he had to face some financial facts. The truck was too far gone to restore, unless someone was in prison and worked for .25 / hour. Otherwise Mike would have to jack up the radiator cap and place a different truck under it! Yes, at least he still had that rare Fruehauf trailer. That became the high point of the purchase.

So Mike still had his heart set on a 1 ½ ton but the hunt was narrowed to a 1936 so it will be like the one that was not restorable. The hunt begins again!

The diligent hunt ended with a find in Western Kansas where the dry air keeps rust to a minimum. The almost 500 mile one way trip would be worth the effort. This 1936 1 ½ ton had the longer 157 inch wheel base and was previously a farm truck. We will call this 1936 No. 2. It had not run for so many years but Mike knew he could fix whatever mechanical problem it needed.

The restoration of 1936 No. 2 starts. Now the money begins to go out on truck expenses such as a “total” brake rebuilding. The engine head has several burned valves. The lower end of the 207 block required most of the rod shims to be removed to create the proper clearance. The engine is cleaned painted and returned to the truck. Gauges are checked and repaired as needed. Wiring installed. New original tail lights are added. Seat cushion covers need replacements. Windshield and side window mechanisms must be repaired and lubricated, etc. etc.

Because the sheet metal was so straight for an 80 year old it was decided to create a different finished project than most would ever consider. Mike would keep it much like an above average prewar used working truck however all hidden mechanicals would be restored to new condition. He wanted no part of being broken down by the highway! Being at fault in an accident with bad brakes in what appeared to be an unrestored 1930’s truck plus his name and photo in the newspaper would not be apart of this equation.

When we asked Mike why he created a new and old combination he said “Because I wanted to!”

The original transmission and differential had not been put in operation because no running engine existed. Now the rebuilt 207 engine was almost ready and the 1936 No. 2 first drive would be soon.

Mike’s son, Sam, was drivin down from Wisconson to watch the maiden voyage on this special day that had been over a year in coming. Even though Sam had been in a bicycle accident a few years before that left him paralyzed from the chest down, he wanted to be there that day. He had excepted the fact that he would never be able to take rides in pre-war vehicles and being inside this big 1936 would be no exception.

NOT CORRECT!! Mike had other ideas on this special day! The passenger door was removed from the truck. Mike placed a piece of plywood on the forks of his company fork lift truck. Sam was raised in his wheel chair to the perfect height to slide over on the truck seat. Sam said, “I was so proud to take a real ride in the 1936 on its maiden voyage”. They made the trip around the shop in the grass and then it was driven out on the highway. All the gears in the unrestored differential and transmission worked just right!

Soon, Sam’s three young daughters each got to go for a ride, of course with no right door. It was certainly a high point for the Mike Russell family!

Mike has since become quite attached to 1936 No. 2. The weekend before the interview, he had driven it about 150 miles just for fun on the rural roads in the county. He has what he wanted: An old looking big truck that runs like the first day it left the factory.

You can contact Mike Russell by email @ ml.russell@mchsi.com

FOR MORE DATA ON MIKES 1936 NO. 2 READ ON:

Mike wanted 1936 No.2 with its 157” wheelbase to be like the original short 131” wheelbase of 1936 No. 1. It could then be given the 5th wheel from 1936 No. 1 and all would be a perfect fit for someday pulling the restored Fruehauf trailer.

This idea worked perfectly! Mike and a friend worked in his shop on a Saturday and the frame shortening was completed in less than 5 hours. Soon the 5th wheel was restored from 1936 No. 1 and all fit in place just right.

A great surprise: The longer section of 1936 No. 2’s drive shaft was easily exchanged with the shorter from 1936 No. 1. A no brainer! What a break from spending more time and money.

A very interesting feature! On the right side frame rail behind the cab is an etching added at the factory 80 years ago. It is a warning on the dangers of cutting the frame to get a longer or shorter length. This is said to still be placed on large truck frame rails today! See Photo.

WHAT ABOUT THE ALMOST ONE OF A KIND REMAINING FRUEHAUF TRAILER? This restoration is planned for the near future now that the 5th wheel assembly has been restored and moved from 1936 No.1 to 1936 No. 2. Mike gave an interesting comment about this trailer (He says this is his personal opinion but he is sure he is correct). To help sales, the Fruehauf Trailer Co. in the early years would provide the wheels and hubs for what the customer requested. Thus, the truck owner did not have to carry a second spare tire and wheel just for their trailer. Good marketing. Very interesting.

So out of curiosity, Mike asked the farm owner, “Any story on the 1936 No. 1 and its attached Fruehauf trailer?” The answer was a surprise. It was used to transport donkeys from city to city throughout the mid-west during the 1940’s and 1950’s. These animals were the center part of interest in the then popular Donkey Baseball. Before television and air conditioning, people were often entertained outside the home for their fun. When the donkeys came to town, local clubs or churches used this to help their group in local fund raising. (The donkey owners shared the gate fees with local groups) Members of the clubs on the local baseball fields were assigned a donkey to ride. Any field movement such as chasing a hit ball or running the bases had to be done while on the back of a donkey! It was great fun entertainment in a bi-gone era.

1936 No. 1 and the Fruehauf Trailer was used to move the donkeys to towns every week and thus high miles were shown on the truck’s odometer. If the wear and tear on the truck did not kill it, the final death was setting beside a fence in a farm field probably 30 years!

In the truck and trailer’s later years the Fruehauf had its sides removed to allow it to be a hay bail trailer for some local farms. The 207 engine finally gave up and the rig was set beside the farm pasture until Mike found it in 2005.

For those interested in more data on “Donkey Baseball”, check Google on your computer. There is so much to see about this game from our nation’s history.

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Shortened 1936 No. 2 attached to the Fruehauf. So much better truck than 1936 No. 1 but from a distance they look the same.

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Just like Mike found 1936 No.1

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The Fruehauf attached to 5th wheel during a turn.  Note the “tow ring” in the middle of the rear cross member on the 1936. Mike says all 1936 1 ½ tons had the bolt hole punched at the factory. If the customer wanted this accessory it would be easy for the dealer to install. Simply a nut and washer to hold the threaded stud.

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Attached Fruehauf Trailer

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It was slowly returning to the soil.

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This is the trailer tailgate on moving day with everything cleared away.

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Front of Fruehauf

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Attached 5th wheel on 1936 No. 1

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Old one-eye 1936 No. 1 ready to leave the field after Mike’s purchase

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1936 No. 2 with 157” wheel base

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1936 No. 2 with its 157” frame wheel base at a different angle

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1936 No. 2 with door removed for Sam.

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Mike taking measurements before frame shortening on 1936 No. 2

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The cut is underway

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26” of frame rail removed on 1936 No. 2

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The differential and rear frame rail after the cut on 1936 No. 2

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The 26” frame section removed

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Frame shortened to be like 1936 No. 1

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Another view of the shortened 1936 No. 2

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Rebuilt, cleaned and painted placed in 1936 No. 2

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Right Side View

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Left Side View

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Even has the accessory oil filter

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1936 Missouri license below the correct truck taillight

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Part of the new exhaust system

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Sam and his daughters on the day of the Maiden Voyage. Mike on the fork lift.

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Close to getting into the cab

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Sam’s big smile sitting by Mike. The first ride begins!

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The young ladies ready to ride!

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1936 No. 2 first drive around the building

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Restoring the 5th wheel from 1936 No. 1

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What a job!

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Installing new cloth hood lace.

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