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1937 Chevrolet Panel Truck

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Its 1947! A 14 year old Burt Fulmore thinks of a method of getting to school each day from his home in the small town of Economy to Bass River, Nova Scotia Canada, seven miles away. (This island province in eastern Canada is 450 miles above the US most northern state of Maine).

He knows his father’s 1937 panel truck is not used in the mornings for local deliveries from the family’s general store. So an agreement is made. Burt can drive the panel truck to school and in return he will make local grocery deliveries after classes twice each week for his father’s store. Sometimes he does not get home from deliveries until 7:00p.m., just in time to milk the family cow.

Burt soon transported as many as 10 class mates to school each day often in very bad weather conditions! (.50 cents per week per passenger) His friends did not hesitate to jump in the panel truck and sit on “butter boxes” or the floor for the seven mile ride to school. No, he did not have a driver’s license at 14 years old but the 1937 panel truck was the only option. In those early days, there were no school buses. (Maybe the one local policeman looked the other way as Burt was helping local children get to school). He got his license at 16 years old and continued to take his friends to school two more years until he graduated in 1951.

These pictures show the panel truck and 14 year old Burt posing for the photo in 1949. Note the round grill guard!

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Burt then began attending Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, the adjacent province beside Nova Scotia. Yes, his transportation was still the old 1937 panel truck. He drove it 75 miles, to and from college every weekend until he graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 1954.

To be sure that the truck started easily every time during the winter, each summer Burt did major engine work. Replacement piston rings were added each year to ensure high compression for successful starting. Some of the shims in the rod and main bearings were removed, if needed, which insured the moving bearing surfaces had the correct clearance. He wanted no part of replacing a noisy rod bearing in the Canadian winter after classes in a parking lot.

As with some of us, if you must keep an older vehicle running during your youth it can be more on the fun side as it was for Burt. Therefore, years later he began to think about the “Good Ole Days” in terms of having another vehicle to repair just for old times.

As the years have gone by mostly Chevrolets have become Burt’s addiction. He began with two very rare GM vehicles, maybe the only remaining examples of their kind. These are a Canadian built 1934 Chevrolet Cabriolet (not even 200 made) and a 1937 GMC 1/2 ton (352 produced). Because they were both assembled in Oshawa, Ontario in such limited numbers over 80 years ago, Burt suspects these are the last examples. Being produced in Canada there are some features that are not like those made in the USA. The devout US restorer, soon sees there are things that are Canadian only. Finding those parts from about 80 years ago are almost impossible!

While these two major restorations, were underway Burt kept thinking of his father’s old 1937 Chevrolet panel truck that he drove and repaired for many years. The decision was easily made. If he could ever find another, it would be restored just like the one he drove during his younger years.

He became so sure he could find one, Burt bought a 1937 pickup with an un-restorable body. As the chassis are the same as the panel truck, he completed a major rebuild on all the mechanical parts. It became a new rolling chassis but with no body. He hurried to find a Canadian 1937 panel but with 847 produced there appeared to be almost none. He jumped at one in 1997 in Ontario, but when he got it home it was decided it was “too far gone”. What a loss. See photo. About 2 years later he found a restorable 1937 panel truck in New York. Finally Success!

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Oops, Too Far Gone

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Finally, a restorable 1937 panel truck

In October 1999 this second panel truck was delivered in Nova Scotia. Burt and Mike (his youngest of four sons) began the detailed body work and paint restoration in Mike’s garage with excellent results. Completion was two years later in 2001. 3 photos below are “under construction”.

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This second panel truck is now like new. It is even much better than the one he had for so many years. Even the sides are hand lettered with the company name just like his father’s. The 216 cubic inch engine with 3 speed transmission is just what Burt drove to school so many years ago.

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FOR THOSE THAT WANT MORE DETAIL READ ON.

A. About 1948 Burchell (Burt) met Lucia (Lu) in a high school class and they began dating in late 1949. It is said even their first kiss was shared in this 1937 panel truck. Burt and Lu were married in May 1955. They have four sons: Doug, David, Jim and Mike. They also share their father’s interest in all things automotive, but mostly Chevrolets.

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B. Two months after the restoration was completed Burt and Lu made their first long vacation in the “new” panel truck. They toured some of New York State, visited friends and during the 2,800 mile trip had no problems.

C. After returning home from the New York vacation Burt and Lu sponsored a 50 plus reunion for their classmates to reminisce about their school days and talk about their riding in the old 1937 panel. Burt even made “Butter Boxes” (they sat on going to school) to place in the panel and several climbed in like the old days for photos.

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Classmates standing in Front of the New Panel Truck

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Sitting on “Butter Boxes” for a photo

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Three Butter Box Seats inside the panel

Note: The wooden Butter Boxes came to the general store regularly with 60# of butter. (It would be repackaged in their store in smaller private label boxes for home kitchen use). These boxes made perfect seats for the 7 mile trip to school.

D. What a coincidence! Burt’s father had this personal initials BL, placed on the side of the early 1937. This restored panel is of course lettered the same as original however the BL can now also stand for Burt and Lu! What are the odds of this happening?

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E. Notice the round grill guard attached to the front bumper. Burt removed this aftermarket accessory from a totaled 1936 Plymouth in the mid 1950’s. He then placed it on the everyday panel truck. He kept it stored over these many years. It now sets in the same position on his “new” 1937. He has never seen another!

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The same grill guard Burt added to the older 1937 in the mid 1950’s

F. Look at Burt in 1947 sitting on the hood at 14 years old. Look at Burt in 2001 sitting on the hood of his new 1937, 53 years later.

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2001                                            1947 (Check the round grill guard)

G. Note the center indentation on the rear photo. This was GM’s idea to allow the person loading to get closer to the body. Good Idea!
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H. The panel truck has now been driven over 22,000 miles. Burt and Lu traveled as a team to places like Vermont, Quebec City, Maine and New York. That does not include so many car shows plus trailering to two national more distant shows sponsored by the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America in Flint, MI and Nashville, TN.

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The happy couple about 2015

Below is a group photo of Burt and Lu’s vehicle collection. Left to right.
1957 Bel Air convertible, 1952 Styleline Deluxe Two Door, 1937 GMC ½ ton Pickup, 1937 Panel Truck, 1936 Maple Leaf 1 ton, and 1934 Master Cabriolet.

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You can contact Burt or Lu @ burtfulmore@gmail.com.

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