1941 Chevrolet 1/2 Ton

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When light trucks appeared on the scene about 100 years ago, they were created for only one reason: WORK. This remained their primary use through at least the 1960’s.

Move up another 55 years and today we find the majority of light trucks purchased for another reason: FUN, PLEASURE, and TRANSPORTING PEOPLE. Even the traditional 8 foot ½ ton bed has been mostly replaced with a 5 passenger cab in front of a 6 foot bed. Hauling is less important than carrying friends and family.

Now enter a related newer segment of this trend. It is a spin-off of our current love for trucks and probably why you are reading this article. Of course, it is the enjoyment of owning and rebuilding an old hauler that once was parked and forgotten on a Friday evening when work duties were finished. Then the family sedan or even a sporty coupe or convertible became the weekend transportation.

In regards to his enjoyment of older trucks, few early pickup enthusiasts can be a better example of our country’s new love affair than Jim Shaw of Marshfield, Wisconsin. When you first see Jim’s 1941 ½ ton you think “It all flows together just right but is still very different. Pickup was a limited production or experimental model that General Motors had considered for production!” Here is Jim’s story:

He purchased this ½ ton about 14 years ago in central Wisconsin. It had spent most of its life totally on a local farm. In fact for its last 20 years it had not been even licensed. The title was lost, probably because the farmer never needed it beyond his property use.

Jim immediately decided to keep its attractive 1941 appearance but add some mechanical modifications that would give it a better cruising speed on modern highways, stop quickly and safer, plus be more comfortable to drive. Though the updates were kept hidden, the most eye-catching feature is the all metal bed.

He was just the right person to create this special pickup. Researching, attending auto shows and swap meets allowed him to be so successful putting this project together.

When it came to replacing the very poor condition pickup bed it was the cost that made this unique ½ ton bed come into being. Jim added the new bed price plus shipping and all came to a stop. He is a metal worker by trade. Some left over metal was free at his company after some jobs were completed. His imagination began to put together plans for a special metal bed. It would look much like a private company might have offered it in the 1940’s.

We think he got it just right. It is all hand built by Jim Shaw personally! It was sure an attention getter in the very recent Iola, WI swap meet in July 2017.

The following are some of the modern updates that make this ½ ton his daily driver.

POWER:

Jim found the ultimate in horsepower from a drop-in 261 six cylinder to replace the original 216 low oil pressure engine. The 261 was used in 2 ton trucks and school buses during the late 1950’s. What a difference!

TRANSMISSION:

A 5 speed overdrive transmission makes all the difference in highway speed. The big surprise here is Jim installed this unit from a 1985 Ford pickup! He had this tranny and he felt sure he could make it fit. What a project! As you might suspect it became a complicated project to get a later Ford transmission to fit against a 45 year old Chevrolet bellhousing. The amount of re-drilling, building special shims and spacers is difficult for one’s imagination. Our hats go off to Jim Shay, a professional metal worker with patience and talents far above most restorers.

It gets even more complicated. The original bellhousing was used because in these early years the horizontal shaft that secures the clutch and brake pedals also support the under floor master cylinder. This shaft extends from the left frame rail to the left side of the bellhousing. In this way Jim could place a new duel chamber master cylinder (for safety) out of sight and position it just like GM did it.

We wonder if this configuration exists anywhere but on Jim Shay’s special ½ ton. This is so unusual, we would be interested to hear from anyone that has completed this project.

A LITTLE MORE SPEED:

A higher speed ring and pinion replaces the original. Lower engine RPM at the same speed is the reward. An open drive shaft now connects to the later differential and the overdrive transmission. All are out of sight unless you get down under.

EXTRAS:

Front late model disc brakes, not seen unless you look at the underside. Extra money was spent during this modification to keep all the original 6 bolt wheels.

THE RESULTS:

A Show Stopper ½ ton that cruises at 70 mph and Jim Shay, made it all fit together!

He drives it daily to his work and on weekends. He keeps it in storage during the Wisconsin winters but still has driven it 2,700 miles in the last 5 months.

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Rear View

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A Little Extra

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From the Driver’s Seat

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Passenger View

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261 Engine with Full Flow Oil Filter

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