It is often said that when a person does a complete ground-up restoration on a vehicle that otherwise would be sold to the metal crusher by the pound, the owner has saved it for future generations. Our feature truck for February is certainly one of these vehicles that was close to having been gone forever. Don Ranville of Lee’s Summit, Missouri definitely saved this 1946 ¾ ton ice cream truck from being cut into metal scrap and splintered wood.
He noticed it deteriorated in back of a commercial lot by the Leeds District in east Kansas City (very close to the now idle Leeds Chevrolet assembly plant). It was of little value to most anyone seeing it. The truck required a rare person like Don to recognize the potential of this deteriorated part of history.
Don could see areas that identified this truck as once used by the Belfonte Ice Cream Company *.
He later found this was built in the 1960’s for advertising in parades or giving out their ice cream at local trade shows. Using a 1946 truck would emphases they were an old established ice cream company. This truck even has a large metal ice cream container in the rear to keep ice cream from melting at a show! It probably held dry ice.
Don, a restorer of early cars and trucks for many years, saw possibilities in restoring a vehicle in this condition. The mechanicals, even including the 8 bolt drums and front sheet metal could still be found and it was hoped the remaining wood body might be used as patterns.
When the restorations got underway, Don decided to keep the running parts mostly original. Only the engine was upgraded. A more powerful 1958 high oil pressure 235 six cylinder (almost a drop-in) replaced the original 235 low oil pressure unit.
The optional 4 speed transmission and low geared differential were necessary for the way a neighborhood ice cream truck was used. It needed to move very slowly in housing districts to give children time to get some money and wave down the driver to a stop. A hand operated bell could be heard a block away and signaled the ice cream truck was coming.
Restoring the aftermarket body required much extra talents from an experienced wood worker. Each wood part had to be exactly correct to fit other adjacent panels. Any mistakes could cause a total loss of a panel or wood support and the piece would be remade. Of course, no roof leaks allowed!
Enclosed is an original photo from the 1960’s given to Don by the Belfonte Company. The restoration gives an excellent example of how almost scrap can be turned into a work of art. Note that he decided to use a pair of metal rear fenders. We think it was nice improvement over missing the original multi-piece wood units that were once used.
* The Belfonte Ice Cream Company is based in Kansas City, Missouri. They have been one of the major ice cream suppliers for many, many years and provides their products over much of the Midwest. When being restored the Belfonte Company gave Don permission to reuse their name as it was once on this special truck.
A company in Florida recently heard about Don’s special Ice Cream truck and offered him a price he could not refuse. It will now be used in that state, marketing a product or just kept for display.
Color: Like it was Found
Original Photo of the Belfonte Ice Cream Truck
NOTE: Rear Wood Fenders
A Little Extra Original Beyond Original
Logo – Close Up
Don with his New Toy
All Trim Work Done by Tim Bratcher
Close Up Side View After Restoration
Most will be Patterns
Taking it Apart
Patterns in the Making