Jim Winters of Rochester, Minnesota looked two years before he found the vehicle he wanted to restore in his retirement years. He did not want to spend the time and money required for a major rebuilding unless it suited him just right. Many cars and trucks were checked but few gave him that special feeling he wanted.
When he saw an unrestored 1946 Chevy Panel Truck for the first time in 2001, there was no hesitation. This was the one! His retirement project would be this very rare vehicle. It was so untouched. If Jim looked carefully, he could see the remains of the lettering on its sides of a Lenox Plumbing and Heating Company in Rapid City, South Dakota. A panel truck was a natural for this type business, long enough for iron pipe and secure for hauling a furnace out of the weather.
These panel trucks were used in the early years by grocers, bakeries, flower shops, small constructions companies etc. They were a perfect all-purpose vehicle for companies serving the many new suburban neighborhoods developing at the edge of cities and towns. The main buyers were commercial, not the home, farm or apartment owner.
When Jim’s panel truck reached its new garage behind his home, the BIG project began. Piece by piece it was disassembled with most parts marked. A digital camera was also great help. Good records of the 60 year old parts were a necessity.
The 930 pound panel truck body was lifted by canvas straps attached to the garage rafters and the chassis rolled outside. Then more disassembly occurred until the long frame was all by itself. It was then checked for cracks and bends before sandblasting and finally powder coating at a local specialty shop.
It was then extra hidden rust was discovered in the large double panel under the rear door and in these doors. No reproduction panel truck parts were available. Talented metal benders and formers had to be hired to actually create the numerous unusual and important parts.
By, now there was no turning back. A stack of unrestored 1946 Chevy parts would be of little value to a buyer. There was no choice but to move ahead creating the new handmade metal panels. With metal craftsmen from Kuhn Auto Specialties in Rochester, MN making the panels, there is almost no filler in this vehicle. At completion of his truck restoration, Jim would have in just body and paint receipts, $10,000!
During the rebuilding Jim added several improvements that would allow for more pleasurable driving on today’s highways. The truck 216 cubic inch original engine was ok for the local in town work 65 years ago but Jim Winters knew this large panel truck body required more horsepower on current roads, especially in high winds. Thus, the extra power from a 235 inline six cylinder engine was a perfect drop-in replacement.
Almost the Beginning
Instead of the original non- synchronized 4 speed transmission, he added a modern 4 speed synchronized from a 1967-69 Camaro. It has a floor shift like original. The 4.11 ratio closed drive shaft differential was replaced with a 1958 ½ ton 3.9 ratio which was then rebuilt with a higher speed 3.38 ratio ring and pinion. Just $1,200 more!
The wheels and tires are 17”. This is from a ¾ ton, not the ½ ton 16” wheels. They provide extra to the highway speed but do not add much to the vehicle’s height.
All of the above gives Jim a speed up to 75 mile/hour on level highways. This is about a 20 mile/hour increase. WOW! What a change.
This became a 9 year restoration project due to the passing of his daughter with an incurable disease that even the most professional hospitals could not cure! The rebuilding came to a complete stop many times.
Nose to Nose
A Restored Floor with Siginaw Transmission Installed
The High Dollar Apron & amp; Doors – PERFECT!
Yes, it’s all 235!
A Perfect fit for a 235
Few accessories were available for trucks in 1946 but Jim has located most of them. The 1942 fog lights (added later) are pure GM. A 4” reflector was an important safety accessory for vehicles with a single tail light. See recent technical article on the reflector at the end of this article.
The big find was locating an accessory passenger seat. Very few panel trucks were given this extra. Look at the unusual Chevy truck grill guard. This is pure GM. It is given an opening down the center so the engine could be hand cranked in an emergency.
Jim’s panel truck also has a GM dealer installed cigarette lighter, radio at left of steering column, a 2 motor heater/defroster assembly, a cargo light that is secured inside above the rear doors, and a rare right side taillight bracket.
Original Right Seat 2 Motor Heater-Front / Side
Dip in Rear Bumper and Rare Right Taillight
By doing it all correct the first time Jim Winters has a new 68 year old panel truck that is ready for modern traffic of this century. People love it! He has attended 3 local car shows and received 3 first place awards!
You may contact Jim Winters @ firstname.lastname@example.org
A Little extra on this Special Panel Truck:
To add better night visibility to all trucks, Suburbans and panel trucks, General Motors offered a 4 inch diameter reflector as a dealer installed accessory. With the single small factory taillight, seeing of these vehicles on the road could be difficult especially if their one bulb burned out. To help correct this problem GM offered a larger reflector that could be attached to the rear license plate bracket. It greatly improved visibility to others at the rear during night driving.
This was a time when town street lights were limited. Of course, on the open road these were no lighting along the highways! This simple GM reflector was offered by the dealers to prevent rear end accidents. The customer could buy this dealer accessory from about 1940 through 1953. One of the attached photos is taken from a 1949 Chevrolet Truck Data Book. The 4 inch lens is a Stimsonite # 24 and the metal Guide ring has a stamping of X-19.
Jim Winters of Rochester, Minnesota has both a restored 1946 panel truck and ½ ton pickup. He found these reflectors for both his vehicles at local swap meets. Few people recognize what these reflectors were used for. Jim found his in a box of miscellaneous unmarked parts.