Our feature truck for April represents a very interesting extension from the usually seen 1941-1946 Chevrolet and GMC. Our featured 1942 Chevrolet 1 ½ ton Model 7117 was made in America in a truck factory assembly line. Look Closely! This cab’s tooling also produced the familiar civilian Chevrolets and GMC’s used before and after WWII.
The owner and restorer is Herman Pfauter of Santa Barbara, California. He is a member of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, a world-wide club of military vehicle collectors and restorers. Headquartered in Independence, Missouri. He has eleven WWII vehicles in his collection. This feature truck is one of the fully restored vehicles in his collection. After purchasing it in the Los Angles area Herman discovered that it needed a lot of work. Because this US Navy 1 ½ ton is very rare, the decision was finally made to make it a new truck and spend the time and money required to make at close to as it was in WWII. It needed so much work! Fortunately Herman found a good friend that offered his assistance. The two of them worked together for almost 3 years to get the finished product. Most parts were removed to expose the complete frame. Then it was re-assembled piece by piece. It was two men assembling it like a big model kit. When finally completed it was so nice! Only a few hidden modifications made it better for performance and safety.
These included the replacement of the original “Babbitt-Pounder” 235 CID engine with the larger 1954 261 CID Chevrolet inline six cylinder. He added the Clark 5 speed overdrive transmission that was used in the GMC models. A more updated hydrovac booster from the 1970’s greatly adds to emergency
stopping. A 10,000 lbs. winch was added in front. Oh yes, it was time to add the heater that GM did not include. Of course, it is pure mid 1940’s vintage.
Yes, the US Government made big changes on the civilian 1 ½ ton trucks when WWII began. Few of the civilian items were adequate for front line battle duty. Even the cab, about all that was still that used, was given numerous changes to increase its dependability on the battlefield. A few changes are shown in the following photos. Note: These are not from Herman’s truck but these modifications are just like those on his.
No locking glove box door. They did not need one of several drivers leaving the truck with the only key.
The rear window has a heavy screen screwed to the cab. This lessened the chance of a broken rear window, especially bad in winter. (The cabs had no heaters).
No windshield crank-out assembly! The military did not want this assembly breaking in winter and staying open. No heater. Look at the pull down bracket that holds the windshield frame closed. A thumb screw holds the frame open in hot weather much like a 1934-36 Chevrolet truck or a Model A Ford. See Photos
The windshield is secured to the top of the cab with two outside hinges. Easy to service.
The hood hinges are secured to the cab to prevent damage to a butterfly opening design on civilian trucks.
The hood side panels are removed with a basic tool that all mechanics have. Note: The Chevrolet letters were removed about mid-1942. The military provided no advertising.
Herman states his 1 ½ ton is referred today in Europe among collectors as a “Baby GMC” because it had only one rear axle. The GMC 2 ½ ton was similar but basically a much stronger truck with the GMC 270 CID 6-cylinder engine with full-pressure lubrication and dual axles in rear making it a 6×6 while the Chevrolet was a 4×4.
Herman spends almost every summer in Europe where a lot of liberation commemorations take place all over France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Italy and elsewhere to remember the Allies and their efforts to free Europe from Nazi occupation.
When the liberation began in Normandy on D-day in the north and 2 month later in southern France each community regained their freedom of prior years. Herman loves being a part of the parades and WWII displays at the many events in Europe each year. To be more a part of this Herman had his “new” restored 1942 US Navy 1 ½ ton placed in a container and shipped by ocean freight to France. The container was then purchased and it now serves as a safe garage when Herman is home in California.
During the last decade, he has driven his truck in so many European countries (even Germany). Twice it has been over the high elevation passes in the Alps (much like the Continental Divide in the US). Total mileage so far approximately 30,000-at 8 MGP!
The following photos were taken in France.
Note: Our feature photo! This is Herman at a French Liberation show beside his beautiful WWII truck. Just as impressive: Even with a few gray hairs showing he still wears size 34 navy dress blues as when he was in high school – even though he never served in the Navy!
The Chevy door says “Naval Reserve Center, Santa Barbara, California”
Herman and his Chevy in front of the famous church in Ste Mere Eglise, one of the first villages liberated by US paratroopers on June 6, 1944.
NOTE: The parachute on the roof with a paratrooper dummy – this actually happened!