What a Deal! When the term “Only One in the World” is used in the automotive world, this special 1959 Chevrolet ½ ton Fleetside short bed should be near the top of the list. There is none like this one!
The owner and creator is Sam Caudle of Independence, Missouri. Using GM as the original designer, Sam became a subcontractor for its second coming.
Part of its 13 year rebuilding was spent by Sam in researching (GM Manuals, attending early truck shows, subscribing to truck magazines, etc.) on just how it could be made into a pickup he had always dreamed of.
This is Sam’s creation! It is a natural for our Feature Truck of the Month.
The dream began to develop prior to 2003 while he was still on his 40 hour/week job. A 1959 Chevy ½ ton was his daily transportation and he began to get serious on just how he would redesign it when he retired. A life’s dream was in the making!
And then in a split second, it was over. An automobile missed a stop sign and Sam with his truck were almost totaled. Yes, Sam lived. His 59 ½ ton, hit in the side, did not. Usable truck parts were the right door and bedside plus its grill.
While Sam healed he decided this would not stop his dreams. It was too developed in his mind. He would make a comeback and be stronger than ever. Therefore, this is the story of the “next” 1959 in Sam’s life!
This Time a newer more modern vehicle would take him to work. Sam’s next 1959, found locally, was in one way even better than his first. It had a large rear window! This 1959 would now be kept in his home where it was safe.
Thirteen years have passed since he found his second 1959 ½ ton. The disassembly and then careful rebuilding has been his main hobby all that time. If he had to wait to save his money for the next part of his creation he would just wait and study truck manuals and restoration books for the next step. Time was not an issue.
The little ½ ton’s unveiling occurred early this year. What a show it causes! That’s why it just had to be our Feature Truck of the Month! The following is a few of the areas that makes Sam’s 1959 such a real show stopper.
BODY: Basically stock. Emblems removed and a non-lettered tailgate makes many armature onlookers just wonder if its sheet metal has been shaped and formed into a one-off pickup.
SUNVISOR: The outside sunvisor above the windshield looks a little different from those often seen on these years. Then we discovered why. Sam cut the width down almost four inches. It might allow more sun in the cab but so what. It has a new modern air conditioning system from the Old Air Company!
INTERIOR: Passenger car seat allows the back rest to tilt forward. This gives access to the space behind. Late model steering column adds turn signals and tilt wheel.
The special padding throughout the interior reminds one of a deluxe car in appearance.
Look at the dash. A GMC dash perfectly replaces the original Chevrolet. Sam liked the GMC gauge placement so much better. Yes, the original heater control dash panel now operates a new modern air conditioning and heater system. It’s not easy to make the lever connection from an old heater to a new air/heater combination. Much time and planning on this one. Remember, time was not an issue with Sam. He was going to have it finished his way-a tasteful blend of modern and a 55 year old pickup.
BED: Sam’s 1959 is the second year for the GM Fleetside pickup. On the sides he has the bed stainless horizontal strips that were available for only this one year and only the top of the line model.
This bed is 6 foot length which results in the shorter 115 inch wheelbase. Look at that oak bed floor. A piece of furniture!
The mirror polished bed strips, without holes are a recent introduction in the pickup market Nice!
ENGINE: This is one of the top focal points of the truck. Sam’s goal was to get the best performance from a Chevrolet 250 cubic inch inline six cylinder engine. (Used by GM from the mid 1960’s to the mid 1980’s) He had read articles of the high power that is possible from a GM 250 six cylinder so he decided to reach that level.
Some of his six cylinder rebuilding includes a performance cam shaft and milled head to raise the compression ratio to 9.5. Yes, it now likes premium full. Of course, balancing all engine moving parts beyond GM’s specifications was a necessity.
This all blends nicely with a 4 barrel 450 cfm (cubic feet per minute) Edelbrock Performance Carburetor. It attaches to a Clifford intake manifold that is made just for the 250 engine. (Sam is considering adding a 390 cfm Holly carb to eliminate excess gasoline in the engine and losing some unburned fuel) An electronic ignition is pure GM and was a drop-in from an early 1980’s six cylinder 250 engine.
To add another 20 horse power Sam arranged the power steering, air conditioner, water pump, and alternator, to operate on one late model serpentine belt. Of course, some pulleys also needed updating to accept the newer serpentine system.
What is the result of all these engine modifications? When taking a drive with Sam and then returning to home base all that could be said was WOW! This little truck could out run a telegram! Sam was reminded that he needed pads on the rear window to prevent glass breakage when his head hit it during fast acceleration!
FRONT SUSPENSION: The front suspension as well as the frame rails to the pickup body are a transplant from a 1975 Camaro. This “clip” makes lowering it 8 inches not difficult (many aftermarket systems available) and all is factory ready for items such GM disc brakes.
REAR SUSPENSION: Instead of the factory 7 leaf rear spring Sam changed it to 3 leafs. This helped it to lower the bed 6.5 inches.
The big change of removing 4 leafs required another addition. Sam’s pickup has air bags! This catches the frame if the three spring leaves do not. As one change leads to another, the next problem to cover was the width of the air bags. NOTE the 6 inch wider wheel tubs. This makes room for these necessary accessories.
TRANSMISSION: The tried and proven GM 700 R4 automatic overdrive transmission just fills the bill. A nice bolt in with a 250 six cylinder as well as a small block V8.
NOTE: Sam preferred not to have the usual floor shifter used by most street rodders. He created metal arms that could be properly moved by a column shift lever and look more from the 1950’s. This little touch is not often seen with vehicles on this level. Another of Sam’s creations!
BRAKE SYSTEM: All wheel disc brakes! The front easily connected to the front frame rail assembly of the 1975 Camaro front frame section. It was the rear disc brakes that required some extra modification and were not a total bolt-on. Sam used the complete rear axle and differential assembly from a 1991 Pontiac Trans-Am. In that way, all were GM. An extra project was to get the total assembly to attach safely and correctly to the leaf springs. The firewall mounted master cylinder, connected to modern swing pedals, was also a GM unit used from a full disc brake car.
SUMMARY: This is an overview of a few features of Sam’s “one of a kind” ½ ton. Some would say “This Must be the Tip of the Iceberg” in what was done and time spent. After 13 years, he can now enjoy the results of his research and personal involvement in this major project. Now retired, Sam will finally have more time to Have Fun!
Short and Wide
Lettering Relates to Sam’s Second 1959
Big Back Window
No Tailgate Lettering
Air Bags Require Wide Tubs
Deluxe Rear Bed Side Trim, Very Rare!
Car Seat Forward Allows Extra Space Access
Trimmed Accessory Sunvisor. Nice!
Great Two-Tone Combination!
Cab Steps. Perfect!
Special Seat Upholstery!
Modern Gauges & Steering Wheel
Under Dash Air Outlet Assembly Fits Perfect
More Dash Views & Modern Carpet
The GMC Dash. A Perfect Fit into a Chevrolet Cab
Not One Side of a V-12 Engine. It’s All 6 Cylinder!
Edelbrook Carb on a Clifford Intake
Clifford Valve Cover
All In One Photo
Air Conditioning. The American Way!