Let’s Really Talk Trucks!
Our Feature Truck of the Month series often shows the more unusual GM trucks. Most are rarely seen at special interest car and truck shows. This month is no exception! This ground up restored 2 ½ ton 1959 Chevrolet Spartan 100 is one of the very few (if any) in existence fully restored. It even goes further. It is said to be the “only” big back window cab in any condition that carries this name plate of a Spartan 100. They can’t get more one of a kind than this!
It all began over 40 years ago when Scott Phaneuf of Hatfield, Massachusetts purchased his first 1958 Chevrolet Cameo at 15 years old. This was his regular driver for several years until suddenly into his young life came the opportunity to own a well-cared for 1960 Corvette. If you are about 20 years old, what do you do? Yes, the Cameo was placed in a garage for another time in his life.
His Cameo fever came years later when his prior 1958 was brought out of storage. Scott had begun to have an interest in a major restoration of this rare truck. He wanted it just like it came from the factory.
He kept its original 283 V-8 and 3 speed column shift transmission. It became a real show stopper with its original Cardinal Red and Bombay Ivory trim.
Now, Scott’s 1958 Cameo fever had really begun. Married now, his wife Donna, had begun to like this restored family Cameo. In fact, Scott was impressed with this and he thought it was time to buy a second 1958 for Donna and make it also like a new truck. He found what he was looking for in Georgia. It had a Hydromatic transmission and rare factory power steering that pleased Donna even more. It had a great color combination, Tartan Turquoise with Bombay Ivory trim. The 283 was given a complete rebuilding as did the transmission along with every other part. Donna was a full partner in the restoration of this special Cameo. A great team effort! She now drives it from time to time and loves it, especially when it has won trophies at so many shows. This Cameo is so impressive it was a Feature Truck of the Month on Jim Carters website November 2012. It is still posted there for all to see at www.oldchevytrucks.com.
Two restored 1958 Cameos would be adequate for most, but Scott was on a roll! He had become an expert restoring 1958 Cameos, so he could not turn down the great opportunity to buy one of the rarest of colors: Kodiak Brown with Bombay Ivory trim. Kentucky was a great distance but it was one of the only remaining examples of a true Kodiak Brown Cameo. Scott has it now 90% restored and it will also be just like it left the factory including 283 V-8 and 3 speed overdrive column shift.
One day when Scott’s ‘58 Kodiak Brown restoration days were almost over, he was sitting at home looking through a special interest magazine and there it was! He was shocked with no idea this type 1958 Cameo existed! The sellers describe it as one of the two remaining with factory installed fuel injection and a hydromatic transmission. It even originally came with a great color combination: Golden Yellow with Jet Black Trim. Yes, he was off to Arkansas and again towed another Cameo back to Hatfield. To date the restoration is 70% complete.
He recently located one other 1958 in Georgia with a very unusual color mix. It’s Bombay Ivory with Cardinal Red trim. Just reverse colors of his first 1958 he bought at 15 years old. It has a 283 with column shift 3 speed transmission. Scott originally bought it just for parts but now has decided to make it a good Cameo. He just found a ½ ton frame to replace the remaining pieces of frame that came with the truck. No formal plans on when it will be completely restored. Scott is fully involved with the other above restoration projects.
NOW FOR THE GRAND FINALE!
When you reach the level of 4 fully restored 1958 show Cameos, you have created a handicap if you enjoy showing them all at early auto & truck events. The time and expense to get them all to a show is a major consideration. Scott saw this problem coming long before all four Cameos were completed. To him it was a “no brainer”. Somehow he needed to find a Chevy tractor of those years with a fifth wheel for towing. Not an easy task! Of course, you must also locate a car hauling trailer used 50 years ago. This was is the big challenge as most older haulers have been sent to the crusher. Their weight value in steel scrap prevents them from sitting long in a salvage yard! He was worried none existed!
The hunt for a tractor continued for several years. It was so difficult to find even one in any condition and it had to be GM. Then one day, there was a 1959 Chevrolet Spartan 100 rated at 2 ½ ton and it was not even in an antique type magazine. It was advertised as in the back row of a small salvage yard in North Carolina. Scott had to have it! Being over 1,000 miles away was not an issue even with pulling it in his old dependable tow trailer.
It was “not” love at first sight but if it is the only one remaining. You cannot say no even if most restoration people would consider it a total loss.
The salvage yard owner did not mention it would be Scott’s job to remove all the tree saplings that were growing around it and through the rusted out floors. Most of the mechanicals were frozen tight from sitting in the timber so many years. The driver’s door was held on with one remaining hinge due to rust. No paint remained. Only primer and surface rust. The snakes would now lose their protection from rains! It is suspected during the 1,000 mile trip back to Massachusetts some on lookers said “why such a small trailer to haul just one vehicle to the crusher”? Once back in Hatfield a full evaluation was made of the Spartan 100. Every part needed major restoration or a total replacement. Later, it was discovered that even the rear brake drums were a total loss and no replacements were on the market. What now? Scott was able to re-drill and lightly trim newer GM truck drums so driving it safely would be possible.
To most, the effort to restore it far excided its value. However, to Scott how do you place a value on the only big back window Spartan in existence? After all, he needed this late-1950’s GM body design to blend with the Cameos he would be hauling. Thus, a total disassembly began. The four Cameos he had restored had given him so much knowledge. To undertake a project of such large proportions, this project would be just the challenge that he lives for.
It was like building a great big model kit and finding that you did not have all the parts. What a challenge! Most salvage yards had no spare used parts. Scott never gives up! With the aid of his computer, he searched over the US for needed replacement items and hoped it was what he needed when it arrived. The bare frame was totally cleaned and painted to make a place for the rebuilt motor, front suspension, 4 speed transmission, differential, brake lines, etc. The cab was totally taken apart nearby and then it also became part of the big model kit.
To make the cab extra special Scott added the exact GM stainless steel window and door trim that is the same on the Cameos. After all, as the “only” Spartan 100 big back window remaining, it should have that extra Chevrolet touch.
The 22.5” wheels are a real eye catcher. The cast iron black factory spokes with what looks like zinc plated rings. They almost look like narrow white walls!
HERE ARE SOME ADDITIONAL DETAILS OF SCOTT’S SPARTAN 100:
Cab: A “Full View” back window cab as on the top of the lines ½ ton pickups during 1955-59
Color: Dawn Blue (GM option # 707)
Engine: 348 cu in big block w/230 hp. 8 to 1 compression ratio. Scott had it totally rebuilt. It now looks and runs better than new!
Gas tank: A 141 gallon factory gas tank sits across the frame rails behind the cab and it fills on right or left side. Behind the seat is a 21.5 gallon tank with left side fill through the cab. It looks like a pickup tank but it is deeper.
Differential: 7.67:1 great for heavy pulling. It makes the Spartan love gasoline.
Tires & Wheels: 22.5” x 7.50” tubeless, cast-spoke
Weights: Curb weight 6,400#, gross weight 25,000#, pulling weight 40,000#
Wheelbase: 132” The shortest of the Spartan truck series. Just right for a 5th wheel connection.
The Nice Extra: This short wheelbase will allow it to sit beside family cars in a shopping center
Brakes: Air and fluid. If there is a fluid or air leak in the system, the brakes lock for safety!
Exhaust: All V-8 Spartans came with duel pipes and mufflers
Options (factory installed): AM radio, fresh air heater, stainless steel windshield and cab trim cab trim. Turn signals, and big back window
Accessories (dealer installed): Behind the seat package tray, outside sun visor, outside duel side
mirrors, cab roof clearance lights, and inside controlled spot lights
Four years later it is now fully restored. Hunting parts, restoring used items not otherwise available, and so much research has gone into this now “work of art”. The big block original 348 V-8 engine, without pulling a trailer, will quickly reach speeds that allows the driver to easily collect speeding tickets!
If anyone thinks Scott has more money than God to create this restored collection, he does not. It all went into one of the most unique truck collections in the world! Our hats go off to such a dedicated hard working individual that is able to follow his dream.
Here is the real surprise! Scott left his life career job at most people’s usual retirement age about 7 years ago. This restoration hobby is his later in life enjoyment that he does so well!!
WHATS NEXT FOR SCOTT?
We probably can guess. He must also have a mid-1950’s vehicle hauling trailer to carry the Cameos. He reportedly purchased a 1964 Stewart 38 foot, 4 car capacity car hauler just like 1958. After looking at 50 year old trailers for 5 years, he found this one in Minnesota. The others he found were so bad they were not worth the effort to restore! Another rig saved from the crusher! Scott never restored a 53 year old hauler before or anything like it. There is no doubt, with his ambition, on completion it will look like it was put away in storage the day it came out of the factory!
His first trailer project will be to upgrade the brakes to a more modern system for safety. They will be connected to the Spartan brakes. If the tractor or trailer loses its fluid or air both tractor and trailer brakes lock up together.
Until the 1964 Stewart is completed, look at Scott’s rig. The Spartan and two 1958 Cameos are shown on a universal trailer on their way to a show!
You can contact Scott Phaneuf at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chevrolet Accessory Package Tray (behind seat)
1959 Chevy’s Big Block – 348 cu.in. V-8
The compressor for the truck’s air brakes.
The day Scott brought it home!
Only its mother could love!
Page from 1959 Chevrolet Salesman’s Data Book showing Scott’s Spartan 100