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Cameo/Suburban

How Rare are 1958 Cameo’s?

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

This was the end of the series! It is said the 1957 year would have ended production for this “Boulevard” pickup. Their unique bed was why they contained about 6 months into the next production year.

GM either had too many complete beds in stock or they were locked into a contract with the outside bed producer. Either way, GM did not want to send most of their expensive beds to the land fill or be sued by the contractor for not buying the agreed number.

Thus, we have a 1958 Cameo to help dispose of the oversupply of complete beds. The result was a total 1958 Cameo production of 1,405 units produced in just a few factories, not the 6 assembly lines during the other three years. This was not enough Cameos to supply one to each dealer!

All this occurred because there were too many remaining beds. It even caused GM to postpone the plans to introduce their new deluxe full trim fleetside pickup until 1959!

To help the Chevrolet dealers from having two designs of ½ ton deluxe pickups in 1958, the new full trim design was held back until the next year. Without GM doing this, the 1958 Cameo would really have been difficult to sell. For about the same money the style conscious retail buyer would not look twice at a 1958 Cameo when a new updated deluxe Fleetside ½ ton was available.

In this way dealers were given time to reduce their inventory rather than GM giving the dealers a percent off the unsold Cameos. This helped sales of the new last year Cameos. This would not had been good for three years of previous Cameo owners that had paid the full retail price. All this because these too many remaining beds postponed the plans to introduce the new deluxe Fleetside pickup.

What is an unrestored 1958 Cameo price in today’s market? It’s like most any limited survival item. It is what the market will bare at any particular time.

Look at the attached photos of Scott Phaneuf’s recent 1958 Cameo purchase. To most it would be a total loss other than maybe the bed. This will be Scott’s 6th ground-up restoration of a 1958 Cameo (he still has them all) and an expert in his field, he knows what he can do to make it a show quality restoration. Saved from the landfill!!

If you really like very rare GM trucks, watch for a 1958 GMC Suburban Carrier. It has the same bed, cab, and differential. Less than 500 found new owners.

Cameo Trailer Hitch Assemble

Monday, June 26th, 2017

What a surprise! After 35 years in the old GM truck business we discover there was a custom trailer hitch made just for the 1955-58 Chevrolet Cameo and GMC Suburban Carrier. Installs with no damage to these rare classic GM trucks.

The assembly is secured by placing only two approximately ¾ inch bolt holes in the frame rail under the bed. The two rear chrome bumperettes are removed. Their securing holes become the rear support for this hitch. No damage to the truck. Very impressive.

This is not a home-made one of a kind hitch. Scott Phaneuf in Massachusetts with six Cameos says he has seen three of these exact hitches on unrestored Cameos in the past 30 years. However, he can find no GM data showing these were available. He can only assume these were marketed by a private hitch manufacturer and sold by non GM installers.

Two photos are when the 1958 Cameo was first bought with the hitch in place.  The second photo is the horizontal bar removed and placed on the white tailgate.

Several months later the hitch has been sand blasted and painted.  The four plates are the later pictures.

This will soon be marketed by Jim Carter Truck Parts.

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Hitch in place

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Bar Removed and on a tailgate

1955-58 Cameo Taillight Lens Securing Plates

Friday, April 29th, 2016

Most are badly rusted and are not usable! A small metal plate was once used to secure the red taillight lens and clear back up light lens against the long gasket that fits inside the taillight housing. A machine screw pulls this plate against the two plastic lenses behind the reflector to stop inside water leaks.

When the metal plate deteriorates, water seeps inside the lens (particularly the lower clear back-up light lens) keeping the gasket always wet and in colder climate freezing any water accumulation.

We recently received an excellent original used plate from Scott Phaneuf of Hatfield, MA and we are having them reproduced just like GM’s.

NOTE: Check your Chevrolet Cameo or GMC Suburban carrier taillights. This metal plate is important to prevent lens and gasket deterioration!

We will soon offer these plates and machine screw. This screw threads into the large housing behind the red reflector. Available in late May 2016. Call and order now with no money down. When they arrive you will be invoiced! Cost per pair $6.90 + postage, Part # MS527

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Chevrolet Cameo and GMC Suburban Wheel Trim

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

With the introduction of the new Cameo in 1955, GM added their most deluxe features as standard equipment.  This “Boulevard Pickup” was to stand out above all others.

            The following relates to the appearance of the wheel coverings on this special vehicle.

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1955 Wheel Cover

The wheel covers were not like that on the more standard pickup.  To save tooling costs on this limited production model, GM used the wheel cover on the 1955 Chevrolet Belair car.  Both vehicles had 15” wheels so the top of the line car wheel cover was chosen for the new Cameo.

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1956 Wheel Cover

The same procedure occurred in 1956.  The Cameo carried the 1956 Chevrolet Belair full wheel cover, not the same design as 1955.

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1957-58 Hub Cap and Trim Ring

The big change in Cameo wheel trim occurred with the 1957 model.  This was the first year for the 14” wheels on the passenger car.  The Belair cover was no longer a fit for the Cameo 15” wheels.  GM’s answer was to chrome the standard white ½ ton hub cap.  To add more to the appearance, a Cameo trim ring was created to cover the outer edge of the wheel.

GMC Suburban Carrier

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The 1955 year was the first for factory installed whitewall tires in both the Cameo and Suburban GMC.  It made an excellent combination with the wheel trim.  This is another major change in the GMC Suburbans looking less than work trucks.  The 15” wheels remained the same during the four years of the Suburban Carrier production.  GMC just chromed the small standard hub cap.  No wheel ring was used as standard equipment, however the wheel was given a contrasting light color.

 

 

1955-1958 Cameo and Suburban Overview

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

The world famous Chevrolet Cameo and GMC Suburban are known by most early truck enthusiasts. They were created due to US citizens having more disposable income after World War II. Demand for houses, appliances, and vehicles were at times more than some factories could produce in a timely manner. In regards to vehicles, General Motors realized that options (offered by the factory) and accessories (offered by the dealer) were selling well on both cars and pickups. After a slight slowdown during the Korean War years, auto and truck extras were again available and good sellers. GM sales just kept getting better!

To help draw attention to their new soon to be introduced 1955 commercial line, the Task Force trucks, GM would announce a special deluxe ½ ton pickup. It would not be like their well known stepside pickup. The retail price would be almost 25% above the regular ½ ton. Often referred to as a “Boulevard Pickup”, it was too deluxe and expensive for most to be used in its beginning years for just hauling merchandise. It would be seen beside homes in newer suburban neighborhoods that had developed so fast after World War II. Those using a ½ ton for city work or farming were not GM’s targeted buyer on this model.

To sell this truck the best, the sales marketing experts of the Chevrolet Division of General Motors made a smart decision to not introduce them or any new Task Force trucks until Mid-1955. The marketing at the first of the year was totally devoted to advertising their new completely redesigned Chevrolet automobile. Only when these cars had been marketed for about six months did the ads begin again introducing the new trucks that would be in dealerships in mid-year. Thus, the Chevrolet dealers made two large hits in one year to attract new buyers. No doubt, the dealers couldn’t have been happier!

Actually the Chevrolet Cameo and GMC Suburban were a gamble. GM hoped to attract the customer that wanted a truck more for looks than for hauling. These helped draw customers into the showroom and made a statement about the buyer. They cost more but hauled the same cargo. If you looked close these trucks were mechanically the same as the base pickup. The full trim package that could be added to the standard pickup was included. Therefore GM already had most of this trim in stock. It was the redesigned fiberglass bedsides and tailgate that really stopped traffic among the truck enthusiasts. From a distance these special ½ tons looked somewhat like a Fleetside bed that would follow a few years later. The traditional rear stepside fenders were eliminated! Yes, whitewall tires even came on most when new. The extra cost was not only in the cab trim, a more deluxe interior, chrome grille and front bumpers but on the large fiberglass outer bed sides, their attaching parts, a special rear chrome bumper and a different way to store the under bed spare tire and wheel.

A strong advertising campaign in early 1955 often featured the new Cameo’s and Suburban’s as leading the pack of GM’s redesigned trucks. The mid-year introduction of these new task force trucks took off strong. It had been 7 years since GM had changed their truck body style.


1955 Cameo Factory Photo

1955 Cameo Factory Photo

Only 5,220 Cameo’s were sold in this half sales year. They were offered only in the combination of Cardinal Red and Bombay Ivory with specialized red and white interior. The GMC Suburban’s were said to have sold about 15% of this number. Not necessarily great by GM standards but a good solid start and it pulled truck buyers into the showroom.

The problem was the sales drop in 1956 even with offering most all truck colors. Only 1,450 Cameo’s found new buyers during a full 12 month year. It appears those wanting this unusual more expensive pickup had bought the year before.


1956 Suburban

1956 Cameo

1956 Suburban

It was obvious GM needed to do something to boost sales for the 1957 year. The Chevrolet Divisions Cameo not GMC, added very attractive bed side trim with a contrasting color between a pair of horizontal stainless strips. It certainly gave it a more updated appearance. Unfortunately, it did little to increase sales. The Cameo sales in 1957 only reached 2244 units!


1957 Cameo

1957 Suburban

1957 Cameo

General Motors, or any company concerned with their bottom line, do not like products that are losing or have no serious future. Thus a decision was made to stop production of these special vehicles in 1957. The new Fleetside pickup with 50% more hauling capacity was scheduled for 1958. Why not offer a very deluxe pickup with most all options on this new Fleetside and replace the Cameo and Suburban? This would cost GM much less but yet the finished product should attract attention like the earlier Cameo and Suburban. They could add horizontal trim to their standard Fleetside bed and not increase the cost like the Cameo bedsides with related spare tire components.

For General Motors this would be a winning decision, however what to do with the near 1,500 Cameo and Suburban beds at the end of 1957? Because of their large fiberglass sides, these complete beds, stored by most assembly plants in different states, had been made and assembled at the Corvette factory in St. Louis, Missouri. Dumping 1500 beds at the end of 1957 into a landfill would be a big financial loss even for General Motors!


1958 Cameo

1958 Suburban

1958 Cameo

To prevent such a loss, it was decided to continue selling the Cameos and Suburban’s until the supply of GM’s completed beds was eliminated. To protect the dealers from overstock of Cameo’s and Suburban’s the introduction of the most deluxe Fleetside pickup that was to have the attractive side trim would be postponed until 1959. The hope was this would keep most dealers from still having 1958 Cameos and Suburban’s in stock when the full trim Fleetside came out in 1959. Of course, this postponing of the full trim Fleetside until 1959 insured the dealer he could buy a remaining Cameo or Suburban and still sell them in 1958 to customers wanting a total deluxe pickup. If a buyer knew about the coming Fleetside pickup, he would probably pass over the 1958 Cameo and wait to purchase the totally new deluxe full trim Fleetside in 1959! Dealers would take a big loss on their remaining 1958 Cameo’s and Suburban’s in stock. It would also be bad public relations for those that had paid the larger price one or two years ago and now see the new 1958 models being dumped at a low price. They would see what they had thought was a Boulevard pickup being bought and worked. It would now become a low price ½ ton.

Note: The GMC “Suburban” was given that name to appeal to those extra income people that were moving to the fast growing suburban areas at the edge of the cities.

This 1959 Deluxe replaced the Cameo