Posts Tagged ‘1939’

1939 – 1946 Grilles

Friday, August 10th, 2012

To keep General Motors truck costs down, Chevrolet and GMC ½ through 2 ton shared many components during the late 1930’s through the 1950’s. However, when it came to the grille, the focal point of the truck, changes had to be very noticeable.

The truck designers were limited in creating a new grille as both makes would still have the same front fenders and hood. For these limitations, the designers actually did quite well. They almost made them able to be exchanged from one make to another. On the 1941-46, only the small filler panel between the grille and fender top had to be slightly modified.

The attached photos show how two grilles can be different and yet fit in almost identical sheet metal areas of the trucks.


1939-40 GMC

1939 Chevrolet

1940 Chevrolet

1941-46 GMC

1941-46 Chevrolet

1939 New Zealand Right Hand Drive

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

General Motors right hand drive trucks, though unusual in the United States, have always been very popular in specific countries such as Britain, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia. These vehicles were not produced in the U.S. but came from GM’s large assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario. Due to reversed dash boards, the change in steering components, differences in starter linkages, and tail light locations, etc., the lower numbers of right hand drive production was kept at this one Canadian assembly plant.

In New Zealand, special marketing laws required at least 25% of each new truck had to be assembled or produced in that country. This was mostly to help provide more local jobs. Thus for many years the GM Canadian facility exported truck parts only to the New Zealand assembly plant in Petone near the capital city of Wellington. Hundreds of freight containers supplying GM truck parts regularly arrived at this New Zealand assembly plant. The specialized parts from Canada were engines, frames, suspension components, disassembled cabs and front sheet metal. The New Zealand plant then assembled the truck and furnished parts they could provide locally. This included (at least in the 1940′s) the wiring harnesses, window glass, a wood cab floor, some rubber parts, an optional flat wood deck, etc.

To keep within the 25% government parts and labor requirement, a truck bed with sides as supplied on U.S. vehicles was not included. A locally made wood deck could be added during assembly. Either with or without this deck, the two rear pickup metal rear fenders from the Canadian plant were wired or otherwise secured at the rear of the cab. The finished vehicle was delivered this way to local New Zealand GM dealers. The lack of a bed would also allow the budget minded buyer to construct his own deck or hauling platform and better afford the new truck.

A New Zealand trailer manufacturer during these early years used pickup rear fenders on their finished product. Their small general purpose trailers were usually equipped with these new metal pickup fenders. A retired 88 year old manager of this company remembers having standing orders with all New Zealand pickup dealers (not just GM) to purchase their extras. This saved additional expense on their completed trailers.

The photos below are of three excellent 1939 Chevrolet 1/2 ton’s, all assembled at the New Zealand plant.

Their right hand drive feature is unique to American readers, however, these Chevrolets have another very unusual characteristic. As with most 1939 New Zealand Chevrolet trucks, their cab was assembled in the New Zealand Petone plant from pre-stamped pieces, and are a mixture of two types of trucks. The rear of the cabs and door outer sheet metal are of the U.S. 1936-1938 design. The cowl, windshield frame, hood and grill are the 1939-40 style. Yes, they do weld together nicely into a single unit but the horizontal door and hood lines do not match. Reasons for the GM ‘cab mixture’ are not known at this writing, however, it is assumed keeping New Zealand’s costs low was the main factor. Quantities of older 1936-38 style rear cabs, roofs, and door stampings were either already available or the prior tooling still had much remaining life. The lower cost could then be passed on to the retail truck buyer. Just another way of producing the New Zealand 1939 GM truck at the lowest possible price!

Another theory for this unusual combination cab is due to the beginning of World War II. Because of New Zealand’s connection with Great Britain, they entered the war September 2, 1939 over two years before the United States became formally involved. No doubt being in the war created an immediate demand for all trucks in New Zealand. Rather than lose sales while the cab tooling changeover occurred at the Canadian supply plant (1938 to the new design 1939 body) GM continued with the prior sheet metal for their in demand export truck. Exact new styling was not necessary to overseas buyers when the war demand was so high!

Truck #1 – Owned and restored by Steve Jones, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Contact Steve at chevytrucks49@e3.net.nz

A local newspaper ad brought Steve to this basically complete 1939 pickup. It had great potential for a complete restoration and was just what Steve had been wanting. It’s major two year rebuilding started in 1999 and most all work was done personally by the owner, Steve Jones. It is now authentically restored from the ground up. The only observable differences from its 1939 beginning are the addition of a non-New Zealand GM bed with sides and its whitewall tires. Steve even picked an original Chevrolet truck color, Armour Yellow.

One of Steve’s pictures, with this article, features the inside of the cab top without the headliner. Note: the factory welds where the early and late style sheet metal have been joined.

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive


Truck #2 – Owned and restored by Steve Bright, Feilding, New Zealand

This 1939 was bought new by Steve’s grandfather. He used it for it’s first five years on a rural mail delivery route (during World War II) as well as helping with the family sheep and cattle farm. After the war it continued with farm duties plus collected cream from surrounding dairies for a local butter factory. This was done until 1950 when this little ’39 had reached a mileage of 200,000. It was then used for the next 25 years by members of the family on the farm or for trips to town.

Retirement occurred in about 1978 when major mechanical problems developed. It was placed in a barn after having logged over 350,000 miles!! It sat in this same storage place until 1990, when Steve decided to give it a major restoration in honor of his grandfather.

He has now rebuilt it to look like it’s off the assembly line. All worn parts were repaired or replaced. The exception is the hand made bed built during the restoration which results in a longer overhang in the back. The tonneau cover protects the bed bottom and merchandise being transported.

Though the truck looks and drives almost new, it is not a “trailer queen”. Steve Bright has driven it 14,000 miles in the past six years.

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

Editors Note:The above trucks were closely observed and personally driven during a recent trip to New Zealand. Each has the same unique features, so it can be assumed, they are correct from the factory.

An additional feature of these New Zealand 1939 Chevrolets: The gas tanks were below the bed and cab from the factory, not under the seat as in the U.S.A. The right side of the cab is even notched out to allow the tank to fit higher above the ground.

Steve Bright’s truck still has the original tank. Steve Jones truck gas tank was missing so he placed a replacement unit under the seat as on U.S. built 1939′s.


Truck #3 – Owned and restored by Graham Stewert, Wyndham, New Zealand

Contact Graham at 2 R.D., Wyndham 9892, New Zealand

This little 1939 1/2 ton is on New Zealand’s South Island. Its owner, Graham Stewert, has personally given it a complete restoration with all parts disassembled and then put back in place. Other than engine rebuilding and body repair, the owner did the work!

Graham bought this 1/2 ton un-restored in 2003 with only 76,350 miles. It immediately caught his attention because it was the same as his grandfather bought new in 1939. He well remembers grandfather using it for regular deliveries by the family dairy to homes and a dairy processing plant.

Thus, he decided to build it “bone stock” in memory of his grandfather and how it looked in 1939.

It is now the exact color as grandfather’s 1939 and the engine, transmission, differential, and interior, etc. is like Graham remembers in his younger days. It runs like new and is a pleasure to drive for fun transportation as well as to many vintage auto rallies.

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

1939 GMC Right Hand Drive

1939 Chevrolet Tow Truck

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Year/Make 1939 Chevrolet
Owner: John H. Sheally II

1939 Chevrolet Tow truck

1939 Chevrolet

What do you tow your Morgan with ?

Story and Photographs by John H. Sheally II

So you wish to hear about my 1939 Chevrolet, grain bed, ton and a half tow truck. Well folks it is what I call a ‘REAL TRUCK’. This baby was built to work and be tough. Quality was important to vehicle builders of the pre-war era. Trucks of that period were built to be strong and simple. There is no plastic parts or paper fender wells held in with paper clips in this machine. Plenty of nickel was used in the steel bodies thus they did not rust out and as a result trucks like mine can be rebuilt, restored or refurbished very easily. Mine was a one owner (same family its whole pre life) from an estate sale in Charlottesville , Virginia . It was a very ugly faded green (original color) and had been worked hard all its years on that farm thus it was an 80% restoration for me. It started with bodywork, paint, new interior, engine work as well as brakes on all four corners and enclosed drive-shaft joints.

My ‘Heavy Chevy’ has been on the road since that restoration 15 years ago, I have done some 10,000 miles a year with it towing to 30 to 40 competition events per year as well as meets and concours. I have competed with several different Morgan Models over these years as well as Cobra, Saab Sonett and two formula cars which have been towed with this dependable machine.

This truck quite often is also entered in shows and wins along with the Morgan being shown for a double header at the show or concours.

The truck is perfect for the job it does. Most of these big Chevy trucks were built as Stake body or flat bed models but mine was one of the rare grain bed model which is like a big pickup bed truck except the beds were built to haul grain and not spill out through openings in the bed. As a result I can carry my tools, spares, tires, air bottles, jacks, generator, etc. The addition of a Tonneau makes it all come together for a nice competition tow package.

The engine was a ‘stove bolt’ straight 216 cubic inch six cylinder referred to as a Thriftmaster Six. When I went to rebuild it two years ago I realized that I would like to have a few more ponies coming out of it because when I hit the mountains with it I would have to really work the four speed gearbox to pull up the steeper slopes. As a result I rebuilt it to a 261 stroker which amounted to a larger bore, longer rods and I drilled a couple of extra weep holes in the head for more cooling. The final package ends up being a Jobmaster Six with 24 more horses on the bottom end resulting in great torque and I can forget the gearbox when I hit the mountain ranges.

The Chevy is sprung stiff and required no special springs or helper shocks as it was built to handle heavy loads when built by the General Motors factory.

I cruise at 55 mph all day long and can hit 75 on a down hill run. I have put Carbon-Kevlar brake shoes on it on four corners and it stops well. It’s a great truck with great working ability and a firm ride.

This black beauty just became a Movie star, making her film debut in the Steven King feature ‘Hearts in Atlantis’, which is produced by Dreamworks.

There is something special about driving a sixty-two year old truck, which was built with purpose and pride four years before I was born.

1939 Chevrolet Tow truck

1939 Chevrolet Tow truck

1939 Chevrolet Tow truck

1939 Chevrolet Tow truck

1939 Chevrolet Tow truck

1939 Chevrolet Tow truck

1939-1946 Electric Wiper Motor

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

electric wiper motor 1

1939-1946 Electric Wiper Motor

Even if you prefer an original vacuum wiper motor for these years rebuildable cores have become very rare and most New Old Stock units are just not obtainable. Even new ones have their lubrication dry after 70 years.

For those that won’t except a slow moving or non-working used vacuum unit, an alternative does exist. New electric motors are now on the market in both 6 and 12 volt styles. The above photo shows a new unit before installation.

You will no longer need the original inside wiper cover plate with the indention. Replace it with the included non-indented style which gives a smooth finish.

The electric wires can be run inside the windshield post to a switch of your choice under the dash.

These kits can be obtained from Jim Carter Truck Parts at 1-800-842-1913.

1939-1946 Door Windows

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During 1939-40 Door window breakage on truck cabs became a problem. As the cloth fabric in the door window channel became worn, the large and now loose fitting side windows were susceptible to cracking when the door was slammed. Complaints from dealers resulted in an improvement on 1941-46 doors. A one piece metal frame was placed around the edges of the top and sides of the glass and the breakage was greatly reduced. To make room for these new metal frames, the glass on the 1941-46 doors was now slightly smaller.

Therefore, the 1939-40 door glass and 1941-46 with metal frame will interchange in total in all 1939-46 doors. The smaller 1941-46 door glass can not be used without it’s frame or it will not seal into the cloth channel at the top of the window opening.

1939 door window

1939-1946 Replacement Seat Cushions

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Locating a pair of seat cushions for the 1939-46 truck has become very difficult in recent years. These early trucks increased popularity is the main reason for the shortage. Even when a pair of cushions are located the asking price often does not justify the purchase because of the age damage to the springs and frame of the lower cushion.

It is this lower cushion that has received the most wear in its 60 years. In a salvage yard the door or window left open for even a year allows rain water to soak the seat padding and hasten the damage.

As your hunt continues, here is a practical substitute that fits the cab well and gives the appearance of a re-upholstered original. Locate the common rear seat (not the middle) in a 1984-90 Dodge Caravan or Plymouth Voyager mini-van. You can even pull the factory levers on the back and the seat is quickly removed. Most salvage yards have many extras and their pricing should be under $50.00. You will even get the seat belts!

With less use of this rear seat in the van, you can find one with no tears or permanent stains.

The next step is cleaning. Simply place it in the bed of your late model pickup and find a coin operated wand car wash. The hot soapy water will make the cloth covered cushion like new for less than $5.00. Leave it in your truck for a few hours until the water drip stops. Then place the cushion where it can dry. In about 24 hours, the job is done! The padding is closed cell foam and does not absorb water.

You won’t need most of the lower metal attaching brackets. Remove them and attach the remaining metal and cushions to your trucks original seat riser. Here is where you can be creative but it is done and the remaining metal will not be visible.

For the perfectionist, the cab tapers inward as it reaches the cowl. Thus, the two doors are slightly closer to each other at the front in a standard cab. This new van cushion will touch the front of the doors because of this taper. If you don’t like this contact with the door, an upholstery shop can place a taper in the lower cushion to parallel the inside door panel. A small portion of the foam edge can be removed from the front sides of the lower cushion.

Continue to search for the original 1939-46 seat cushions. In the meantime, you have very comfortable clean cushions with seat belts. Most people will think you had your originals reupholstered.

The following article and pictures were received from Brett Courcier. He personally used this type seat and is very satisfied.

My name is Brett Courcier. I live in Fremont Nebraska. I own a 1946 Chevy pickup street rod. I wanted to take a few pictures of how my seat fit in my truck. I was trying to find a seat for my truck. I found a Plymouth Caravan minivan rear seat. It fit great. I cut off the latching pieces that go in the minivan floor and welded on a piece of 2″ square tubing to the front legs and a piece of 1″ square tubing to the rear legs. The pictures show them. My upholsterer added lumbar support to the lower back area and also added 2″ in heigth to the back of the seat. The seat comes with three seat belts and folds forward from the back of the cab. We added a full length pouch across the back of the cab for storage. I hope the pictures show enough for you. If you have any questions please contact me.

Brett Courcier

402-727-7127 or e-mail baccourcier@team-national.com

seat 1 seat 2 seat 3

1939-1946 Suburban and Panel Doors

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The unusual side doors on these Suburban and Panel trucks will fit on the more common pickup cab, however, their looks will tell the observer that something is not correct. Across the top of the outer skin is a horizontal stamping or groove. This groove is a continuation of the stamping that runs the length of the body to help strengthening the long sheet metal sides.

The pictures below should help you in obtaining the correct used door for your panel or Suburban restoration project. Tip: Even a badly damaged door from a Suburban or panel truck is of value. This will perfectly graft on a pickup or large truck door to make the rare item you need.

Suburban and Panel Door 1

Suburban and Panel Door 2

1939-1940 Chevrolet GMC Grilles

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The 1939-1940 Chevrolet and GMC grilles may look the same when they are seen separately, however they are not! By sharing fenders, hood top, headlight stands, etc. , the grilles overall dimensions had to be the same. To keep each marquee individual, GM made the grilles different. When the two are compared side by side, what a difference!

1939-1940 GMC Grill
1940 Chevrolet Grill
1939-1940 GMC Grille
1940 Chevrolet Grille

 

1939-1946 Deluxe Cab

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Deluxe Cab 1

Deluxe cab?  There is none!  Truck cabs during these early years all came the same from the factory. Accessories were dealer installed. You picked the factory installed color and transmission.  The dealership added the requested extras such as heater, inside sun visor right mirror arm, etc.

This changed on the Advance Design Cabs during 1947-55. The pickup had a deluxe cab because it was given factory rear corner windows, a right side sun visor, and door and windshield stainless trim.

1936-1939 Glove Box Lock

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

This early glove box lock assembly has a weak point that makes it difficult to find complete. Its die-cast vertical pointer is held in place by a small steel tension spring. After the truck sets outside abandon several years the spring rusts, breaks, or otherwise looses its tension. This allows the pointer to fall out and the glove box lid will no longer stay closed.

Most all locks you find will be without their pointer. The enclosed photos show a complete lock with pointer as it must be to operate.

Glove Box Lock 1

These locks do not have the ‘push button’ mechanism as the later design.  A small spring button attached to the dash moves. With this style, you pull on the key knob in the door when it is unlocked to overcome this spring button.  You don’t have to use the key to open the door.  Just pull the lock knob.  To lock the glove box door, just turn the key and the pointer moves forward.  The door is now locked.

During the beginning months of this 1936-39 lock, a different key blank was used. This blank has not been available for many years. If you need the early style your local locksmith may not be able to provide a key! (And the search begins.)

Glove Box Lock 2

Glove Box Lock 3

1939 Chevrolet Model XHJC

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Owner: Brian Robinson

1939 chevrolet model xhjc

Now that our 1939 has had it’s restoration completed we thought we would send you some photos of the finished product.
You will notice that the 1939 New Zealand trucks were noticeably different in the cab area than the American trucks (other than the steering wheel being on the right side!) which could be of interest to others.

Thanks for all your assistance with parts.
Bryan Robinson, Tirau, New Zealand

1939 chevrolet model xhjc 1939 chevrolet model xhjc 1939 chevrolet model xhjc

1939 Chevrolet

Monday, August 1st, 2005

Owner: Will Peterson, Winnemucca, Nevada

1939 chevrolet pick up truck

I purchased my 39 Chevy in 1973 for 500$US. I drove it in original condition for several years. After 3 wives, it has been the only thing I could hold onto. I used it for wood hauling, then with a 600 gal. tank, for water, then in the 80′s, it went mining with me, serving well hauling gold ore down a treacherous road. Finally, it was ready restoration, which started with a new water pump, then a new head gasket, and on and on. I tore it down for a frame off restoration. I sand blasted the frame, checked the 4 speed transmission, installed all new brake stuff, and a clutch replacement. Then I checked out the bottom end of the engine and gave it a new valve job. New glass and upholstery followed and Finally paint and reassemble. It is almost totally original with a 41- 46 stepside pickup bed.

While tearing it down, I removed the top from the non-synchro 4 speed to clear the cab when I pulled the 216. It looked very good gear-wise for all the thrashing it has absorbed. It makes noise in first gear as do all spur cut gears.

The 216 runs pretty good, so I removed the pan and re-shimmed the rods, replaced the seals and gasket. It was so nasty, with rat poop and nesting, old grease and who knows what. No rust though I had a vision of it shiny and clean, like brand new, pulling me back to a simpler time. My wheel base is 158.5 in. but the frame is drilled for 133in. which will put it in long bed pickup box category or short bed with 110 in. That makes it a heavy duty pickup with single wheels at the rear. An Express model..

I bought a good sandblaster and new compressor, and ordered new brake parts, new motor mounts, new cab mount kits from Carters. When I pulled engine and transmission I found really caked on old Saudi oil on it. So I pulled pan and head and side panel, lifters. Next came pistons. The block did not require ridge reaming, and I bought a digital c-clamp for measuring all of this. Bore is standard, as is the crank , so cool. Crank and rods are in good shape, I installed new rings and pistons, the gap on mine is 1/16 in., and the manual calls for .005 to .015, I read 1/32 can be acceptable. I re-shimed rods to .002, using the method the old mechanics used in 1941 manual. After reading the manual, I am lucky to not have to do the crank.

It was interesting to find out how the babbit rods work. The misconception of dipper is that it is a dipper type system for all engine speeds. But actually the dippers only dip at very slow engine speed, as there are nozzles that direct a high pressure stream of oil to the dipper holes when engine is at higher rpm. It is a very good system, misunderstood. Even when one installs replaceable insert type rods in this engine, it is still the same dipper-nozzle type oiling. It really works good if set up properly. I installed an oil filter and detergent type oil is used.

New clutch disc, new rings and pistons, new motor mounts, master and wheel cylinder repair kits were ordered.

Cab work: I removed all the inner panels, only rust on the overhead wiper cover. Very good condition for 66 years old. I removed the dash to redo the gauges. Sorting out all the fasteners, I had to use them as samples. Not one of them was useable. One thing missing was the horn. It is a two tone type, as there is a switch on the dash with city tone or country tone. The next project was the cab and windshield. The windshield was tough, as the lower v-strap was rust-welded in the 377$us frame. I managed to salvage most of it but I had to buy new v straps and glass, repair the frame a bit, and paint over the repairs.

I pulled the dash out with all the wiring, so the cab was now totally stripped. I sand blasted the whole cab and put in sound proofing after interior painting. All the wiring and some of the switches were replaced. I was thinking, “This thing will be like brand new, almost….I know there is an end to it, somewhere down the line…It is just so much fun”. I got a new windshield for 40$us. This was the best deal I got.

New parts from Carter showed up. The crank and rods were just fine. I re-did the shims on the rods according to a 1941 manual. Did not use plastigage, they showed how to get it tight and then loosen by .002 so the rod would just slap back and forth by hand. I removed 003 from each rod bearing. I put the engine back together with new oil tube for rockers, new water pump, valve job, and gaskets.

March 13, 05, I installed the engine, started it without water, ran for about 20 seconds, sounds good…. I got a 1955 stepside bed, 78 in long, with no fenders on it, but with good metal and a tailgate. Fenders from Jim Carter’s go for $250.00 each. I can run it around without rear fenders for awhile anyway. I do plan to get to Hot August Nights in Reno this year. I had to repair the wiper motors and the covers by riveting aluminum sheet over a section of rusted out metal. I then installed new brake lines, all new rubber, brakes are ready now.

Body work is unending sanding. I got new side window, it seems like everything I touch has to be fixed in some way. I decided on sunrise red trim, fenders and running boards brown with the cab and bed Almond. Saw the older Chevy on the front of the Jim Carter’s catalog and was inspired. I installed cab with new mount. The grille had small red remnants in the horizontal lines and the front Chevrolet emblem was red. Evidently it was a decal. Using one color for the big basics unitized the beauty of the 39 design. Brown looks good in the interior.

I ran the motor for 1 hr, all was well after I adjusted the valves. This engine sounds like a new one, with no unusual noises. By this time I was almost done. I installed the interior trim from Carter’s. It looks like a new pickup. Red trim was next. Upholstery was initially a Saddle Blanket type. I installed antifreeze and new side terminal battery on April 7, 05. Now that I was nearly done, it was similar to having a kit car shipped to my garage with all the engineering done. Just put it together. I got a very sound feeling of pride, an appreciation of 10 for the people that created this truck back in 1939.

On April 19, 05. I installed the wiring for the alternator (I kept the original generator ), started it up, charged just fine. I tried to turn it off, no way. Then I remembered reading in Carter’s catalog about a diode to stop that. The alternator provides current at idle to operate the ignition, bypassing the battery. I also installed the hard yellow pine into the bed. I used polyurethane for protection. The bed only has 7 boards, making it a 1946 model, according to Carter’s, and it looks the same as earlier, down to the square nuts used. It is also a wee bit wider than 1939 models. A lot of the bed components were the same from 32 to early seventies. I installed a new glove box from Carter’s, it is made real good and fits super. Red wheels, hard yellow pine bed boards, red hold down strips, were installed and look good. Now , it was time to bleed the brakes, wire up the Chevy taillights. I think it is done. I think I will go for a ride with no license plate but and old 1934 Calif. one I found many years ago. I bet the cops will let me go……

Editors Note: Because many dates were not noted, this article has been edited slightly from the original diary format.

1939 chevrolet pick up truck 1939 chevrolet pick up truck 1939 chevrolet pick up truck

1939 chevrolet pick up truck 1939 chevrolet pick up truck 1939 chevrolet pick up truck

1939 Chevrolet

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

Owner: Sergies Lucas

1939 chevrolet truck

Article and photos by MB Johnson Holdings Pty Ltd, South Townsville Old 4810, Australia. copyright 2004 MB Johnson Holdings Pty Ltd. all rights reserved. Sergies Lucas is a 51 year old self-taught timber craftsman with vision, creativity and a passion for achieving a standard of product that has long been lost to the world through natural attrition.

Not that Sergies has plans to build his own casket just yet, but if he did, you can bet it would be impressive.

However, in addition to a natural affinity for life, timber and vintage memorabilia, Sergies wanted to restore an old vehicle for promotional and delivery purposes in his business.

In the mid 90′s, he asked associates to keep a lookout for an old pick-up truck. He didn’t care what make or model, just so long as it was vintage. It also had to have timber work so that restoration would exemplify his trade.

Eventually a friend mentioned that a cane farm at Giru, between Townsville and Ayr, was for sale …. and there was an old pick-up truck in the shed which also was for sale.

On inspection it turned out to be a 1939, 3/4 ton Special, Chevrolet and, although they had to hot-wire it and attach a make-shift petrol tank; it started.

“It wasn’t ‘gone in 60 seconds’ but I test drove it once around the house,” Sergies said.

And although the vehicle’s shape wasn’t what he first had in mind, any disappointment had turned to ardour before he returned to Townsville.

“I had even chosen the colour scheme.

“But I wanted to check with Queensland Transport regarding the legalities of driving the vehicle, albeit restored, on the road.

“They didn’t have a problem. In fact, because the original design didn’t have doors, they weren’t required. Nor was it required to have seatbelts fitted.

“Although the vehicle was in sad shape when I bought it, I think I got excellent value for $2,000″ he said.

Sergies knew he had to strip the vehicle down to its last nut and bolt and sandblast, clean, paint and replace worn-out parts. It was a daunting task.

But fortunately there was enough of the old timber left to use as templates to manufacture the new timber components. In fact, whatever was made in timber, or could be changed, either for improvement or by necessity, was restored in the finest, furniture-grade Jarrah.

The steering wheel, for example, epitomised Sergies’ work standards but almost spelt the end of the road for both him and the project.

Sergies decided to grind the old bakelite off the steering wheel and replace it with timber. An innovating thought.

“In a last-ditch attempt to get a steering wheel off another truck to act as a stopgap while I restored the original wheel, I pulled hard on the wheel while a friend hammered the steering column with a punch.

“Suddenly it let go and I went flying off the back onto the ground, landing on my back and both elbows, with the steering wheel still in my hands. The impact shattered my right elbow and broke the corresponding shoulder blade.

“I spent the next month off work,” Sergies said.

The next step in the Chevy’s back-to-the-future experience was to recondition the motor.

Although Sergies has basic knowledge of the internal-combustion engine, he is, by his own admission, not au fait with the intricacies of Gottlieb Daimler’s invention.

“The motor was taken to a friend’s workshop for assessment. The prognosis for four of the pistons was good but the other two were marginally acceptable,” he said

Sergies wouldn’t risk repairs after the vehicle’s restoration so he elected to rebuild the motor, but it included an unscheduled rebore for oversized pistons.

“When the pistons and rings arrived, they were mismatched. Matching rings were not available. I eventually obtained pistons which matched the rings from here in Australia, and the bore ended up .040 oversize.

“However, the new piston size took the cubic inch of the motor from 216.5 to 225 and increased the maximum brake horsepower from 78 accordingly. It is now a 3.690 litre engine.

“It’s a big banger,” he quipped facetiously, adding, “but you wouldn’t put it in the Holden Dealer Team’s Commodore for a run around Mt Panorama.”

Another heart-stopping moment in the life and times of Sergies Lucas and his piece de resistance was when a client came to see about a job and asked how the restoration was going.

By this time the overhauled motor was installed and Sergies offered to start it. But he had forgotten that another enthusiast had earlier looked at the vehicle and, unbeknown to him, left it in gear.

Sergies started the vehicle from outside the cabin, pushing the starter button on the floor, down with his hand. The motor fired up and kept going, taking Sergies with it, down the driveway.

“That was a rush,” Sergies said.

“Unfortunately, I had also placed a couple of ornate clocks valued at $900 each on a makeshift tray on the back and, you guessed it, one came off and crashed to the ground when the truck lunged forward. I worked all night to fix it because that client was coming in the next day to pick it up,” he said.

Other additional but unique, unobtrusive features include a lockable glove compartment under the driver’s seat for valuables when the vehicle is unattended. And the installation of a radio/cassette in the centre console so as not to spoil the original look of the dash. The aerial is secreted in the roof lining.

But unlike today’s dashboards, the Chevy’s dash is spartan.

“It has a speedometer and mileage meter in front of the driver with a smaller, dual amp and oil gauge on the right of it and gas and water temperature on the left.

“I also converted the electrical system from six to twelve volts and while the parkers are still in the headlights, I installed mudguard-mounted parkers, which were an optional extra, and turned them into indicators,” he said.

Another change was the valance which acts as a stoneguard and water-drain attached to, and shaped to follow, the under-lines of the grille. It strengthens the grille and aesthetically finishes the ensemble’s appearance at the bottom.

“But after 64 years, the original was kangaroo-Edward,” he said.

Once again parts were thwarted by the gods of supply and when the valance arrived, the middle, rear section of the item belonged to another model which rendered the unit useless. Sergies decided to make his own, naturally, out of timber.

The result is perfection. However, the only people who get to see this consummate piece of craftsmanship is the mechanic and slow pedestrians.

The actual cost of restoration including materials, parts and outside labour was $29,000, but that does not include Sergies’ labour, of which there were incalculable hours.

What at first was thought would take about 18 months, eventually took six years.

“I averaged about 16 hours a fortnight on the vehicle; over a year times six is, say, 2,500 hours, multiplied by my hourly rate of $35, equals $71,500. Plus the outside costs of $29,000 puts the value of the finished product at $100,000,” he said.

A further blow to the project saw the vehicle insured for only $15,000. Which means Sergies drives with extreme caution.

“At first the insurance company said that they would only insure it for $7,500, but after sending them a copy of the receipts and some pictures, they increased it to $15,000.

“They did not dispute that it was worth more, but they would only go to $15,000, tops. Which would cover one, maybe two of the wheels and a rear-vision mirror,” he joked.

But it’s all been worthwhile according to Sergies.

“The result is extremely satisfying,” he said. “It’s my silent salesman at industry or social events.”

Now that his dream has materialized, his thoughts have turned to the next project. But the prerequisite, of course, is a short-term completion date.

And while the casket has merit, “It’s a bit premature,” he said.

1939 chevrolet truck 1939 chevrolet truck 1939 chevrolet truck

1939 chevrolet truck 1939 chevrolet truck 1939 chevrolet truck

1939 chevrolet truck 1939 chevrolet truck 1939 chevrolet truck

1939 chevrolet truck 1939 chevrolet truck 1939 chevrolet truck

1939 chevrolet truck 1939 chevrolet truck 1939 chevrolet truck

1508 East 23rd St. Independence Mo. 64055   |   Phone: 1.800.842.1913

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