Tag Archives: Chevrolet 3/4 ton flatbed

1956 Chevrolet 3600: Starting Work on the Farm Truck

After finally getting the ’59 Apache painted and back on the road, we were ready to begin on the “farm truck.” It didn’t take long to figure out that the 3/4 ton truck was going to be more problematic regarding parts. They tended to vary between unobtainium and ridiculously expensive. But, since the truck has been in the Lewie’s family for fifty years, we all felt that restoring 3600 flatbed to it’s former glory was preferable to converting various systems to half-ton spec.

Chevrolet 235 six firing order
Time to learn a new firing order… the venerable 235 six.

We performed a couple of reasonably quick and easy checks of the engine which confirmed that the easy starting, smooth running 235 straight six was in good condition.

Chevrolet 235 six compression test results
Not bad for a sixty year old engine!

We checked the compression dry and then wet, and were satisfied with those results. We intended to follow with a leak down check, but the rib cages were screaming for mercy after reaching for those rear cylinders, so we moved on to the vacuum test…  it couldn’t have looked much better. We can put an engine refresh on the back burner for now. There are a couple leaks that need to be dealt with, but nothing major.

Chevrolet 235 six manifold vacuum test result
Looking good and instilling confidence.


Flatbed Disassembly

Next we decided to disassemble the flatbed to make it presentable again. We determined that we could use the existing planks if they were flipped over, but the metal strips were too rusty to re-use.

Flat bed lifted off of 1956 Chevrolet 3600 truck
LIft off!

Mar-K Manufacturing in Oklahoma City makes replacement metal strips. We filled out the online form with the required dimensions:  overall length, location of the bolt holes, size of the bolt holes, and quantity. Within a few hours, we had a price quote for our nine strips ($14 each, plus a setup fee and shipping).

Disassembly of the Chevy 3600 flat bed
Ready for disassembly.

Removing the rear of the flatbed frame allowed us to slide the 1.25″ thick planks out the back. The planks are 92″ long and of varying widths, and the top side has been routed and grooved so that the strips sit more level with the wood surface and lock the adjacent planks together.

Wood beam supporting the flatbed was rotted in one area
Wood at the front of this beam is soft and collapsed where the bolts pass through.

We found that one of the two main fore-aft beams supporting the flatbed was rotted out and soft at the front, so we will need to graft on a new piece or have a complete new beam built to spec. More on that later.

Flatbed parts for the 1956 Chevy truck disassembled
Keeping the barn tidy… all the flatbed pieces on one cart.

1956 Chevrolet 3600: Blasting the Farm Truck

After assessing the efficacy of our own blasting equipment, we decided professional help was needed. Fortunately, just down the street in Fallbrook we had driven hundreds of times past a sign advertising sandblasting by a company called Tronier Sandblasting. We phoned the number – 760.645.3180 – and asked Tronier, father and son, to come out and take a look at our project. The rate to blast the entire truck seemed reasonable, so we set a date.

1956 Chevrolet 3600 flat bed truck stripped for sandblasting
The ’56, stripped of glass, hood, engine, and the flatbed, ready for blasting.

They agreed to do the job at our site, but first we had to figure out if we could get the truck back into the barn if we rolled it out. We had a 2000 lb. rated, 24 volt winch in the shop so we rigged it up in between our two post lift using a stout piece of rectangular tubing. Rather than just a straight pull, we felt using a pulley on the load would be safer, reducing the tension on the rope by half.

Winch on our two-post lift arms to haul truck into barn
Winch setup.
testing the winch setup used to haul truck into the barn
Testing it out, with blankets and towels draped on the line to dampen the snap if the line should break.

Satisfied we could get it done, we proceeded. In between rain storms, we found two clear days to do the job.

Tronier Sandblasting trailer which holds all of their equipment
Tronier’s custom made trailer holding their power, compressor, ladders, and 400 feet of high volume hose.
Jim Tronier getting to work sandblasting the 1956 Chevrolet truck frame.
Jim Tronier at work on the frame.
Sandblasting the underside of the 1956 Chevrolet truck frame
Sometimes laying down on the job.

What Jim estimated could be a one day job, turned into two days plus, but the price remained the same even though we offered to sweeten the deal. I can’t say enough good things about Tronier; for sure we will have them back to blast the ’58 GMC, seen sitting in the backround.

Interior of 1956 Chevrolet truck sandblasted
Interior blasted.
Engine bay of the 1956 Chevrolet truck sandblasted
Engine bay done.
1956 Chevrolet truck cab, frame, and wheels sandblasted.
All done but for the bits removed: hood, flatbed frame, etc
1956 Chevrolet truck back inside after sandblasting.
Back in the barn before the next rain. Bare metal will rust if you just drop a bead of sweat on it.

The Farm Truck was really in excellent shape, with only the steps on both sides and one corner of the hood needing any rust repair. But blasting away any body filler will reveal all – including some damage to the left front fender, and a couple ripples in the right front fender.  All in all, though, it is in fine shape for a sixty year old truck.

Sandblasting has revealed damage to our 1956 Chevy truck fender
Damage revealed.

The flat face on the driver side fender has been pushed under, creating a knife edge look. This is what it should look like.

1956 Chevrolet truck right front fender will be our model for repairs
The correct look.

Lance and I thought we’d be able to get the sand wedges out and hone our bunker shots, but the kids were quick to claim the beach as their own.

Sandblasting has created a new play area for the kids
Tommy, Lucia, and Tugger stake their claim to the new play area.

1956 Chevrolet 3600: Brake Boost for the Farm Truck

Although the 1956 Chevy 3600 flat bed is going to be restored to “as original” for the most part, Lewie did insist on a few upgrades for safety and drivability. At the top of the list was adding a power booster system so that the four drum brakes could haul the 3/4 ton truck to a stop more effectively and with less effort.

CPP Brake booster kit for 1955 - 1959 Chevy trucks
The CPP 5559BBD kit and our original brake lever.

Classic Performance Products had the perfect product for the job – their frame mount brake booster kit for drum brakes (part number 5559BBD, accessible at classicperform.com). We purchased it through Summit Racing to take advantage of their pricing and free shipping.

Though we were a little concerned with the lack of documentation, it turned out that the installation was straightforward and simple. From start to finish it took us three hours to complete the installation. not including new brake lines, which haven’t been made up yet.

Relocation of hand brake pulley to make room for brake booster kit
The handbrake pulley had to be moved rearward a few inches to clear the diaphragm housing.

In addition to the brake line replacement, which shouldn’t take more than an hour to install, we had to make two other modifications. First, we had to move the handbrake cable pulley rearward on the frame a few inches to clear the large diaphragm housing. These were the only new holes in the frame, since the new master cylinder and booster utilize the same mounting holes as the original.

The second modification required for this kit is to create a new access hole in the floor of the cab, since the original master cylinder is several inches forward from the CPP unit.

Master cylinder access hole relocated for CPP 5559BBD brake booster
New master cylinder access on the cab floor.

We didn’t want to cut into the transverse rib on the cab floor, nor the strengthening grooves in the floor, so the access hole is not directly over the master cylinder reservoirs. But we made the access opening large enough to fit your hand through to remove the cap and perform fluid maintenance.

The CPP 5559BBD kit utilizes the original brake lever to operate the master cylinder
The original brake lever is used, and fit perfectly.

At around $300 plus the cost of new or modified brake lines, the kit is a bargain, especially when the ease of installation is factored into the equation. We will utilize braided stainless steel lines if we can get those made up economically, otherwise we will opt for hard lines like the original setup.

CPP 5559BBD brake booster installed
CPP 5559BBD installed except for new brake lines. The access hole drawn here above the MC would have cut through strength structures of the cab.

Summing it up, we’re very pleased with the CPP kit and we are looking forward to a little more stopping power. After all, Lewie, Lance, and I all live in Hidden Meadows in northeast San Diego county, and leaving the ‘hood requires dropping several hundred feet in elevation down a steep grade to access I-15 and the rest of the world. If this kit performs as well as it looks and installs, it will be making an appearance on the ’59 Apache soon.


Farm Truck Update

The restoration of Lewie’s 1956 Chevy 3600 has been progressing steadily since our last post. The cab is finally painted inside and out. We chose single stage paints purchased at Meza Automotive Paint in Escondido for exterior and interior. We used our old DeVilbiss gun for the most part, and an inexpensive (but awesome) Harbor Freight detail gun – part of a two gun kit – for the tight spots and for touch-up. The blue exterior is surprisingly bright and we’re all anxious to see it on the road with the white bits installed (bumper, grill, hubcaps, mirrors, etc).

Truck cab exterior painted a brilliant shade of blue.
Truck cab painted brilliant blue. It pops!
Interior of 1956 Chevy truck painted in shades of gray.
Interior a little more tame in shades of gray, as it was originally.

For the front part of the cab floor we bought the original style jute and cardboard inner firewall cover, and the precut jute pad and rubber floormat. All these were purchased from Classic Parts of America.

Inner firewall cover and precut jute pad.
Inner firewall cover and precut jute pad.
Precut and punched rubber floormat.
Precut and punched rubber floormat. I wish I had done this in the Apache.

We will use heat shield insulation on the rest of the cab floor, and under the headliner.

Lewie took on the project of refinishing his original wood bed, and from the crimson red “A” it should be apparent where he – and the truck – lived when the it was purchased a few decades ago.

Installation of frame, bed wood, and strips.
Installation of frame, bed wood, and strips.

The original metal strips were rusted, and junked. We bought these replacements from Mar-K Manufacturing in Oklahoma City… simply filled in the convenient form describing the strips for our bed (length, hole sizes, hole locations) and everything fit perfectly. Turn around time was about one week!

Mechanical tasks were also getting finished. The CPP power steering kit required cutting the shaft and column, and we elected to chop off even more to move the steering wheel away from the driver – Lewie is not petite.

Steering shaft shortened, double D cut, and drilled for a pin or bolt.
Steering shaft shortened, double D cut, and drilled for a pin or bolt.

We used Josh Sadler’s Yoshifab, right here in Fallbrook, to cut the double D into the shaft and drill a 1/4 hole for a bolt or roll-pin. We nearly lopped too much off the shaft – the column shifter has to clear the dash!

Flanged bearing inserted into PVC coupler
Flanged bearing inserted into PVC coupler. We cut the coupler just past the end of the bearing.

To keep the outer column from flopping around, we utilized a flanged bearing inserted into a piece of PVC pipe and pressed into the bottom end of the column.

Bearing installed into bottom end of steering column.
Bearing installed into bottom end of steering column.

Once the engine and transmission are in place, we will install the shifter mechanism onto the steering column. The slotted hole visible in the above photo allows positional adjustment so that the shift rods operate on the trans levers correctly. We will then need to chop a couple inches off of the upper shift shaft (under the dash) since we shortened the steering column.

Shifter shaft needs to be shortened a couple inches, exact amount to be determined later.
Shifter shaft needs to be shortened a couple inches, exact amount tbd later.

In the next post, we chase down a vacuum leak in the 235 six.

Rebel Wire 9+3 Kit

The 1956 Chevrolet 3600 “Farm Truck” is the third truck we have built at the barn, and in all three we have used the Rebel Wire 9+3 kit. The first to get the Rebel Wire treatment was Lance’s 1948 3100. We  approached that initial job with a little trepidation, but Jeremy White at Rebel Wire held our hands the whole way and answered all of our questions. Having worked with many vendors in our builds, I can testify that customer service just doesn’t get any better than what Jeremy delivers.

1948 Chevy truck with lights on after we installed harness.
Milestone for the ’48 wiring job… the lights work!

At $204.95, the 9+3 kit is a good bargain. In the Farm Truck, we have a full complement of electrical equipment, including the radio, electric wipers, heater, cigarette lighter, a couple after-market gauges, turn signals (an option in 1956) and emergency flashers, single wire alternator, and the electric overdrive unit. We’ve still never used the 3 extra circuits.

Rebel Wire 9+3 kit contents.
Rebel Wire 9+3 kit contents.

The wires are grouped for front, rear, dash, etc., and each individual wire is labeled every six inches or so along its entire length. The instructions are thorough and straightforward. This is about as foolproof as it gets.

Fuse box above driver-side kick panel.
Fuse box in the ’56 was installed above driver-side kick panel. Accessible but out of the way.
wires sorted out for the dashboard section
Sorting out the wiring for the dash… easy.

We salvaged the original dash lights and a few inches of the old wires, then spliced them into blade connectors to hook up with the new wiring harness. Later, we added lights for the turn signal indicators.

original dash lights were utilized
We utilized the original dash lights and a few inches of old wiring.

We used the Lineman’s Splice to connect old to new. Here’s a link to a YouTube video showing how to do it:  NASA approved Linesman Splice

Dash lights spliced into blade connectors.
And spliced into blades for connection to new harness.
Split "braided" wire insulation was utilized.
Split “braided” wire insulation was utilized.

We didn’t go crazy trying to hide wires, just picked the appropriate holes in the firewall and then used split “braided” wire insulation. In the San Diego area, we found it in bulk at Marshall’s Hardware off of Miramar Road, and packaged (i.e., pricier) at the Off Road Warehouse in Escondido.

Since the mandate from Lewie was to make this truck just like he remembered it back in the 60’s when his dad bought it, we wanted to utilize the original gauges. It would have been easy, and tidy under the dash.

Ammeter wiring with a single wire alternator.
Ammeter wiring could have been this simple.

But I could imagine a cold, foggy night in San Diego after Lewie has been partying, external speakers blaring his tunes. Time to go home:  get in truck, 300 watt radio playing, headlights on, heater on, wipers on, alternator trying to charge the battery, and then pushing in the lighter to smoke his fifth cigar of the evening. Poof.

dashboard completed on our 1956 Chevy truck
Voltmeter and electric oil pressure gauges under dash.

After discussing all this with Jeremy at Rebel Wire (and Lewie), we opted for an after market voltmeter, and an electric oil pressure gauge. It looks fine, but does add  7 or 8 wires under the dash, which isn’t quite as tidy. The oil line to the original gauge certainly wouldn’t have been ideal, either. So, a bit of a trade-off, but safety was foremost in our minds.

There’s nothing better in a restoration project than ripping out the nasty old, frayed wiring and replacing it with a new harness. Rebel Wire has really taken the difficulty out of the equation, with great pricing and invaluable customer service… big thanks to Jeremy and Rebel Wire from the crew in the Barn.

The ’56 Chevy 3600 Farm Truck is Finished

Finally done, here is the After gallery. Click a picture to view the carousel…

This was the “farm truck” in January 2017, the Before gallery…

And lastly, this gallery shows some of our work. There is no question that the paint job (and prep and finish) was by far the most time consuming and at times disheartening part of the restoration. The mechanical jobs were mostly straightforward, with just a handful that caused trouble. We got pretty good at rebuilding doors and windows but a broken – yeah, we broke it – passenger side window just as we were finishing the truck gave us some grief… nobody likes to backtrack. All in all, we enjoyed the project and we’re pleased with the result.

More importantly, Lewie is happy to have the truck just as he remembered back in the sixties, but made more enjoyable with the addition of power steering, power brakes, and the overdrive transmission.