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First Truck: The ’59 Apache (update)

What to do when you have a big old barn with a cement floor and electricity? Go find an old truck, of course. In this case, we jumped in with both feet and ended up with a somewhat sorry 1959 Chevrolet 3100 Apache, short bed, step side, small window.

A few words about the “patient.” The truck would barely run as the carb was spewing fuel through the throttle shaft. During the test drive the previous owner almost slid the thing through a stop sign into cross traffic because only one of the drum brakes seemed to be doing its job. And the god awful bench seats smelled like an open sewer. On top of that, the left front corner of the cab was low due to a rust problem where it mounted to the frame.

The Apache is finally back on the road with a fresh coat of satin black paint, a freshened 350 engine, and a long list of fixes and improvements. There is still plenty  to do, but it is now a fun driver (and work truck – this Apache can haul!)

Heart of the 1959 Apache, the fresh 350 engine
Heart of the 1959 Apache, the fresh 350 engine… check the rebuild article posted previously.

We shored up the front cab corners with 1/4 inch steel, rebuilt the drum brake system, added new shocks all around, installed a drop axle at the front, and lowered the rear to match it by re-curving the main leaf spring and removing the supplementary extra stack of leaf springs. We replaced the rear cab corners and then spent weeks cleaning up the body and chassis and prepping for paint.

Using string and tape to line up the bed with the cab prior to mounting on the frame.
Using string and tape to line up the bed with the cab prior to mounting on the frame.
The colors lurking under that old black paint.
The colors lurking under that old black paint.
1959 Apache with light gray primer applied.
Checking out the fender emblem and Boyd’s 17 inch rims against the light gray primer. Next truck might be light gray!

At this stage, we have stuck with manual 4-speed Saginaw transmission, manual steering, and the drum brakes sans power assist. However, having just added CPP’s easily installed power steering and power assist brake kits to the ’56 “Farm Truck,” these improvements might soon appear on the Apache.

The rear end is a bit noisy, but we’re living with it for now, until the Farm Truck is finished and on the road. At this point, it’s just time to enjoy driving the big hunk of steel. The rake of the chassis, with the front end low, and the 3.90 ratio rear end make it feel sporty on the twisty roads between home and shop.

The '59 Apache looks like a compact truck next to bro's GMC hauler... it does haul with 900+ lbs of torque.
The ’59 Apache looks like a compact truck next to bro’s GMC hauler… it does haul with 900+ lbs of torque.
New tailgate and a little bright stuff at the rear of our 1959 Apache
New tailgate and a little bright stuff at the rear.
1959 Apache truck in driveway ready to cruise.
The Apache ready for a cruise.

The Barn’s “first truck” isn’t a show stopper, nor is it completed to our satisfaction yet. On the other hand, our key phrase for the Apache during the build was “next guy.” So maybe it will just change hands as is, to add a little to the budget for our next project… the ’58 GMC seen behind the Apache in the title picture.

1959 Apache loaded with tires for the '56 Farm Truck
The Apache hauls… new 17.5 radials for the ’56 Farm Truck.

 

 

The ’48… aka Mr. Patina

When my friend and fellow barn junkie, Lance, asked if we could get his recovered ’48 half-ton running again, I agreed. Little did we know it would take a fifteen month bite out of our schedule for the Apache. But after his truck – in his family for decades – was mistakenly sold from the private property where it was being stored, it took him quite a while to find it and reclaim it, and to convince the DMV that he wasn’t an axe-murderer. So what’s a few months in the grand scheme of things.

The reclaimed truck was minus its engine and transmission, and what remained of it was in a sorry state. Things were not looking good for this budget build until Lance found a restored ’48 chassis with a 327 small block and TH 350 transmission. The previous owner had thrown in the towel on a project started a decade earlier. The rest is history.

The ’56 3600 3/4 Ton Farm Truck — FINISHED

Lightning Lewie, the owner of the 1956 stake-side 3/4 Chevy brought it out to California from Alabama a few years ago. The truck had been in the family since 1966 and was surprisingly well-kept, with minimal rust. But he wanted this beast to look good, and he wanted a few conveniences, like power steering and power assisted brakes.

Okay, so far that’s pretty straightforward. But as the title of the post says, this is a farm truck. Six cylinders, 235 cubic inches, 3-speed manual transmission, and a 4.57:1 rear end ratio. For all intents and purposes, about a 50 mph top speed.

Follow us as we address all of these issues.

Bulletin: It is Finished!

The list is long, but the highlights of this build include  sandblasting it from bumper to bumper, including the wood gates and bed; adding power steering, power brakes, new wiring harness from Rebel Wire, a Borg Warner overdrive for the three-speed transmission; lots of insulation (it is quiet!); stereo sound system; many pounds of blue paint on the exterior; and a new interior, top to bottom. Owner Lewie Trawick handled the refinishing of the original bed and gates, and they turned out great, including the Crimson “A” smack dab in the middle of the bed for our Alabama natives – Lewie and the truck.

You’ll find a good number of posts here about our favorite project so far, including the most recent with a gallery of photos from the project.

Before and after:

1956 Chevy 3600 flatbed truck before restoration

1956 Chevrolet 3600 flatbed restored to original condition.

We loved that Lewie wanted it restored to original condition, with just a few modern conveniences.

The ’58 GMC Fleetside

Besides the Apache, this is our other in-house build. It will be the culmination of all of our mistakes. Wait… did I say that right.

Despite the way it looks, the Fleetside is relatively rust-free. It is also minus engine and trans, and interior, and gauges, and, and, and. So, it really is a clean slate. Our goal is to make it go fast, stop fast, and get around the bends confidently.

As it stands, we will probably continue with our theme song:  carbureted small block Chevy, simplicity, safety, and creative problem solving. Stay tuned as we get ready to initiate the build.

Stuff We Like: Tools, Equipment, Sites

During the process of working on our old cars and trucks, we have developed lots of favorite things:  tools, equipment, websites, stores, and ideas. Even dumb ideas… why should you go down the same dead end that cost us time and money.

We don’t waste money, because it’s hard earned. We really prefer getting a good value for our money… if it’s a tool or equipment we think we’ll be using on most projects, we buy it. If it’s a one time problem we’re trying to solve then borrow it. No doubt it helps to live in Southern California because we are never far from resources.

One of the best resources anyone can find – no matter the endeavor – is a smart, experienced guy. Whether that’s your local owner/operator transmission shop or exhaust shop or machine shop, or just a friendly hot rodder who’s been doing it longer than you, these relationships will save you headaches and time and money.

There’s Always Something

Doing this hot rod building and restoration stuff, either as a hobby or as a business, is so rewarding because it’s a creative endeavor. You’re bringing a vision that exists in your mind, through a planning stage and, finally, to a real physical product. As a Taoist might say, moving something from its Yin aspect to its Yang aspect.

But, damn… there’s always something. Especially when the creative process starts with a car or truck that is half a century old. There will be blood. And frustration. Rarely is anything simple and straightforward. Not complaining, mind you, problem solving is part of the fun. So with that in mind, we’ll share some solutions that might apply to your project as well as ours.

Even tools can cause headaches. Trying to straighten the HF bead roller shaft, which had a wobble in it.