Luke S 1948 Chevy 1/2 ton pickup, 5-window deluxe

The Heartbeat of America

This 1948 Chevy 5-window deluxe ½ ton pickup truck was my 1st project of this sort after dreaming about it for years. I did not start the restoration, but now believe that I am nearly finished; are you ever done with a restoration?

The previous owner had to let go of the project, and I was in the right place at the right time for once to pick up where he left off. Once re-starting the restoration, I was “all in”! It became a great stress-reliever from the daily responsibilities of being a middle school principal in a state hard-hit by the Recession. I have retired from my life’s work as a public school educator, spending the last 21 years as a building principal. I did spend more time in my waking hours thinking about the truck that I should have; it occupied my dreams as well!

The truck was back on the road August 2009, and it now has over 3200 miles on a completely rebuilt 235 c.i. 6-cylinder engine pulled from a 1955 Chevy. The truck has a 4-speed stick (floor) shift with a 4.11 rear-axle. The truck has become my summer daily driver in West Branch, Michigan (approximately 90 miles from my home in Alma, Michigan).

This old truck was in the service fleet for the Road Department in Mineral County, Nevada (county seat is in Hawthorne) sometime until the mid/late 1960s. I have corresponded with the man who purchased the truck from the Mineral County Road Department; it has had multiple owners since then. We believe that a Road Department supervisor used the truck. The Mineral County seals on the side of the doors were compliments of the current Road Department supervisor. The truck was originally purchased by the Road Department from the “Nevada Garage” Chevy dealership in Hawthorne, which is no longer in existence.

The patched holes from a roof-mounted service light were clearly visible before the headliner was replaced. I purchased a period-correct amber Federal service light and mounted it in its original location, using a vintage switch under the dash. K-D 517 amber cab clearance marker lights were also mounted on the cab roof. Vintage King Bee reflectors clearly mark the truck box/tailgate and help identify the vehicle as a service truck. The GM accessory road reflectors mounted on the bedside help with that as well. I’d love to find a rare 1948 Nevada “highway exempt truck” license plate to mount on the front of the truck, which would replace the standard 1948 Nevada truck plate with the attached ½ ton GVW plate.

Further evidence of the truck’s past includes “cleats/hooks” of some sort, which can be seen below the tailgate area and various holes on the side-rails. The cleats/hooks were once used to hold a tarp in place over the truck bed. I have located vintage WWII era cargo tie down hooks and am currently in the process of fastening them in the original mounting holes. A heavy-duty tan canvas tarp will once again be secured in place as well. Holes in various other locations around the truck where items were mounted could be seen when I bought the truck. Two holes below the left headlight still are puzzling. Some accessory items have been purchased and re-installed in many of these holes.

One such set of holes on the upper left of the dashboard was for a small rubber-bladed electric fan. I found a rare N.O.S. Casco rubber-bladed fan and installed it in that very same location! Another hole in the dashboard was where the wiring for the vintage N.O.S. illuminated Hull compass is now located. Two holes on the dashboard that are left of the headlight switch remain a mystery. The purpose of two interior holes between the passenger side corner window and back window is also unknown.

Amongst a very long list of things I have done to this truck, the interior has been restored to look nearly all original (seat recovered, door panels, headliner, sun visors/brackets, and armrest on the driver’s side only, steering wheel and column, and all trim pieces, including a pair of rear headliner support bars—evidenced by the four small “buttons” in the headliner). An original fresh air Harrison heater that came with the truck was restored, which must have come in handy on cold Nevada mornings/evenings out on the Mineral County roads. IF THESE OLD TRUCKS COULD ONLY TALK! I BELIEVE THAT THEY DO SPEAK TO US, BUT THEY STILL CAN NOT COMPLETELY TELL THEIR STORY TO US!

The instrument gauges were also restored. The driver’s side inner door panel, the driver’s side upper hinge detents, hinge pins, and the passenger side door latch were replaced. I had to also replace the driver’s side stainless steel inside window trim. A N.O.S. Casco cigar lighter was installed. A new data plate was stamped and installed using original fasteners. The worn original data plate hangs at the bench in the pole barn where the truck is kept. An original jack/handle and complete tool set were also placed under the bench seat.

Seatbelts had to be added—the only way my wife and son were going to ride with me! I’ve added a restored Guide turn signal switch and lamps front and rear, Guide back-up lights, an original horn, and Guide 5-3/4” amber fog lights. An original set of Guide black-metal back sealed-beam headlights are also in use. The rear driver’s side Guide tail light housing/bracket is original. N.O.S. Stopray/Guide taillight lenses are in use. A rear passenger taillight, the side-mounted spare tire, decorative hood ornament, a restored radio/antennae, and an N.O.S. underhood lamp (a now very difficult-to-find accessory) were added. A unique feature—strictly for safety reasons—is the addition of a 3rd stoplight to the front bed rack/rails.

The bed was refinished. New wheels were painted/striped and mated to a new set of tires, along with new hubcaps. The cab was striped. Original GM bumpers are on the front and back (rechromed). The truck was completely rewired, maintaining the original 6-volt electrical service.

A finishing touch was finding and mounting a GM accessory chrome grille guard. Installing a nice GM accessory chrome “cattle guard” in its place would really be “frosting on the cake”!

New friends have been made through the project the past four years—some over the phone, others via the Internet, and many in person. The information, help received, and locating miscellaneous original parts from the Stovebolt, H.A.M.B., and V.C.C.A. forums have been much appreciated. I also found eBay to be a good place to find original parts.

Younger brothers Joe and John were a big help on the project. Joe assisted on the electrical side of the project, as well as the body finish. John topped off the restoration by building a set of bed racks/rails out of red oak left behind by our deceased Grandpa K—“the Judge”—who ironically retired from the Bay County, Michigan Road Department. My wife’s cousin Jim Clark has been a big help as he has served as a general consultant and problem-solver. As a side note, my deceased father Fred was a big supporter of this truck restoration project. In 1966 he used an early 1950’s Chevy 3-window pickup truck with vented windows to haul building supplies to build a house for his growing family in the small town of Zilwaukee, Michigan (outside of Saginaw). When he finished building the house, he sold the truck for the same price he bought it for. My mother still lives in that home.

Driving the “Heartbeat of America” on a regular basis and attending classic car shows has validated for me that completing the restoration was a very worthwhile project to others as well. Attending the 50th V.C.C.A. Anniversary meet in Flint, Michigan July 2011 sure was quite an event! The truck also participated in the “Back-to-the-Bricks” promotional tour June 2013, which included a trip to the showroom of the local Chevrolet dealer! It was part of the old US-27 Tour as well August 2013. This classic American truck has appeared in four Stovebolt calendars (2010-2011-2012-2014), as well as in the 2013 Michigan Antique Festival calendar. It has been featured in the V.C.C.A.’s Generator and Distributor monthly magazine September 2010 and February 2012. It also appeared in Hemmings Classic Car magazine December 2011. A newspaper article was also written on it in the Mineral County Independent-News June 2011. It was the featured “truck of the month” for January 2012 on the Jim Carter Truck Parts Company website.

The “Heartbeat of America” has come back to life and lives again, 64 years after its creation in Oakland, California. Now in my early 50’s, I see this restored ’48 Chevy truck as a tribute to the rich auto heritage of our great state of Michigan—which has fallen on hard times recently. Like this truck, we will survive to thrive once more some day again.


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