CC Capsule: 1951 Chevrolet Pickup – Perfect Patina?

I generally welcome the recent embrace of patina in the old car world. Not every worthwhile classic should be restored to better than new. On the other hand, the fetishization of patina in the form of dirty “barnfinds” or cleared-over faded paint and rust or, worst of all, faked Scotch-brite patina specials just rub me the wrong way. Sometimes, though, I come across an old car with what can only be described as perfect patina, and of course, it would be on an old pickup, the only vehicle that could probably be sold new looking this way. It’s been used, but not too hard.

The Advanced Design Chevrolet (and GMC) pickups first debuted in mid-1947, replacing the wonderfully styled but functionally archaic AK Series pickups.

The Advanced Design pickups then ran through mid-1955 with subtle differences between the years. Certain clues indicate that this one is likely a 1951: for example, the doors first obtained vent wings in 1951, but they maintained the older style twist door handles that year. In 1952, the door handles were updated to the push-button style. GM significantly updated the styling of the trucks in 1954 with single-piece windshields and updated grilles and box sides. The doors, combined with the year-of-manufacture California license plate, tell me this is, indeed, a 1951, though the ease of swapping doors and such could lead me astray. The taillights are from a later truck.

Given the top-down surface rust, it wouldn’t surprise me if this truck has lived its entire life here in California. Palo Cedro is a small town near Redding in the far north end of California’s central valley, which is generally quite dry with lots of sunshine, perfect for burning off paint on the horizontal surfaces while inhibiting rust anywhere else.

It may have begun life in the Central Valley, but this Chevy has been sitting for several months in front of a house adjacent to Stanford University with a significant construction project going on in the back. It’s unclear if it’s owned by the homeowners or if it’s possibly some sort of marketing tool for one of the contractors. With no modern signage, my guess is it’s owned by whoever lives in the house.

The exterior patina doesn’t extend to the interior, which has clearly been refinished and updated. A rather inviting place to sit, I would say; it’s where we spend the vast majority of time with our cars, after all. This one has been updated with three point seat belts and has the relatively rare for a truck stock AM radio.

Given the spider webs and the fact that it’s always in exactly the same spot, I don’t think this old Chevy has been driven in months. But I’m ready to jump in and take it for a spin. It looks just right on the outside without being a punishment on the inside.