(please welcome our newest COALer Marc) I’ve been thinking about writing my own COAL series for a long time. Wondering if I could write well enough, whether I had the discipline to commit to a long-term assignment, or even have anything interesting to say. Ultimately, Curbside Classic has given me so many hours of reading pleasure with both the articles and commentary, it is the least I can do to contribute to something that’s given me so much.
I’ve always been interested in mechanical things – growing up in the country on an old farm, and having a father and uncles that shared the same interests fostered my curiosity in these things. There was always an old truck or car, tractor, Skidoo that needed some attention, and by watching and asking questions, I learned the basics.
Dad has always had an interest in old cars, having restored a 53 Dodge pickup, and, as his family grew, traded it for a 1938 Ford that he restored. Once I started getting close to 16 and the much-longed-for drivers license, he decided that I should have my own old car as well. He came close to a deal on a four-door Falcon, but decided against it when he found a 1970 Chevy fleetside pickup for sale. It was duly bought and brought home, to await restoration and paint.
It was a local truck, red in colour, and seemed to be solid. A supposedly rebuilt 327 V8, manual drum brakes and steering, 3-on-the-tree, nothing special besides the optional gauge package. Once we had started into it, it was apparent the truck wasn’t as good as it looked. The box had fill, the cab had fill, the fenders, hood, tailgate all had fill. This was going to be more work than we bargained for. This was in the days before MIG welders were common, and aftermarket parts were quite expensive as I recall as well. So we started scrounging and collecting what we could for replacement parts and repairing the rest. We were given a one-ton dually that had a good hood, glass, and door – we towed it home in the dead of winter with a tow bar, a wish, and a prayer. We would never do that today! I was lucky in that I had an uncle that was very good at doing body work. He was a bank manager by trade, but always enjoyed restoring cars. He had restored a few over the years, with his ’48 Ford truck being the most notable as he’s had it for almost 40 years. He also had helped Dad with the Ford. The Chevy, however, was turning out to be a project. All of the patching was done with oxy/acetylene, and copious amounts of filler was used to put it back in shape.
After I turned 18, the truck was finished. A plate and insurance were put on it, and I started driving it to university. I loved it. The turquoise green and creamy roof really suited the truck, and when I think back I think it was one of the nicest driving trucks I have ever driven. The ride and handling was solid, and the seat was comfortable. The previous owner had modified the shifter linkage so it only had a short throw. One big trouble spot was the engine. Right from the get-go, it had very little oil pressure at a hot idle, and as I drove it, it got worse. Combined with using a gallon of oil for every tank of fuel, it was apparent I’d have to find another engine for it before it blew up. It was put away for the winter, and in the meantime I found a ’83 Monte Carlo with a good 305 at a price I could afford. The Monte served well for the winter, and when spring came, the engine was put in the truck, and power steering was added at the same time. This made the truck a pleasant driver. The truck always handled well, and wasn’t rough at all on the road.
The cabs on these trucks were a nice place to be – roomy, with a nice upright seating position, and lots of glass. The heater worked well given how much thought was given to heating systems back then. The instrument panel was well-equipped with all gauges, and were brightly lit at night to boot. I put a smaller steering wheel on it as I found the big original wheel too large, and was cracked in several places.
I ran the wheels off the truck every summer. To our cottage, adventures over dirt roads, car shows all over the province – it never let me down. Sure, I had a little bit of trouble with it. I’d had a coolant leak during a visit to our provincial capital, Halifax, and put some Bar’s Leaks in it. It managed to plug the leak, and plug off most of the radiator as well. It was a slow trip home that time. The drum brakes needed a fair bit of adjustment to keep the truck stopping true.
The new engine allowed a power steering pump, and with that, I put a power steering box on it. Although some don’t have much respect for the 305, this one worked very, very well. Sure, it wasn’t a high-winding banshee likea 283, but with the 3-speed and 3.73 gearing, it would pull from about 20 MPH in high without too much trouble. Driven sensibly, it’d get near 20 MPG on the highway. It seemed to be an ideal truck engine, pulling OK from idle, and never failing to start and run.
However, given that the truck had so much body work done to it, it was inevitable that the fill would start bubbling through, and it did at the ten-year mark. The proper thing seemed to be to sell it while it still looked good, and someone eventually gave me my price for it. I miss it, and would really like to have another one of these someday. I’ve always had some sort of antique vehicle, and I did use the money I got for it to buy something more interesting, to me at least.
This is a great COAL start. You certainly grew up in a CC oriented family and that is clearly shown in the nicely posed photo of the ’38, your COAL, and a Chevelle.
And, it’s mostly only true CC’ers that take photos of dashboards and engines.
Matching dashboards and exterior paint was always a nice touch, and yours looks great. The most recent use of this trait may have been the Chrysler PT Cruisers of the early 2000s.
I look forward to reading your COAL series.
Had to go back – I never noticed the Chevelle.
Thanks for the kind comments. I’ve always been obsessed with dashboards and other periphery – the fonts, lights…not sure why…There will be more to come.
Welcome to the COAL mines. Although I was never much of a Chevy guy, I have always thought these trucks got an awful lot right. I also have always loved this color on these and found it interesting how turquoise remained available on trucks for several years after it went out of style on cars.
Your Dad’s 38 Ford looks to be the Ford Standard from that strange short period where the Standard looked like the prior year’s DeLuxe. Very nice! I look forward to more.
The colour really suited the truck well. There wasn’t much to complain about in them either. Drum brakes on the older ones, and the fuel tank in the cab – but given the times they were made, you can’t complain too much.
The Ford is a Standard Fordor. Dad’s had it for 32 or so years, and has had a few upgrades over the years. I’ll have to do a writeup on it, lots of stories to tell!
WHY did full sized, American pick up trucks have to gradually grow longer, wider and taller than this model?
Agreed. This is the perfect size for a truck. The Freightliner sized (and priced) monstrosities of today interest me not at all.
It really wasnt too gradual. Two generations of GM trucks after this one were still about the same. I’ve owned a 1971 C10 and 1994 C1500, virtually identical in dimensions and weight. Even our current 2000 K2500 doesnt cast a bigger shadow than the featured truck here, but it is quite a bit heavier.
I blame Ford for coming up with a separate “Super Duty” F-250 series for starting the trend.
Enjoyed your first installment, Marc, looking forward to hearing from you again.
Thanks, there are a quite a few to go!
Very enjoyable – and personally relatable as I shared ownership of a 1970 C-10 with my dad when I was 16.
Fifteen years later I bought a ’68 C-10 that sounds much like how you describe your truck when you first bought it. I ended up losing that one in a garage fire.
Two more, along with a 1972 K-5 Blazer would enter my life, only the Blazer ever became roadworthy and even then, barely so. Kids, a house and other expenses will do that. Family comes first. The last and best of my ’67-72’s, a ’68 C-10 longbed from Texas, was sold three years ago. I felt like it was time to choose one project and get rid of the rest, and since Tri-Fives are my first automotive love, my ’57 Chevy Two-Ten Handyman stayed.
Looking forward to more, Marc!
One can’t complain with a ’57 Chevy!
Nice read Marc.
Come out west sometime, we’ve got lots of solid old Chevy trucks here to restore.
It’s on my bucket list to do that – too many projects on the go!
Great truck and COAL, I had hoped to snag a truck of the 67-72 generation as a parts runner, but ended up with a bare-bones ’73 with amstrong everything! Looking forward to more stories.
That’s a lovely looking truck, and the brakes and steering are easily upgraded. I enjoyed my truck above once I put power steering in it. I get a kick out of the early style like yours without the roof drip rails, like they were ahead of their time.
Hey MARK …Excellent COAL! Fellow Canuck here. That bridge is about 1000 miles from where I live . However I do recall crossing it a few times.
Put me down as another guy looking forward to some more stories.
And another one, but a wee bit further west on Vancouver Island. I really like these COAL stories and I too am looking forward to more of yours.
Enjoyed the writeup. Always thought that generation Chevy PU was the best looking of the bunch.
Great article! We had a 1970 GMC for a work truck when I was growing up…..sky blue with a white roof. I hadn’t thought about it in years! It had the painted dash of course and sky blue vinyl bench seat.
One of my favorite generations of the General’s trucks! (I wonder why?) ? I actually have a 4bbl 305 sitting on an engine stand in my garage, in case I ever get the itch to drop it in my ’67 GMC, but the 250 six pulls so smooth and sweet that I’ll probably keep it as is. It’s not that easy to find these trucks for cheap anymore!
They command big prices way out here. Hang onto the six if it works good for you – you don’t see them that often.
Great COAL opener. I always liked these trucks, and yours looked particularly sharp. I look forward to reading more of your COALs.
GM picked the wrong generation of their trucks to build for 15 years. It should have been this one.
Saw this one yesterday. 4 on the floor with a 292 engine badge. Parked at Home Depot.
I grew up with this truck. Every Saturday and during summer would work with my dad hanging awnings or gutters.
Excellent article Marc, and welcome to Curbside Classic. I grew up in a small town in Kentucky and Chevy trucks were thick on the ground here when they were new. This was just about the time when more people started to look at trucks as everyday drivers and not just as appliances for work. As you quickly discovered once you acquired your truck Chevrolet (and GMC) trucks from this era are very prone to rusting. It is very rare, at least in this part of the world, to see one of these trucks still on the road unless it has undergone some sort of restoration.
Count me in as another fan of these. I like them every bit as much (if not more) than the Fords of this era (or mine). If I’d stumbled into a Chevy or GMC back in ’87 when I wanted a truck, I’d probably still be driving it today. Mike mine a 292.
My first pickup was a 1971 C10 shortbed, the most basic fleet model with no options. It had the same three-on-the-tree transmission and 3.73 gears. Front disc brakes were standard that year, but not power assist. I did eventually replace the tired 250ci six with a 283ci 2bbl V-8. That good handling is from the all coil spring suspension setup. We’ve had many twin-I-beam Ford trucks in the family and handling is not one of the best features.
The body was perfect in that it was a Los Angeles truck less than a decade old at the time. I still love not only the exterior style, but that dash, IMO the cleanest of any truck ever.