By the time I got around to taking pictures of this magnificent one-ton mid-’60s Chevy flatbed last May, it had already been sitting in the parking lot of a local repair shop for about a month. Unfortunately, as of this writing, it’s still sitting in the exact same location. What could be ailing this grand old work truck I couldn’t guess, but old trucks with character always deserve a closer look. Although there isn’t a for sale sign in the window, this old Chevy seems to be waiting on a friend.
I was born in the late 1970s, but my favorite music, television shows, movies, and books predate my birth. Like so many others who feel as if they were “born in the wrong time,” I consider myself a child of the ’60s and early 1970s. Therefore, the Rolling Stones’ disco predilections of the Some Girls-era leave me longing for Aftermath or Exile on Main Street (although I’ve always loved “Faraway Eyes”).
“Waiting on a Friend,” however, is a pretty great song from 1981’s Tattoo You that encapsulates the sometimes sobering transition from the wild nights of youth to the comforts of a settled middle age, and although it is probably fair to say that a working flatbed didn’t see many wild nights in its younger days, it certainly deserves a roof over its head and someone to protect it as it grows old.
I’m not too worried yet. The shop where it’s parked is well-known in the community and has a good reputation, and is often home to elderly vehicles on an extended visit. My first goal upon seeing the truck was to ascertain its model year, which is difficult if not impossible due to the removal of any factory installed identifying badges on the fender or cowl. My guess is that the painted “66” on the cowl side represents its build year, but if anyone can find an obvious factory clue that I’m missing, please comment and I will update the post.
My second goal was to determine its model designation, which was easily done. Among the “light-duty” trucks, only the C30 (one-ton) models had leaf springs in the rear; the C10 and C20 had coils with long track bars. As a side note, legend has it that the late, great Junior Johnson adapted the long-armed truck rear suspension for his ’63 Impala stock car, the one with the “Mystery Motor.” Others quickly copied this design and it became a NASCAR industry standard (and still is).
For the car spotters in the crowd, that is my ’65 Skylark in the background.
Being a flatbed with obvious holes for stakes, it’s likely that this truck is a factory stake truck with standard single rear wheels and the shorter wheelbase, although one can’t completely rule out an aftermarket conversion.
Chevy trucks from the mid-’60s were born into a changing era. Six-cylinders still outnumbered eights, but that majority was rapidly shrinking. According to Don Bunn’s Encyclopedia of Chevrolet Trucks, six-cylinder installations in Chevrolets dropped approximately 12 percent between 1964 and 1966. The chart above shows the engine lineup in light-duty trucks for 1965. Of particular interest is the inclusion of a net rating in addition to a gross rating. Also interesting is the fact that Chevy offered a 283 V-8 AND a 292 Six, even though both produced very similar power ratings. The six was actually more powerful (net rating) than the 283, and offered more torque from a lower engine speed.
In 1966, the 250 replaced the 230 as the standard six, offering 15 more ft.-lbs. of torque at the same 1600 RPM as before, but as I already noted, fewer people were buying sixes in 1966.
It’s bad manners to touch other people’s cars, trucks, or anything else without their permission, so I didn’t open the hood to look at the engine, but one-ton models were the only light duty trucks with optional 327 power. Judging by the tiny tires and single rear wheels on this example, however, I’d wager that a six-cylinder occupies the engine bay. A four-speed transmission was standard on the C30, although a three-speed was an option for some reason, at least according to the 1965 brochure. No automatic was optional in ’65, but the ’66 brochure lists an available Turbo Hydra-Matic with the optional engines.
Our feature truck certainly has the standard cab: the seats and lack of bright trim on the B-pillar make that clear. It would be surprising to see any one-ton stake trucks that were ordered with the custom interior, at least when one considers the reason for their existence.
With its historic plate, period tires, and obviously repainted fenders, this truck is not a derelict by any stretch of the imagination. The business painted on the door is a defunct concrete company, so whether the repair shop now owns the truck or someone else does is unclear.
What is clear is that this truck calls out to my car rescuing instinct. If this inanimate object has a soul, it must have instinctively sensed my reputation as a saver of cars, and called to me loudly from the ease of its repose. All I could do is give it a few words, but I hope to see it out on the road soon, driven by a lady or a friend.