1955 Chevrolet Series One
1/2 ton Pickup Truck
(55,000 miles as of March 2000)
This 1955 Chevrolet 3100 pickup truck was purchased new by my grandfather. This is a first series truck and if you’re interested click here to view a copy of the original owner’s manual. First series means it has the same body style as a 1954 Chevy truck, but underneath it has an open driveshaft, which was new in 1955, replacing the torque-tube design. The first series trucks were built from October 1954 until March 1955. This one was Locust Point Farm’s truck and its purpose was to work, getting the stuff and supplies necessary to sustain the farm. It would be an understatement to think the truck had an easy life.
As a child I was a frequent visitor to the farm and have fond memories of the truck and it’s caretaker Charlie Rivett. In 1974 I moved to the farm. The pickup truck was still operational but in general decline. It had been kept running by somewhat crude yet functional repairs, the electrical system appeared to be a prototype for what Rube Goldberg would popularize, rusted body parts repaired by using steel diamond plate welded over the original rusted body. The steering was more suited to a boat and you didn’t so much drive the truck as “you herded it” as it would float and drift from side to side. I logged considerable seat time in the truck mostly stemming from the fact that I beat the %#@!$ out of my vehicles and they kept breaking…
In 1988 when the farm began transforming in what some consider progress the truck was whisked away to an abandoned corn- crib on the Callison farm in Franklin Grove. Its decline continued and a variety of animal residents and insects called it home. A decade later my uncle decided to restore the truck so in 1999 the truck was retrieved and moved to Chicago Restorations to begin the long tedious process of being reborn! Early in this process it was learned that many of the original trucks parts were beyond restoration, accordingly a “donor” truck was found and contributed various pieces and parts. The truck was not sold with a heater (can you imagine this today in the Midwest where it gets a bit chilly from time-to-time?) although somewhere along its life and aftermarket gizmo was installed. Finding a workable replacement for this heaters was not possible so it was determined to drop this item from the restoration. The rotisserie frame-off restoration was completed in March 2000. September 2000 at the 51st running of the Secretary of State’s (Jessie White) Auto Show held during the Illinois State Fair, the truck was awarded “State Champion in Class.” Circumstances changed; the caretaker of the truck passed away and in 2004 it was again left to sit idle.
On July 19, 2009, the new caretaker retrieved the truck and now is in the process of putting it back on the road. Inspection revealed a few problems. Today’s’ gasoline (I think the alcohol may be part of the reason) doesn’t take to sitting in a tank for about 5 years. The fuel system was essentially junk, the tank was beyond cleaning and the fuel pickup had disintegrated. The fuel gauge sending unit had corroded freezing it in place. Fortunately these parts are readily available and new replacements have been found. Fuel lines, filter and carburetor were pretty messed up requiring cleaning, replacement and rebuilding where applicable. The battery needed to be replaced and the brake master cylinder was leaking as well as the 4 brake cylinders. A leaking water pump was replaced. The engine was gently coaxed back to life but there was faint but discernable tapping notice. Inspection determined the noise was caused by a bent pushrod for reasons unknown – no other damage at this time but I harbor my suspicions.. Replacements have been located and scrambled for overnight delivery. The reason for the rush is so the truck can make the final Downers Grove car show for 2009. Hopefully we will make it. We are looking forward having this one-owner truck after 54 years to once again be domiciled in Downers Grove and will be seen out and about. Don’t miss the picture gallery for images from the work required to restore it to the condition it was in on the day it was driven from the dealer in 1955. By the way – a huge thanks to Chicago Restorations as they did a tremendous job.
On September 4, 2009 the truck made it to the final show in Downers Grove. It was as struggle but the boys at Midwest Hot Rods in Plainfield, Illinois pulled it together. The replacement push rods didn’t arrive as promised. Turns out the seller refused to send them with a reliable overnight shipper and insisted on using the United States Post Office. Midwest’s mail delivery is in the early afternoon and you might guess that the incompetence of the USPS shown though – no package! This did not deter the gang at Midwest and they rummaged around their junk piles and found a usable pushrod. They installed it and the truck fired it up without further excitement . After a brief warm up and valve lash adjustment the truck was ready. Rob and I hopped into the Chevelle and drove off in rush hour traffic; It was Labor Day week-end to boot. Traffic sucked! We got to Midwest about 5pm and after a real quick thanks to the guys caravanned back to Downers Grove. I went into town and Rob went home to get cleaned up and pickup the girls. Downtown Downers Gove was a mob scene and parking was almost non-existent. Got lucky (with parking that is) on Curtis street, parked the car and wheeled up main to Emmit’s pub to join Maryann, Ray and Theresa (Friends from the hood). A little later we watched Rob and two of the little girls cruise main street – then they cruised the other direction searching for a parking spot. About 15 minutes later they joined us along with Erin and the littlest little girl. Enjoyed a brief dinner and made a lap around the town looking at the cars. Maryann and I chauffeured Rob and Erin’s two oldest girls back to their house and we returned home in good fashion. I think it was good night for all and I am sure there are some Downers Grove “old-timers” that saw the Locust Point farm truck back in Downers Grove and I hope it made them remember way back then! By the way if you ever need a bunch of honest, skillful and resourceful folks for working on cool cars give Midwest a try they are GREAT!
- “Thriftmaster” straight 6-cylinder, 235 cubic inch 112hp / 30.4hp @3800 rpm, 200lb-ft pound torque @2000 rpm, 7.5:1 compression ratio, 3 9/16″ bore 3 15/16″ stroke. Other refinements new for 1955 included full-pressure lubrication, aluminum pistons, stronger connecting rods, a built-up crankshaft for greater stiffness, thicker bearing bulkheads for a beefier crank-case, bypass cooling, and improved distributor insulation.
- 4-speed (TOPLOADER) synchromesh transmission, ratios: reverse 6.78.1, first 7.06 to 1, second 3.58 to 1, third 1.71 to 1, fourth direct, semi-floating hypoid rear axel 3.9 to 1.
- Wheelbase 116″
- Fuel tank 17 1/2 gal
- Gross vehicle weight 4800lbs
- No heater
- Starter pedal located on floor
- Manual choke
- Hand throttle
- 6 Volt electrical system
- Octane selector knob located on the distributor to adjust ignition timing for various grades of fuel.
The images below are from the restoration. If you see a picture that is interesting, you can click the image to display a larger view.
Turnsignals don’t work? No problem just drill a couple of holes in the fender and stick in a new pair!
The AMA horsepower figure is based on the engine’s bore and number of cylinders with neither the stroke nor compression ratio being taken into consideration. In Britain is was called R.A.C. horsepower (Royal Automobile Club). In both cases, the rating was used for tax purposes. In Europe cars were taxed annually on the size of the engine, and it was decided that this horsepower ‘rating’ was the fairest and easiest.